UPDATE - UN holds 1st water conference in nearly 5 decades to tackle looming global crisis

UPDATE - UN holds 1st water conference in nearly 5 decades to tackle looming global crisis

2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, says UN report


By Betul Yuruk

UNITED NATIONS (AA) - The UN convened a major conference on water Wednesday as one in four people in the world does not have access to clean drinking water.

A report released Tuesday ahead of the conference, the first in 46 years, revealed that around 2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and 3.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation.

Access to safe drinking water by 2030 is one of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals adopted in 2015.

The global urban population facing water scarcity is estimated to double from 930 million people in 2016 to between 1.7 and 2.4 billion in 2050, according to the report.

“Water is a human right — and a common development denominator to shape a better future. But water is in deep trouble,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the opening ceremony of the three-day conference co-chaired by the Netherlands and Tajikistan.

“We are draining humanity’s lifeblood through vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable use, and evaporating it through global heating. We have broken the water cycle, destroyed ecosystems and contaminated groundwater,” he said

He said nearly three out of four natural disasters are linked to water and urged countries to work across borders to manage water and “massively” invest in water and sanitation systems.

“Climate action and a sustainable water future are two sides of the same coin,” he said. “We don’t have a moment to lose.”

Global freshwater demand is predicted to exceed supply by 40% by 2030, according to the UN and experts warn that the world is facing an imminent water crisis.

No binding agreement is expected to come out of the conference but the UN and conference organizers urged ''game-changing'' commitments to bring the water action agenda to life.

The US announced more than $49 billion in domestic and global action to ensure equitable access to climate-resilient water and sanitation infrastructure.

''These investments will help create jobs, prevent conflicts, safeguard public health, reduce the risk of famine and hunger, and enable us to respond to climate change and natural disasters,'' said US Ambassador to UN Linda Thomas Greenfield.

''This global crisis requires global cooperation,'' she said.

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