Ban Ki-moon urges greater efforts to tackle ‘silent crisis’ of safe water for all

Ban Ki-moon addresses opening of the exhibit on water

24 October 2007 – Unveiling a new exhibit at United Nations Headquarters highlighting one of the earth’s most precious resources, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for greater efforts to ensure the most basic of human needs – safe water.

“Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development, and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals,” Mr. Ban stated, referring to the global targets to slash poverty, illiteracy, disease and other social ills by 2015 collectively known as the MDGs.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibit on water and the interlinked issue of sanitation, organized by the American Museum of Natural History and the UN Department of Public Information, Mr. Ban noted that living in New York makes it easy to sometimes forget just how precious water is and to take it for granted.

“We turn on a tap, and it gushes out. We walk into any corner store, and shelves groan under its bottled weight. Yard space, rather than sprinklers, is the scarce commodity. And rain brings consternation, not relief,” he said.

However, the “sobering reality” is that the planet’s water supplies are under great stress due to high population growth, unsustainable consumption patterns, poor management practices, pollution, inadequate investment in infrastructure, and low efficiency in water-use.

Every day, a lack of safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation claims about 6,000 lives, most of them children, the Secretary-General pointed out. Some 700 million lives in 43 countries are affected by water scarcity. By 2025, these ranks could swell to more than 3 billion.

In addition, in many areas climate change will likely make a bad situation worse; causing floods in some parts and droughts elsewhere, he added, stressing the urgent need for integrated and sustainable approaches to water resource management.

Mr. Ban also said the Museum’s initiative was timely, given that General Assembly has declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation in order to spotlight this “silent crisis.”

The Headquarters display – containing over 50 images from the gigantic water tunnel under construction beneath New York City to a fishing village floating on the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia – is part of a new major exhibition, “Water: H20 = Life,” that opens at the American Museum on 3 November and will travel to venues in Canada, Asia and South America next year.

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