disease could kill 76 mln by 2020 - report
FRANCISCO - More than 76 million people, mainly children,
will die from water-related diseases by 2020 unless urgent
action is taken to clean up the planet's water supplies,
according to a report issued last week.
The Pacific Institute of Oakland, California, in a report
issued in advance of this month's Earth Summit in Johannesburg,
said the projected death toll due to dirty water could outstrip
the number of lives lost to the global AIDS pandemic over
the next two decades.
many as 76 million people - mainly children - will die
from preventable, water-related diseases by 2020 even
if current United Nations goals are reached," said Peter
H. Gleick, director of the nonprofit policy research institute.
United Nations now says that some 1.2 billion people around
the globe live without access to safe water and 2.5 billion
are without sanitation, vulnerable to deadly diseases
ranging from diarrhea and dysentery to cholera, typhoid
and insect-borne illness.
Pacific Institute report examined three different scenarios
and concluded that even if United Nations goals to halve
the proportion of people without access to clean drinking
water are met, between 34 and 76 million people could
still perish over the next twenty years.
the most optimistic scenario we examined, the death toll
from water-related disease is still staggering," Gleick
said. "This largely hidden tragedy ranks as one of the
greatest development failures of the 20th century."
comparison, the United Nations recently estimated that,
unless prevention programs are expanded, AIDS would kill
65 million people by 2020.
numbers are comparable," Gleick said in an interview.
"In some ways the water problem is worse. These are diseases
that we know how to prevent, and its mostly small children
who die. It is really a horrific problem that we're not
paying adequate attention to."
Pacific Institute said one cause of the water crisis was
the current emphasis by many countries on building large,
centralized water systems which cannot be maintained by
local resources. Smaller, community based water systems
are often ignored in water development plans, it said.
is time to change direction, toward a 'soft path' that
relies on smaller-scale systems designed, built, and operated
by local groups," Gleick said.
two and five million people are now believed to die annually
because of water-related illness, most of them children
in developing countries who fall victim to virulent but
preventable diarrheal diseases.
World Health Organization, in a report issued in 2000,
estimated that there are already four billion cases of
diarrhea each year, killing as many as five million people.
Pacific Institute report set out several scenarios for
future water-related deaths, plotting possible death tolls
as a proportion of global population and as a proportion
of the projected population without access to adequate
no action is taken to redress water problems, which range
from scarcity and contamination to cross-border water
disputes and the impact of global climate change, as many
as 135 million people will die, the report said.
institute's best-case scenario calculates the possible
death toll if the official U.N. Millennium targets for
improved water services are reached in 2015 and efforts
continue to 2020 - and still concluded that between 34
and 76 million people, mostly children, will die by 2020.
water access will not come cheap. An international meeting
held in Stockholm this month concluded that global water
spending would have to rise by at least 35 percent - or
$25 billion annually - if the UN's Millennium goal for
water is to be met.
said that South Africa, host to the Earth Summit, provided
one example of successful water access policy, noting
that the government has made efforts to involve local
communities in water planning.
have made a serious commitment to try and provide water
for all the population of South Africa," Gleick said.
"They haven't gotten there yet, but they are getting there
and they are getting there with community scale water
systems, working with local governments, and community
user groups, to identify the best ways of meeting those