warns of water shortage by 2025
crisis to affect two-thirds of world population
The Toronto Star
VIENNA (AP) More than 2.7 billion people will face severe
shortages of fresh water by 2025 if the world keeps consuming
water at today's rates, the United Nations warned today
in a report marking World Water Day.
Worldwide, about five billion people will be living in areas
where it will be difficult or impossible to meet all their
needs for fresh water, creating "a looming crisis that overshadows
nearly two-thirds of the Earth's population," the report
It was released in Vienna by the International Atomic Energy
Agency, a nuclear watchdog organization leading the United
Nations' effort to draw attention to the world's water crisis
and urge the launching of a "blue revolution" to conserve
supplies and develop new ones.
"The simple fact is that there is a limited amount of water
on the planet, and we cannot afford to be negligent in its
use," said the agency's director, Mohamed ElBaradei. "We
can't keep treating it as if it will never run out."
Already, an estimated 1.1 billion people have no access
to safe drinking water, 2.5 billion lack proper sanitation
and more than five million people die from waterborne diseases
each year - 10 times the number of casualties killed in
wars around the globe, the report said.
Less than three per cent of the world's water is fresh,
and most of it is trapped in polar ice or buried underground
in springs too deep to reach, it said.
Freshwater lakes, rivers and reservoirs may seem numerous
but provide just a drop in the bucket, the report said.
"Even where supplies are sufficient or plentiful, they are
increasingly at risk from pollution and rising demand,"
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement, warning
that ``fierce national competition over water resources
has prompted fears that water issues contain the seeds of
The worst-affected areas are the deserts and semiarid regions
of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where fresh drinking water
is extremely scarce, in part because of the region's wildly
variable climate and unfettered population growth, the World
Meteorological Organization said.
Water ministers from 22 African countries have called for
a regional and global alliance, backed by international
funding, to tackle water and sanitation problems. Among
the solutions, they say, are the development of desalination
facilities that can turn salt water into drinking water.
Millions of women trudge long distances every day in search
of water or send their children to look for it, meaning
they miss opportunities to work, grow crops and attend school,
the UN report said.
"Without adequate clean water, there can be no escape from
poverty," said Klaus Toepfer, director of the UN Environment
Program. "Water is the basis for good health and food production.
Mankind is always at its mercy."
On the Net:
World Water Day, http://www.waterday2002.iaea.org
CP 0611ES 22-03-02
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