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Great Lakes Article:

Addressing the global water crisis
World Wildlife Fund
06/05/03


Gland, Switzerland - World Environment Day, commemorated every year on 5 June, is focusing this year on water, with particular reference to the 1.1 billion people with no access to improved water supply and the 2.4 billion people with no access to improved sanitation. WWF is calling for action to help safeguard the most precious source of life on our planet water.

Each year there are about 250 million cases of water-related diseases, with roughly 5-10 million deaths. By 2025 two-thirds of the world are expected to live in areas of water shortage or stress. The rate of decline of animal species and populations has also been shown to be greater in freshwater than in any other habitat around 50 per cent in the last 30 years according to WWF’s Living Planet Index signalling that one of the underlying causes of the freshwater crisis is the continuing degradation of land and water ecosystems.

WWF is urging world leaders to make firm commitments to implement the UN Millennium Development Goals and World Summit on Sustainable Development targets to halve the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015. The conservation organization emphasizes that investment in a healthy environment is essential for the provision of reliable supplies of clean water for people and nature. WWF is calling on the world's richest nations to fund a full range of options for delivery of food, water and sanitation services that support local communities and restore the health and function of ecosystems that is vital to safe and clean water supplies, risk prevention, and food security, rather than relying solely on expensive and socially and environmentally damaging infrastructure-based approaches.

There are 1,700 large dams being developed around the world. These dams will provide few benefits for most of the people who lack access to water and sanitation as they live in rural areas that this infrastructure does not reach. Instead the dams will help suck dry even more rivers, destroying the livelihoods of fishing communities. A growing number of rivers now rarely reach the sea, such as the Colorado River in USA and Mexico and the Yellow River in China.

At the recent G8 Summit, leaders of the G8 countries (Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia) committed to an agreement to provide their poorer neighbors with technical, financial, and logistical support to address the water crisis. WWF criticizes the plan as repeating the ‘concrete led’ approach of building more dams and dykes that has failed to fix the global water crisis.

At the core of every effort to establish good health care, good government and a good economy is clean water, said Jamie Pittock, Director of WWF’s Living Waters Programme. Without it, there is no security and stability."

Water security often comes down to a battle of technologies, where nature and the people who depend on it lose to development interests. Governments must act to protect water at its source ensuring that natural resources are managed wisely and sustainably, said Jamie Pittock. The large sums of money planned for new infrastructure like dams should primarily be directed at repairing the environment to provide a more reliable and clean supply of water for people and nature.

For further information:
Lisa Hadeed
Communications Manager, Living Waters Programme
Tel: +41 22 3649030
E-mail: LHadeed@wwfint.org

Mitzi Borromeo
Press Officer, WWF International
Tel: +41 22 3649562
E-mail: MBorromeo@wwfint.org

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