World panel set to address water issues
August 20, 1998
By Environmental News Network staff
Announced on Tuesday by Dr. Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, president of the World Water Council, at the 8th Stockholm Water Symposium, the commission will look into questions such as the impact of global climate change on variability of rainfall and desertification and how to get more fresh water through desalination techniques and tapping underground water sources.
"At the threshold of a new century, few challenges loom as large as the declining availability of fresh water to meet the rising demands of an expanding human family while recognizing the intimate link of that precious resource to the global ecosystems on which human survival depends," Abu-Zeid said.
One billion people lack access to safe drinking water in the developing world and up to 10 million people die annually due to diseases caused by dirty water, the United Nations said.
Some solutions, according to the United Nations, include shifting to less wasteful types of irrigation in developing countries. Agriculture currently consumes 90 percent of the water used in developing nations.
As well, continued research needs to be conducted to develop crop varieties that need less water. Cities and industry could stretch water supplies by expanding water treatment. In many nations today, only a small fraction of sewage is treated.
On the subject of climate change, Kenneth Frederick, an author of a report on water issues put out last year by Resources for the Future, said that "climate change has the potential to either aggravate or alleviate an area's water situation. On balance, however, the impacts are likely to be adverse because the existing water infrastructure and uses are based on an area's past climate and hydrology."
Dr. Ismail Serageldin, chairman of the commission and World Bank vice president for Special Programs, said, "water is a precious resource, and learning to manage it better will require us to make sure that every drop counts, whether it is used in agriculture, homes, industry, or for maintaining the Earth's ecosystems."
He promised that the commission would consult widely in arriving at its views, and would reach out to different regions of the world and to different constituencies in its work.
The 21-member commission comprises internationally recognized water, environmental and development experts representing academia, governments, private sector, international and national organizations, philanthropic organizations, and civil society.
The commission expects to have a report of its investigation completed in time for release on World Water Day, May 22, 2000, in the Netherlands.
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