Time to devise better strategies to use and conserve scarce water – Ban Ki-moon

17 March 2008 –

The international community needs to start conceiving strategies for using water more efficiently and sharing it more fairly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, warning that unless action is taken soon, the problems caused by water shortages around the world will only multiply.

In an opinion column published today in The Hindu of Chennai, India, ahead of celebrations on Saturday to mark World Water Day, Mr. Ban called for partnerships between governments, civil society groups, businesses and individuals to better use and conserve water.

“We are at the early stages of this awakening,” he wrote. “But there are some encouraging signs, especially in the private sector. Corporations have long been viewed as culprits. The smokestacks from power plants pollute our air; the effluents from industry spoil our rivers. But this is changing – more and more today, businesses are working to become part of the solution, rather than the problem.”

Mr. Ban cited the gathering earlier this month in New York of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative, on the subject of water.

He stressed that it was important to move “beyond the mere use of water to stewardship,” given how scarce fresh water is becoming in so many regions of the world, both rich and poor.

“International Alert has identified 46 countries, home to 2.7 billion people, where climate change and water-related crises create a high risk of violent conflict. A further 56 countries, representing another 1.2 billion people, are at high risk of political instability. That’s more than half the world.”

The Secretary-General said population growth and climate change would only exacerbate the situation, observing that already one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease associated with a lack of clean water.

Helping people living “in the most abysmal standards of hygiene and sanitation” would not only reduce the death toll, Mr. Ban stated, but would also assist in protecting the environment, alleviating poverty and fostering economic development.


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