UN urges world to protect water

UN urges world to protect water

On Jan 12, 2023, men extract water from a well in El Gel village, 8 kilometers from the town of K'elafo, Ethiopia. PHOTO AFP UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations used its first conference on water security in almost half a century on Wednesday to exhort governments to manage one of humanity's shared resources.

Half of the world's population relies on unsafe drinking water, while half lacks basic sanitation, according to the UN. Nearly three quarters of the recent disasters have been related to water.

"We are draining humanity's lifeblood through vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable use, and evaporating it through global heating," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Access to clean drinking water and sanitation is part of the 17 point to-do list the UN has set for sustainable development, along with ending hunger and poverty, achieving gender equality, and taking action on climate change.

The three-day conference beginning on Wednesday in New York is not intended to produce the kind of binding accord that emerged from Paris climate meetings in 2015, or a framework like the one set for nature protection in Montreal in 2022.

The United States said it would invest $49 billion in water and sanitation at home and around the world because of the Water Action Agenda that will contain voluntary commitments and create political momentum.

A US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that this money would help create jobs, prevent conflicts, protect public health, reduce the risk of famine and hunger, and allow us to respond to climate change and natural disasters.

Hundreds of action plans were sent to the UN before the conference started, but the research group of World Resources Institute said that while some commitments offer inspiration, more of them miss the mark by lacking funding or performance targets or neglecting to address climate change.

One of the two projects to praise WRI is to spend $21.2 million through 2029 on climate-smart agriculture and wetland restoration in the desertifying Niger River basin, and another from 1,729 companies that estimate they can make water-related investments worth $436 billion.

Scientists, economists, and policy experts grouped together by the government of the Netherlands in the Global Commission on the Economics of Water recommend phasing out some $700 billion in agricultural and water subsidies and facilitating partnerships between development finance institutions and private investors to improve water systems.