World Water Day: focus on cities
“Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge” is the theme of World Water Day (22 March). Cape Town (South Africa) will be hosting the official event and UNESCO is participating in the celebration by organizing activities in keeping with this year’s theme.
Half of the world’s population today lives in cities; within 20 years, the percentage of urban residents will rise to 60%, or a total of nearly 5 billion people. This population growth mainly affects developing countries. Meanwhile, one in four city residents – 789 million people – do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. Today 497 million city residents share sanitation facilities; in 1990 this number was 249 million (Source: UNW-DPCA).
On 20 March, a set of books about the challenge of water management in cities will be launched at the United Nations Pavilion in Cape Town, where UNESCO will have a stand. Published by the International Hydrological Programme, the 10-book set entitled “The Urban Water Series” covers integrated approaches to sustainable urban water management and the effects of urbanization on the hydrological cycle and water resources. It provides information for policy-makers, urban water practitioners and educators. Also on 20 March, the short film “Water in cities” will be presented. The film, which will be available on line as well, illustrates present and future challenges in urban water management.
On the following day, 21 March, UNESCO will organize a special session on “Groundwater Management in Urban Areas”. It will draw attention to the vital but often neglected role of underground water resources in cities.
Finally, on 22 March, the two laureates of the first “Water for Life” Best Practices Award will be announced in Cape Town. The award, created by the UN Office to Support the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015 and the UN World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), recognizes outstanding best practices to ensure sustainable water management.
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