U.N. launches Year of Fresh Water in 2003
UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations is launching the
International Year of Fresh Water in 2003 and promising
efforts to give more people access to clean water and
protect sources of drinking water.
The United Nations will host a conference in Kyoto, Japan, in March,
when it is expected to release its first comprehensive
report on the world's water problems. The report
will include recommendations to protect freshwater sources,
which are increasingly under threat because of degraded
water quality, climate change and wetland destruction,
U.N. officials said Thursday.
Another meeting is being planned for October in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which initiated
the fresh water year project. Other meetings also
will be held throughout the year, officials said.
About 40 percent of the world population - more than
2 billion people - face water shortages. By 2025,
that figure is expected to increase to 5.5 billion,
or two-thirds of the world's population, U.N.
figures show. "As consumption rises, as unsustainable
practices persist, as the effectiveness of water management
policies lags badly behind the situation on the ground,
the world water situation will grow only more urgent
and complex," Deputy U.N. Secretary-General Louise
Frechette told a General Assembly panel on the initiative.
Programs will be launched to raise awareness of the
water problem and bring governments, the private sector,
and non-profit groups together to find ways to ensure
water conservation, U.N. officials said.
Local communities can help achieve these goals with
projects to "harvest" more rain water and
keep water sources clean using simple techniques such
as planting rooftop gardens to cut sewage overflow during
rainstorms, Nitin Desai, the U.N. undersecretary-general
leading the project, told a news conference.
Water use increased six-fold during the last century,
more than twice the rate of population growth, U.N.
figures show. About 70 percent of all available
fresh water is used for agriculture, but 60 percent
is lost because of inefficient irrigation systems.