Secretary-General calls for solution to water crisis

3 December 2007 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for solutions to urgent water problems which threaten to roll back economic and social gains.

“Throughout the world, water resources continue to be spoiled, wasted and degraded,” Mr. Ban said in a video address to the first-ever Asia-Pacific Water Summit being held in Beppu, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.

The water situation in the Asia-Pacific region is especially worrisome, he said, due to high population growth, unsustainable consumption, pollution and poor management of clean water sources.

Climate change – manifested in receding glaciers, worsening floods and increasingly severe droughts – is exacerbating the problem, but “despite these warning signs, water care remains an underserved and underappreciated field,” Mr. Ban observed.

“The consequences for humanity are grave,” he cautioned.

Water scarcity undercuts environmental sustainability, impedes efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight targets to slash poverty, hunger and other ills by 2015 – and could set off wars and conflict, the Secretary-General said.

Solving the crucial problem promises tremendous gains, he noted, as up to $34 can be saved on health, education and social and economic development for every dollar spent.

“Of course, the benefits of clean water cannot be measured in dollars and cents alone,” he said. “There is no price tag on transforming lives, or on giving every child a real chance for a healthy, productive future.”

The two-day summit is expected to be attended by leaders of nearly 50 Asian-Pacific countries and regions, as well as by government representatives, members of the private sector, academic, civil society representatives and journalists.

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