warns of water-borne catastrophe
Warning of a mounting water crisis, the United Nations has
launched the International Year of Freshwater (2003).
likely to become a growing source of tension and fierce
competition between nations if present trends continue,
but it can also be a catalyst for cooperation," UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan said in a statement yesterday.
Two of the
aims of the campaign were to raise awareness about the
scale of the crisis and to promote creative thinking about
ways to end it, Deputy Secretary General Louise Frechette
told the General Assembly.
billion people -- one-fifth of the world population --
lack safe drinking water and twice as many have no sanitation.
UN figures show that more than three million people a
year die from diseases caused by unsafe water.
state and government agreed at the UN Millennium Summit
in September 2000 to halve that proportion by 2015.
"If we continue
with 'business as usual', it will take only a little more
than two decades for two-thirds of the world's population
to be living in moderate to severe water stress," Frechette
It was unthinkable
to "condemn so many people to poverty, poor health and
despair", she said, when "the investments required to
avert this catastrophic scenario are within our means,
not beyond." The UN estimates that spending on drinking
water supply and sanitation worldwide would have to increase
from about USD 30 billion a year to between USD 44 and
60 billion to reach the Millennium Summit goals.