STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 17, 2004 (ENS):
It is still possible to fix the world's water and food
imbalances, but people must find ways to produce more
food using less water, say water experts gathered here
for World Water Week.
At least 50 international organizations and 1,200 water
experts from more than 100 countries are here to seek
solutions that will take the world in the direction
of food and urban water security.
The world must eat less meat if water is to be sufficient,
one speaker said. "Unlike the Green Revolution
of the 1960s, it is consumers – not producers
– who are driving global food production,"
said Professor Jan Lundqvist of the Stockholm International
Water Institute, host of the World Water Week events.
"Food preferences are changing, with significant
increases in the demand for meat and dairy products,"
Lundqvist said. But producing one pound of meat takes
at least five times the amount of water required to
grow an equivalent amount of grain.
Even producing enough grains for everyone on Earth means
using each drop of water more wisely, many speakers
said. "By 2020 world cereal demand will increase
by 40 percent, but the world has a finite supply of
water," said Frank Rijsberman, director general
of the International Water Management Institute based
in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
"Today’s production patterns are unsustainable,
involve large scale groundwater overexploitation and
widespread river depletion, and pose a major threat
to biodiversity and aquatic ecosystems," said Rijsberman.
"There are increasing levels of environmental degradation
and loss of production potential due to water pollution
from agricultural chemicals, water logging and salinisation."
The world’s urban population is expected to reach
five billion by 2030, which is nearly two-thirds more
than in 2000. This would mean that 60 percent of the
world’s population will live in urban areas, according
to United Nations predictions.
In the developing world, 23 cities will have populations
of more than 10 million people by the year 2015. Safe
water and sanitation are essential to make life in these
"Of all the natural resources available to human
beings, water is the most essential for virtually every
human activity," Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, executive
director of UN-Habitat told the delegates on Monday.
"Yet as the world's urban population reaches the
three billion mark, it is distressing to note that the
world's one billion urban poor, lack adequate access
UN-HABITAT is increasing its involvement in water issues
for cities and megacities, where sustainability in the
new millennium will be defined, says Tibaijuka, since
these urban area are centers of political power, public
opinion and the engines of economic growth and technological
While the focus in Stockholm Monday was on urban water
supplies, UN agencies are also trying creative arrangements
to provide clean and abundant water to rural areas.
As part of an innovative model of development assistance
that puts project management in the hands of national
institutions, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) signed agreements last week with three Indian
organizations to strengthen land and water management
for poor farmers in drought prone areas of the country.
The projects, funded with 13.9 million euros from the
Netherlands, will be implemented by two nongovernmental
organizations and a state agricultural university in
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, states that
have been hard hit by drought and declining agricultural
productivity due to unsustainable land and water use.
FAO experts will provide technical and management support.
One of the projects in the Deccan Plateau region of
southern India, FAO will team up with the AME Foundation,
a local nongovernmental organization, to improve water
management and promote alternative farming practices
to bolster food security and strengthen livelihoods.
"This is the first time we have had projects based
on this type of model," said Mafa Chipeta, director
of the FAO's Policy Assistance Division.
"The new Indian government has placed emphasis
on improving the lives of farmers and their communities,
particularly in dryland areas," said Daniel Gustafson,
FAO representative in India. "These three projects
fit in precisely with the government's priorities."
Projects like this work well when governments are honest,
but when corruption exists, it often blocks access to
water resources, World Water Week speakers said Monday.
The World Bank Institute estimates that more than US$1
trillion – nearly the combined gross domestic
product of low income countries – is paid in bribes
annually in rich and developing countries. In developing
countries people often cannot avoid corruption since
the choice may be between access or no access to drinking
water or irrigation water.
"Corruption is a global phenomenon that affects
all societies and that threatens economic growth, political
stability and sustainable development," said Martha
Karua, minister of water resources and development,
Kenya. "It affects poor people disproportionately
and there are imminent risks of a deepening of poverty."
Kenya is currently suffering under severe drought and
food insecurity that gave rise to a UN flash appeal
for $97 million last week.
With global investments in the water sector already
lower than the projected needs today, experts say anti-corruption
policies and actions are needed so that the limited
financing available does not go down the drain. A recent
international response is the United Nations Convention
"Many governments are currently intensifying the
battle against corruption and Kenya was leading the
way in being one of the first nations to sign and ratify
the Convention," said Karua.