(United Nations) “Vampiric” humanity has “broken the water cycle”, endangering billions of people across the planet, the United Nations Secretary-General denounced on Wednesday at the opening of the first conference of the United Nations on water for nearly half a century.
“ We have broken the water cycle, destroyed ecosystems and contaminated groundwater ”, launched Antonio Guterres at the opening of these three days which should welcome more than 6,500 participants, including a hundred ministers, and a dozen heads of state and government.
“ We are draining humanity of its vital substance through the vampiric over-consumption and unsustainable use we make of water, and we are causing it to evaporate by heating up the planet ”, he added, worrying about the “compromised” future of water, yet “the lifeblood of humanity” and “a human right”.
Not enough water in places, too much in others where floods are increasing, or contaminated water: if dramatic situations are legion in many places on the planet, the report of UN-Water and published on Tuesday highlights the “imminent risk of a global water crisis”.
Not enough water in places, too much in others where floods are increasing, or contaminated water: if dramatic situations are legion in many places on the planet, a report by UN-Water and published on Tuesday highlights the “imminent risk of a global water crisis”.
“How many people will be affected by this global water crisis is a matter of scenario,” its lead author Richard Connor told AFP. “If nothing is done, between 40 and 50% of the population will continue to lack access to sanitation services and around 20-25% to drinking water,” he noted. And if the percentages do not change, the world’s population grows and the number of people affected with it.
So the UN conference, the first of this magnitude since 1977 on this vital issue, but too long ignored, raises a lot of hopes to try to reverse the trend and hope to guarantee by 2030 access for all to drinking water or toilets, targets set in 2015.
The participants, States, companies or representatives of civil society, were called upon to come up with concrete commitments, some of which had already been announced in advance.
But already, some observers doubt their scope and the availability of the necessary funding to implement them.
“The water crisis is bad enough without climate change. But with our rapidly warming world, it’s going to be worse,” said WWF’s Stuart Orr. “We can build resilient societies and economies if governments and businesses quickly put in place policies, practices and investments that recognize, and restore, the full value of healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands.”
In a world where over the past 40 years, the use of fresh water has increased by almost 1% per year, the UN-Water report first highlights water shortages which “trend to generalize ” and to worsen with the impact of global warming, until soon hitting even the regions today spared in East Asia or South America.
Thus, approximately 10% of the world’s population lives in a country where water stress is high or critical. And according to the report by UN climate experts (IPCC) published on Monday, “about half of the world’s population” experiences “severe” water shortages for at least part of the year.
A situation that also highlights inequalities. “ Wherever you are, if you are rich enough, you will manage to have water ”, underlined Richard Connor. “The poorer you are, the more vulnerable you are to these crises”.
And women and girls “ are disproportionately affected ”, actor Matt Damon, co-founder of the NGO Water.org, insisted on Wednesday. “Millions of girls are not in school because they have to fetch water”.
The problem is not only the lack of water, but the contamination of what may be available, due to the absence or deficiencies of sanitation systems.
At least two billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, exposing them to deadly diseases, cholera, dysentery, typhoid or polio. Not to mention pollution by pharmaceuticals, chemicals, pesticides, microplastics or nanomaterials that also affect freshwater ecosystems.
To ensure access to drinking water for all by 2030, current levels of investment should be multiplied by at least three, estimates UN-Water.
“ Everything we need to live a decent life is directly linked to water, our health, food, habitats, economy, infrastructure and climate ”, King Willem-Alexander insisted on Wednesday. -Bas, co-chair of the conference with the President of Tajikistan.
“It is time today to overcome partial sectoral interests, to look at the big picture and to move forward”.