|Sunday, 8 February 2004|
UN expert warns of water crisis
by Shanika Sriyananda
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) such as alleviation of poverty, improving health and educational standards and conserving the environment would not be realised even by 2015 due to the lack of political commitment and financial resources, warned Erna Witoelar, UN Special Ambassador for MDGs in Asia and Pacific at the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Water Week held in Manila, Philippines recently.
She said inequalities and powerlessness were constraints to promoting the water-related Millennium Development Goals and resulted in disparity of water use. "People in rich countries consume 400 to 500 litres of water per day, whereas in poor countries, this is only 20 litres per day. Over the years, global demand for water will grow, more lives will be lost, more diseases will spread and the development of poor countries will continue to suffer", she said.
Over 350 experts in the water sector from the Asia-Pacific region participated at the event, where a five-member Sri Lankan delegation also took part. According to Witoelar, the water and sanitation targets were indeed a critical entry point for the development of the community to accelerate progress on all MDGs. "However, domestic and international funding for water and sanitation has fallen during the past years," she said.
"The lack of equity continues to be the biggest obstacle in most anti-poverty strategies," Witoelar claimed.
"Half the people living in the Asia-Pacific region do not have access to adequate sanitation. Population is growing and water consumption is also on the increase. Water resources are decreasing because of the overuse of ground water. On the other hand, due to urbanisation and the increase of concreting of cities, ground water is not generated in many parts of the world", she said.
Witoelar also said that there was great competition for industrial water use and a growth of industry-based pollutants. "These pollutants are likely to be more toxic and living conditions in some parts of the region are becoming increasingly hazardous," she added.
"The general trend of climate change in this region is more frequent El-Ninos, more floods and changing monsoon patterns. The change in rainfall patterns continues to affect irrigation; food and poverty are the other problems," she said.
According to Witoelar, water-related problems could be the most serious climate change issue in Asia.
"The direct impact of climate changes on fresh water sources are still not understood," she said.
Produced by Lake House