Global Water Crisis is Major Source of Poverty, Say
Reuters News Service
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Efforts to halve the number
of people worldwide living in poverty by 2015 will fail
unless access to clean water is radically improved,
a group of leading scientists and politicians said Monday.
Klaus Toepfer, head of the United Nations Environment
Program, said 2.2 million people die each year due to
diseases such as cholera and dysentery caused by contaminated
"Without adequate clean water, there can be no escape
from poverty," Toepfer said at the World Water Symposium,
a gathering of some 900 politicians, scientists and
industry representatives from 100 countries.
The five-day conference, organized by the Stockholm
International Water Institute (SIWI), is due to end
a week before the massive United Nations "Earth Summit"
on sustainable development starts in Johannesburg.
Water is one of the five key themes United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has picked for Johannesburg.
The importance of clean drinking water has been stressed
many times, but now other demands for water such as
irrigation and sanitation are rising up the international
agenda, experts said.
"In Johannesburg we're going to have an almighty struggle
for targets and timeframe for sanitation... I think
we will probably win on that," South Africa's Water
Minister Ronnie Kasrils told a news conference.
After decades of uneven water distribution during
the apartheid era, South Africa has included the right
to water in its constitution, and is now finding ways
to improve water distribution such as fixing badly leaking
In many cities across Africa, plumbing is so outdated
and the infrastructure is so weak that 40 to 60 percent
of the water may easily leak away, Kasrils said.
The United Nations set a target to halve the number
of people living in poverty by 2015 in its millennium