Annan: Water woes kill child every
OSLO, Norway -- Seeking to ease a water crisis threatening
a third of humanity, the United Nations marked world environment
day on Thursday with calls for governments to double aid
to poor countries and for ordinary people to fix leaky
Under the slogan "Water -- two billion people are
dying for it!," projects ranged from draining ponds
where mosquitoes breed in Kenya to water tastings in Brussels.
"Water-related diseases kill a child every eight
seconds," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said
in a statement for the annual day set aside since 1972
to take stock of the state of the planet.
"One person in six lives without regular access
to safe drinking water. Over twice that number -- 2.4
billion -- lack access to adequate sanitation," he
The United Nations says the world must do far more to
meet goals of halving the proportion of people who lack
safe drinking water and sanitation by the year 2015, part
of an overall drive to halve global poverty.
"If we are to meet the commitments...the world will
have to spend up to $180 billion annually, more than double
what is being spent today," said Klaus Toepfer, executive
director of the U.N. Environment Program.
The United Nations says ordinary citizens can also do
their bit with simple measures like plugging leaks at
home, collecting rainwater, turning off the tap when brushing
their teeth or hosing their car on the lawn rather than
on the drive.
Iraq war cost more
Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, whose country
is the main host of this year's event, said the budget
of the U.S.-led war on Iraq exceeded the cash needed to
alleviate the plight of people suffering from water shortages.
"A fraction of the budgets spent on arms would be
enough to eradicate poverty, diseases, malnutrition and
protect the environment," he said.
In China, the world's most populous country, the government
said it planned to invest more than $30 billion over the
next few years to fight water pollution and help relieve
"China is a country that still lacks water resources,
and the problem of water pollution remains severe,"
said Xie Zhenhua, minister of the State Environmental
But environmentalists reiterated concern over China's
Three Gorges Dam -- the world's largest hydroelectric
project -- which China began filling up on Sunday after
a decade of work. It is meant to tame the river whose
annual floods have killed 300,000 people in the last century
The WWF environmental group said 1,700 dams planned around
the world would suck rivers dry and give few benefits
to people most in need. "A growing number of rivers
now rarely reach the sea, such as the Colorado River in
the United States and Mexico and the Yangtze River,"
In Bangladesh, where water can often be both a blessing
and a curse, the government launched a tree-planting drive
that it said aimed to turn the country into a "garden
of green" by 2015.
The United Nations says water is the world's most precious
resource and the basis of life. European and U.S. space
probes are heading to Mars this year to seek evidence
of water -- a sign life might have existed on the red