|Asunto:||[LEA-Venezuela] "The World's Water Crisis Is Life Threatening"|
|Fecha:||Viernes, 23 de Marzo, 2001 11:57:25 (-0400)|
|Autor:||Amigos en Defensa de la Gran Sabana.AMIGRANSA/ Orinoco Oilwatch <amigrans @............ve>
UNEP PRESS RELEASE
WORLD WATER DAY 2001: WATER FOR HEALTH
Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executuve Director:
"The World's Water Crisis Is Life Threatening"
Nairobi, 22 March 2001
Today, the 22nd of March, is World Water Day, with the theme "Water for Health".
According to Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP):
"The water crisis - unlike the energy crisis - is life threatening. The
level of suffering and misery
represented by these statistics is almost beyond comprehension. And it is
the children and women who
suffer most. As water is an absolutely vital resource, at the centre of
life itself, it is a key integrating
factor in the environment. Without sustainable water management to ensure
that there are sufficient
supplies of clean, safe water, the health of ecosystems and those who
depend on them, especially people,
That the water crisis is the most immediate and serious human health and
environmental problem facing
the planet is confirmed by the stark statistics. For example, UNEP's
Global Environment Outlook report
2000 included the following statistics:
- Three million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (such as
cholera and dysentery) caused by
- Polluted water affects the health of 1.2 billion people every year, and
contributes to the death of 15
million children under five every year.
- Vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, kill another 1.5 to 2.7 million
people per year, with inadequate
water management a key cause of such diseases.
The negative impacts of unsustainable water use and pollution of
watercourses result in harsh
environmental, economic and social costs. Millions of people all around
the world are all too aware of
this - through outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases (such as cholera and
dysentery) and typhoid caused or
transmitted by contaminated water. The failure to properly dispose of
human waste is often the cause of
such diseases, contaminating essential water supplies such that millions of
people die from these diseases
every year. These disease outbreaks create widening circles of misery,
illness and death with dire
economic and social impacts for the people concerned. The environment
suffers too, with human waste
polluting water and damaging river ecosystems dependent on clean water.
When the environment suffers,
people suffer, because the aquatic environment is a key human resource.
Other problems arise from indiscriminate deforestation and other poor
catchment management practices
that reduce water supplies vital to agriculture and other economic
activities. Deforestation leads to
increased run-off, and increases the chances of water shortages. It also
leads to increased soil erosion and
decreased soil fertility that can result in decreased food production.
Sedimentation in watercourses and
reservoirs decreases the capacity to store water or generate electricity.
The chances of serious droughts
are increased, without the forest to retain and return water to the
atmosphere through transpiration, and
sow the seed for future reliable rainfall. Forest, wetland and river
ecosystems are all damaged by
deforestation and people face increased economic and social costs. These
costs reflect water shortages,
decreased soil productivity and health problems caused by the decreased
availability of clean water.
Forests in water catchments play a vital role in maintaining both the
quantity and quality of water - there
are no clean, sparkling watercourses where forests have been cut down and
The negative health impacts of contaminated water and water shortages are
well-known - typhoid,
cholera, dysentery, etc. But less attention is paid to fact that women and
children bear the brunt of the
costs of dirty water and water shortages. Children are more likely to
become ill, and women have to look
after them. Women and children carry out most water collection, and many
spend hours doing so. Hours
spent collecting water could be spent in more productive activity, such as
food production, so that there is
a high opportunity cost to the lack of clean water. When people are sick,
they and their caregivers cannot
carry out other tasks, so there are opportunity costs there as well.
"An unhealthy environment means sick people, thus the essence of
sustainable human health is
sustainable management of the environment", said Mr. Toepfer.
What is perhaps the most depressing aspect of this human and environmental
health disaster is that the
solutions -- especially sustainable management of water catchment areas -
are well known. Moreover,
history provides grim reminders that failure to manage our water resources
properly has caused the end of
civilizations - in Mesopotamia, but also in other countries, such as
Ethiopia, where the ancient civilization
of Aksum collapsed, partly because of deforestation and its consequent
water related impacts.
The key to solving water problems lies in adopting an integrated water
catchment approach - a catchment
being that area that encloses all land that feeds into a defined water
body. A catchment approach is
recommended because land and water use in one part of the basin can affect
users and conditions in other
parts of the same basin. That is, a water catchment is a natural
management and development unit.
And, as UNEP's Water Policy and Strategy points out, having adopted a
catchment approach, it is critical
to promote an intersectoral approach that recognizes the interlinkages that
affect water management - for
example between land and water, agriculture and water, technology and
water, health and water.
A multi-objective planning approach that bases catchment management
decisions on a transparent,
systematic and integrated assessment of environmental, economic and social
factors is vital. This is
because of the interlinkages that exist between these three factors.
Environmental degradation inevitably
has economic and social consequences for human beings. In the case of
agriculture and energy production are reduced, which imposes direct
economic costs. Contaminated
water imposes harsh economic and social costs on people.
"On this World Water Day that focuses on water for health, we should
remember that the basis of human
health is a healthy environment", said Mr. Toepfer, "and that the basis for
production is also a healthy environment. Water is the key resource and as
we can never create more
water, we must act to improve the health of the water we have, in both
quantitative and qualitative terms.
Sustainable management of water catchment areas is the acknowledged best
practice for doing so and its
adoption is urged".
For further information please contact: Halifa Drammeh, Deputy Director,
Division of Policy
Development and Law, UNEP Nairobi, tel: 254-2-62-4278, fax: 62-2788, e-mail:
halifa.drammeh@...; or Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman/Director of
Communications and Public
Information, tel: 62-3292, fax: 62-3692, e-mail: cpiinfo@...
UNEP News Release 2001/40
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