March 22, 2023, 8:50 AM
March 22, 2023, 8:50 AM
This Wednesday, March 22, a special United Nations conference on water begins in New York. The UN warns of a “freshwater” crisis aggravated by climate change and pollution. An estimated 2.3 billion people live in countries with high water stress.
2,300 million humans live in a situation of water stress and 2,000 million do not have access to drinking water. Scarcity will undoubtedly increase tensions and conflicts.
6,500 participants are expected in the more than 500 events organized on Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 March in New York.
Although no global political agreement is expected, the United Nations plans to ask countries for certain commitments on sanitation, resilience to floods and drought, sustainable development and a budget to finance scientific research on water.
For their part, environmental NGOs such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) seek to pressure countries to obtain greater investment in freshwater ecosystems.
1% of world GDP
The World Resources Institute advocates for managing water in new ways that adapt to climate change. It indicates that ensuring access to drinking water for all populations by 2030 would only cost 1% of world GDP and that the return on said investment would be immense. It would increase growth and agricultural production, while improving the quality of life for the poorest communities.
The African continent is the first to be affected by water scarcity. The UN seeks to increase cooperation between countries that share water resources on their border, and for this it wants the 1992 Convention on water, initially promoted among European countries, to be expanded.
This text proposes obligations for countries that share a river, a lake, a basin and groundwater. Since 2016, all countries in the world can sign it.
First cause of infant mortality
In Africa, 90% of water resources are located in border areas. The Niger basin is shared by nine countries, including Nigeria, the most populous on the continent.
In Europe, where drought has hit even in winter, conflicts over water use have also multiplied. According to Jean Lapègue, spokesman for the NGO Action Against Hunger, they will intensify with global warming.
“There are already tensions regarding the management of border rivers. As the cost and scarcity of water increases, it is going to get worse in the world”, he explains.
He also says that children will be the most affected. “Today, a child under the age of 5 has a 20 times greater risk of dying from diarrhea caused by a water sanitation problem than of dying in a bombing. Waterborne diseases are the leading cause of infant mortality”, Lapègue details.