CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Mar. 21, 2011 -- Official ceremonies are now well underway in Cape Town ahead of the World Water Day 2011, taking place tomorrow, under the slogan: "Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge".
With most of the world now living in cities (3.3 billion), estimates suggest that half a billion people who require water and sanitation services will be added to the urban population in Sub-Saharan African countries within the next 25 years.
The three-day event in Cape Town is a joint collaboration between UN-Water, the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW), the United Nations Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).
Five key areas have been addressed as "the key aspects of urbanisation", including sanitation and pollution, governance and management, investment and finance and the environmental impact and climate change.
For urbanisation, UN Water said that "providing water and sanitation services in the growing populations in informal settlements is critical to poverty alleviation". On sanitation and pollution, it said that utilities and governments should join the five-year drive to meet the sanitation MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) by 2015. An action point for governance and management is to "tackle corruption in urban water management" and on finance, a restructuring of water tariffs was suggested.
"Restructure water tariffs for sustainable urban water provision: revenue should aim (at least) to meet the full costs of operation and maintenance, retain the value of water assets and give targeted subsidies to the poor", the UN said.
Rainwater harvesting and water recycling/reuse methods were suggested in the action messages to help with the environmental impact and climate change, suggesting that the "environmental impact of cities extends downstream as well as upstream".
World Water Day is held annually on 22 March to highlight the importance of freshwater and the sustainable management of freshwater resources. It dates back to 1992 when the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) recommended it as an important reminder to the world. The United Nations General Assembly then designated 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.
Last year, World Water Day 2010 focused on the theme of "water quality", with a campaign to raise the profile of water quality. The year before, the theme for World Water Day 2009 was "Shared Water - Shared Opportunities", with a focus on transboundary waters.