Majority of world population face water shortages unless action taken, warns Migiro

5 February 2009 – Two-thirds of the world’s population will face a lack of water in less than 20 years, if current trends in climate change, population growth, rural to urban migration and consumption continue, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro warned today.

Speaking at a high-level symposium on water security at UN Headquarters, Ms. Migiro stressed that “if present trends continue, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress.”

“The lack of safe water and sanitation is inextricably linked with poverty and malnutrition, particularly among the world’s poor,” she said at the two-day meeting organized by the World Water Organization (WWO).

“It limits girls’ school attendance and exacerbates maternal mortality. Yet today about 900 million people still rely on unimproved drinking-water supplies, and 2.5 billion people remain without improved sanitation facilities.”

Unless urgent action is taken the conflict between water supply and demand is set to get worse, Ms. Migiro told the symposium’s participants, comprising of experts from the UN, Member States, as well as corporate, medical, scientific, academic and non-governmental organization (NGO) communities.

“In establishing the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one half, by 2015, the number of people without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, the United Nations has challenged the international community to work together to improve such conditions,” she said.

The symposium aims to identify specific threats and vulnerabilities to global water security and propose practical solutions for the protection and preservation of water supplies.

Ms. Migiro noted that agriculture consumes roughly three quarters of the world’s fresh water supplies and in Africa the proportion is closer to ninety per cent.

“More than 1.4 billion people live in river basins where their use of water exceeds minimum recharge levels, leading to desiccation of rivers and the depletion of groundwater, she said.

The Deputy Secretary-General stressed that achieving water security would mean more effective water management, including enhancing food security through more equitable allocation of water for agriculture and food production.

“It means ensuring the integrity of ecosystems, and it means promoting peaceful collaboration in the sharing of water resources, particularly in the case of boundary and transboundary water resources.”


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