World Water Day: call for review of Millennium Development Goals

LONDON, England, March 22, 2010 -- UK water institution calls for revision of 2015 global goals to reflect climate change and worldwide events kick-start World Water Day to raise awareness of water scarcity and quality issues...

LONDON, England, March 22, 2010 -- The importance of water quality should be recognised at the highest political level to help address a lack of coordination in tackling water quality challenges, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) has said on World Water Day.

The lack of prioritisation of water quality in many countries has resulted in decreased allocation of resources, weak institutions and lack of coordination in addressing water quality challenges, the organisation said.

As a matter of urgency, CIWEM demanded that the importance of water quality is recognised at the highest political level, so that quality considerations are made alongside those of quantity. The Institution called for a full review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and requests that targets are amended to reflect the increasing impact of climatic change.

The MDGs are eight goals to be achieved by 2015 and are drawn from targets contained in the Millennium Declaration, adopted by 189 nations and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.

The goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring environmental sustainability and to establish a global partnership for development.

Paul Horton, director of international development at CIWEM, said: “Water and sanitation are central to all our development goals. We have the knowledge to solve these challenges but there is growing recognition that the MDGs concerning access to clean water and basic sanitation will not be met.

"As we are at the halfway point between the adoption of the MDGs and the target date, we must change our approach and acknowledge the scale of the challenge ahead. It is time that water and sanitation champions were appointed at the highest level of government and given powers to coordinate the required action among all Ministries.”

World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

Several World Water Day events are taking place worldwide to raise awareness of water scarcity and quality issues. These include concerts, radio programmes and a Guinness World Record attempt to create the Worlds' Longest Toilet Queue.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is "Clean Water for a Healthy World". Recent figures from the World Heath Organization suggest that 87% of the world's population (5.9 billion) are now using "safe drinking water sources" but almost 39% of the world’s population (over 2.6 billion people) are lacking improved sanitation facilities (see Water & Wastewater International story).

In a statement released for World Water Day, the secretary general of United Nations, said: "More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. These deaths are an affront to our common humanity, and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential. The world has the know-how to solve these challenges and become better stewards of our water resources. Water is central to all our development goals. As we mark the mid-point of the International Decade for Action, and look forward to this year’s MDG Summit, let us protect and sustainably manage our waters for the poor, the vulnerable and for all life on Earth."

David Jellison, reg. executive Western Europe for GE Water & Process Technology, said although it might seem surprising, 11% of Europe's population are also affected by water scarcity issues. He said that the European Union’s Water Framework Directive includes the introduction of water pricing policies beginning 2010 and will urge member states to reconsider their current water use and help drive initiatives for water reuse.

Jellison said: "The implementation of pricing policies on national level as well as water-saving measures could help put Europe on a path to water security. Similar measures such as removing barriers, providing financial incentives and engaging in proactive education and outreach to support water recycling and reuse are essential steps in the process. With such frameworks in place, we can make great progress in creating a European society that promotes and practices water reuse and thus contributes to such global need."

He went onto say: "Solving the world’s water challenges will take a team effort. We need the continued collaboration of government, industry, academia, nonprofit organisations and municipalities worldwide to define how we value, use and reuse our water.

"The message for this year’s World Water Day is clear: we must act now to protect our water. Our future depends on it. "

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