World Water Day 2006

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  • 1.1 billion people lack sufficient access to safe drinking water.
  • 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation.
  • 6,000 children die every day from lack of safe water or poor hygiene.
  • On average, African and Asian women have to cover 8 kilometers a day to get fresh water.
  • The average African lives with less than 20 litres per day while the average European consumes more than 150 litres daily and the average North American more than 300 litres.
  • 4 billion hectares, representing 1/3 of the emerged lands of the globe, are threatened by desertification.

Today is the World Water Day 2006 and I will take this opportunity to inform my esteemed readers of a water related project to contribute my share on this topic:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is this years UN agency to coordinate events surrounding World Water Day (WWD) around the world – and this years theme is "Water and Culture". Well, water and culture? What does that mean?

According to the director general of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, "technology alone will not lead us to viable solutions" on the world’s urgent water problems but instead "we must better understand the complex interactions between societies, water and the environment". And he goes on saying "water management itself needs to be understood as a cultural process….(…) …The nexus between culture and nature is the avenue for understanding resilience, creativity and adaptability in both social and ecological systems."

Or, to put it in my words: in order to have a positive impact on the world’s urgent water problems, we can not just apply various technologies while hoping that things might work out. Instead, we first of all need to comprehend the connection between the environment and our social systems. Of course, a relatively simple approach – which is still often neglected.
The basic idea behind this is to identify a causal framework which will help to deal with the various and complex water problems the world is facing today and in the future. And this is where the UNESCO’s programmes come into limelight:

The UNESCO, which btw celebrates it’s 60th anniversary, started developing international projects and programmes to improve our understanding and management of the earth’s resources.
One of these projects I would like to focus your attention on is the "from Potential Conflict to Co-operation Potential" initiative – which is one of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) contribution to the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) in cooperation with Green Cross International (GCI).

Conflicts?
Over 260 river basins are shared by two or more countries. To date, the UNESCO’s International Shared Aquifer Resource Management project (ISARM) has inventoried over 150 shared aquifer systems with boundaries that do not correspond to those of surface basins. Approximately one third of those basins are shared by more than two countries, and 19 involve five or more sovereign states. Of these, one basin – the Danube – has 18 riparian nations. Five basins – the Congo, Niger, Nile, Rhine and Zambezi – are shared by nine to 11 countries. The remaining 13 basins – the Amazon, Aral Sea, Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Jordan, Kura-Araks, Lake Chad, Mekong, Neman, La Plata, Tarim, Tigris-Euphrates and Vistula (Wista) – have five to eight riparian countries.

The PC-CP project addresses the challenge of sharing water resources and its role is to help water resources management authorities to tip the balance in favor of co-operation potential away from potential conflict.

For its current 2nd phase, PC-CP has determined the following operational objectives to strengthen the capacity of the target audience in dealing with potential and actual water conflicts :

  • The development of educational material related to conflicts and cooperation in the field of shared water resources;
  • The development of appropriate institutional frameworks for the anticipation, prevention and resolution of water conflicts;
  • The development of methodologies for conflict prevention and resolution;
  • The improvement of legal tools for the management of shared water resources;
  • The development of a comprehensive information system on water conflicts and cooperation;
  • The dissemination of results and best practises at a global level.

So the bottom line to all this is that there are good and well elaborated programmes and projects in the pipeline that include a more holistic approach to today’s water problems. I am specially interested in the development of a comprehensive information system, and maybe today’s blog on this matter has slightly contributed to informing the public about these issues.

Please don’t miss today’s launch of the 2nd United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR2) in Mexico City, Mexico. Thx! :-)

(deutschsprachige LeserInnen seien an dieser Stelle auch noch auf folgenden interessanten Link zum Thema Weltwassertag hingewiesen)

5 comments » Write a comment

  1. Pingback: Mshairi » World Water Day, 22 March 2006

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Kenya: Water conflicts

  3. I only know one place to get updates on the “water industry”: right here. :)

    So, are you saying that first and foremost we need a better educated world population on water issues and how it affects everyone else? Is education the answer?

    Also, talking about water conflict, I’m sure you could weigh in on what’s going on in Lake Victoria. It’s shared by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. I hear that there is quite a bit of contention around it right now.

  4. Mshairi & Sokari – thengiu muno :-)
    @Hash: yes, I tried to cover this event from the official point of view, and only picked out this PC-CP programme to highlight their work. I think education is THE way to get a positive change in the long run, and it sure isn’t only about telling ppl but also about giving them a feeling for the technology like that $100 OLPC issue we were discussing on AfroM’s blog earlier this week.
    As for Lake Victoria, yes, the Lake faces various problems such as water hyacinths, an increase in water-born diseases, overfishing, oxygen depletion at lower depths of the Lake, etc. These problems arise from human activity in the region around the Lake.
    I think to change this damage, we have to re-design our consumer behaviour and develop products that remain in a biological or technical loop – thus changing the waste that reaches the Lake from an ever-growing population.

  5. Very alarming facts & statistics! Soon we’ll have little drips of water everywhere but no water to sustain us and since we were careless enough to waste it we’ll be killing one another the same way we’ve done over oil, diamonds & pearls:((