21.05.2012 - ODG

Water: fuel for sustainable development - 'Mainichi Newspaper' (Japan)

Published in Mainichi Newspaper on 21 May 2012.

In August 2010, when I flew over Pakistan’s flooded land and saw the scale of devastation caused by the water, I was struck by the terrible irony of a flooded country with no drinking water. This image will remain etched in my memory forever.

Our life depends on water. Water is needed to produce energy. It is essential to feed the world. Water is the common denominator of all global challenges: energy, food, health, peace. It is a key to meeting all these challenges in a sustainable manner. In 2010, the United Nations recognized the right to water as a fundamental human right. In 2012, Rio+20 will provide an opportunity to include water in development and green growth strategies.

Science and technology play a decisive role in better protecting and sharing resources and preventing risks associated with water. In Pakistan, for example, the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM), created under the auspices of UNESCO, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) designed the Integrated Flood Analysis System (IFAS),a risk-prevention system using data obtained via satellite. Throughout the world, UNESCO is striving to increase scientific cooperation and strengthen national capacities, through the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and the World Water Development Report (WWDR). The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft has already trained over 15,000 experts from 160 countries. Water cycles transcend borders. Substantial work is needed to share resources in a concerted manner.  The United Nations can accelerate this movement, but the ultimate responsibility lies with governments and their citizens.

We are living through an unprecedented revolution. In 50 years, global groundwater extraction has tripled. Eighty per cent of wastewater in the world is neither collected nor treated. Every day, 2.5 billion people are exposed to the primary cause of death: unsafe water. These phenomena exacerbate the disparities in water access and associated potential conflicts. Without strong and concerted political action to address them, there will be no sustainable growth because in economics, like in painting, blue is always needed to obtain green.

                                                                                          Irina Bokova




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