No Water? No Food, No Life!


Human Wrongs Watch

Around 70 per cent of the world’s water resources are used for agriculture and by 2025 two-thirds of the population could struggle to get access to this resource. In fact, nearly one billion people suffer currently from hunger and some 800 million still lack a safe supply of freshwater.

*A young resident of Maslakh camp (Afghanistan) takes a drink of water. UN Photo/E. Debebe

These estimates, which were announced by the United Nations International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), should be enough to illustrate how bleak is the future of humankind abusing of water consumption, polluting this very resource of life, and trading with it to make more and more financial benefits.

March 22 marked the World Water Day. The theme of this year’s observance has been water and food security. On that occasion, United Nations officials stressed that ensuring universal access to water and using it wisely in agriculture is “essential to end famine, drought and political instability.”

Food and Nutrition Security

“Over the coming decades, feeding a growing global population and ensuring food and nutrition security for all will depend on increasing food production. This, in turn, means ensuring the sustainable use of our most critical finite source – water,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Rudolph Cleveringa, senior technical adviser for Rome-based IFAD), said “For smallholder farmers in developing countries, water and land cannot be treated as separate issues. If we are to reduce poverty in rural areas, we must develop a holistic approach to focus on water in all of its contributions to development such as in areas of health and agriculture,” he said.

Meanwhile, a UN water and sanitation expert, Catarina de Albuquerque, urged countries to address the right to water during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) taking place in Rio de Janeiro in June, in which world leaders as well as members from the private sector and civil society will come together to discuss ways to encourage green economies and eradicate poverty.

In particular, Albuquerque called for all countries “to recognize the right to water and sanitation for all,” stressing that countries cannot go back on their decision to support this right.

No Right to Water– Canada, United Kingdom

“Some States, including Canada and the United Kingdom, are apparently proposing the removal of an explicit reference to the right to water and sanitation for all from the first draft of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development outcome document,” Albuquerque warned.

“We should be marking World Water Day with progress, not debating semantics and certainly not back-tracking on these issues.”

Demand for Food, 70% Higher in 2050

On 12 March, a UN report warned that an unprecedented rise in the demand for food, rapid urbanization and climate change are significantly threatening global water supplies. The UN World Water Development Report estimates that there will be a 70 per cent increase in demand for food by the year 2050, leading to a 19 per cent surge in water used for agriculture.

At the moment, 70 per cent of freshwater is already being used for agricultural purposes. “Freshwater is not being used sustainably, according to needs and demands,” states the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, in the report’s foreword.

“Accurate information remains disparate, and management is fragmented. In this context, the future is increasingly uncertain and risks are set to deepen.” The report, entitled “Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk,” notes that to respond to growing demand, countries have tapped into underground water sources, with water extraction tripling over the past 50 years.

However, in some underground basins, water cannot be replenished and is now at critically low levels.

The Impact of Climate Change

In addition, climate change will also have a growing impact on water resources as it alters rainfall patterns and soil humidity, melts glaciers and causes water-related disasters such as floods and droughts, which impact food production.

The report estimates that by 2070, this impact will affect up to 44 million people all over the world. The Chair of UN-Water, Michel Jarraud, stressed that “a collective response by the whole international community” will be needed to tackle the issue.

It also emphasizes that without drastic action, water pressure will exacerbate economic disparities within and between countries, hitting the poor particularly hard.

Risk of Reduced Livelihoods and Life Chances

“Unless water becomes a more central consideration in development planning, billions of people, mostly in developing countries, could face reduced livelihoods and life chances,” UNESCO said in a news release.

“Better governance of water resources is required, including investments in infrastructure from both private and public sectors.” The report also shows that despite projected increases in water demand, there are still nearly one billion people without such access, and this number is growing in cities.

According to the report, sanitation infrastructure is not keeping pace with the world’s urban population, and more than 80 per cent of the world’s waste water is neither collected nor treated.

*Photo: A young resident of Maslakh camp (Afghanistan) takes a drink of water. UN Photo/E. Debebe

Read also:

Criminal Gangs Steel Ice from Glaciers

World Bank and Giant Corporations Allied to Privatize Water Worldwide

No Water in Many Parts of the World in Only 40 Years

Are Safe Water And Toilets Reserved For Rich People Only?

Give Them Water, Toilets!

Nile Countries’ Population to Increase by 68-80% … With Not One Single Drop of Water More

2012 Human Wrongs Watch

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