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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– The United Nations has warned that climate change and demographic changes will pose a major risk to healthy water supplies around the world.
Speaking at the four-day Budapest Water Summit, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told world leaders that half of the global population could be facing water scarcity by 2030.
He said demand could outstrip supply by as much as 40 per cent.
Already more than a billion people live on earth without access to healthy water, according to data released at the summit in Hungary’s capital.
Ironically the amount of water used for watering golf courses every day would be enough to ensure the daily minimum water requirement for 4.7 billion people, U.N. experts said.
Ban also expressed his deep concern that 10,000 children under the age of five die daily of illnesses due to polluted waters. “Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of children under five in the world after pneumonia…,” he explained.
“Some 2.5 billion people lack the dignity and health offered by access to a safe, decent toilet and protection from untreated waste. One billion people practice open defecation, ” Ban added, when spreading about sanitation.
About 1,300 summit participants from more then 100 U.N. member states and organizations are to adopt the Budapest Water Declaration which recommends new policies for water management and sanitation as well as for other sectors, such as health, food and energy.
The statement comes amid calls from Secretary General Ban to “respect Creation” and show environmental stewardship.
He made those remarks after interrupting his prepared speech to drink himself as he was thirsty following a long flight from New York. “Let me appreciate water,” he said before taking a sip, with delegates laughing.
“Water is life. The Creator of this world is magnificent, very creative. We have to be very humble in front of this nature. The main purpose of this meeting today hosted by [Hungarian President] Ader is to realize this principle and
God’s willing,” he added.
“Our societies cannot prosper without clean, plentiful freshwater. People cannot thrive without adequate sanitation,” Ban stressed.
He said water and improved sanitation feature large in the U.N.’s anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals, whose deadline is 2015. “Beyond 2015, our aim is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and to create an equitable world of opportunity for all. ”
The Budapest Water Summit, which ends Friday, is held in what is known as the “spa capital of the world” with huge underground water reservoirs that some say will become like “white gold” on this increasingly fresh-water-thirsty-world.
Yet Budapest, a city of some two million people, also experienced flooding of the massive Danube river recently.
Hungary’s President János Áder and the U.N’s Ban said they expect even more flooding due to global warning.
They cited a Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released last month saying climate change is affecting the global water cycle and that “extreme precipitation events” will very likely become more intense and frequent by the end of this century, as global surface temperatures increase.
In layman’s terms, this means more floods,” said Ban said. “We will also see more droughts.”
Though critics remain skeptical about global warming, Ban asked participants to take the issue more seriously.
“That’s why I am going to convene a summit meeting dedicated to climate change in September next year. And I sincere hope that leaders next year will demonstrate their political leadership and also set a legal climate agreement by 2015.”
He stressed it was crucial to keep “global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” To do that, he said, “we need to finalize a robust legal agreement on climate change in 2015.”
Current summit host Hungary has already been named as a leader in the U.N. Group of Friends of Water, which aims to “promote wider understanding and cooperation on water issues.”
In Ban Ki-moon’s words water security should be a “source of unity, not of conflict”.
(This BosNewsLife News story also airs via Vatican Radio. BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals from especially, but not limited to, (ex)Communist nations and other autocratically ruled states).