by Secretary-General Kofi Annan for World Environment Day,
5 June 2003
is the message by Secretary-GeneralKofi Annan for World
Environment Day, 5 June 2003:
- The theme of World Environment Day 2003 - Water:
Two Billion People Are Dying for It! - highlights
the centrality of water to human survival and sustainable
- At the Millennium Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable
Development, the international community set measurable,
time-bound commitments for the provision of safe water
and sanitation. These targets - to reduce by half
the proportion of people without sustainable access to
safe drinking water and basic sanitation services, both
by the year 2015 - are vital in and of themselves,
but are also crucial if we are to meet the other Millennium
Development Goals, including reducing child mortality,
combating malaria, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
empowering women, and improving the lives of slum-dwellers.
- Current statistics are disturbing. One person in six
lives without regular access to safe drinking water. Over
twice that number -- 2.4 billion people -- lack access
to adequate sanitation. Water-related diseases kill a
child every eight seconds, and are responsible for 80
per cent of all illnesses and deaths in the developing
world - a situation made all the more tragic by
our long-standing knowledge that these diseases are easily
- Although the provision of water services has risen across
the developing world during the past 20 years, those gains
have largely been cancelled out by population growth.
Many parts of the world now face the spectre of water
scarcity because of climate change, pollution and over-consumption.
Our challenge is to provide water services to all, especially
the poor; to maximize water productivity, especially in
agriculture, which accounts for the lions share
of global water use yet is often inefficient in many of
its routine water-using practices; and to ensure that
rivers and groundwater aquifers that are shared between
two or more countries are equitably and harmoniously managed.
- What is needed, along with fresh water, is fresh thinking.
We need to learn how to value water. While, in some instances,
that may mean making users pay a realistic price, it must
never mean depriving already marginalized people of this
vital resource. It is one of the crueller ironies of todays
world water situation that those with the lowest income
generally pay the most for their water.
- Fresh thinking also means finding practical, appropriate
solutions to ensure the reliable and equitable supply
of water. Some of these solutions are simple and cheap.
Rainwater harvesting, for instance, could help up to 2
billion people in Asia alone. End-of-pipe water purification
and public health education about basic hygiene practices
would go a long way towards alleviating the global disease
burden caused by dirty water.
- Providing adequate sanitation and sustainable freshwater
supplies will also require significant new investment
in infrastructure and technology. To meet the agreed targets,
it is estimated that annual spending on safe drinking
water and sanitation will have to more than double.
- On this World Environment Day, in this, the International
Year of Freshwater, let us pledge to do our utmost to
respond to the plight of 2 billion of our fellow human
beings, who are dying for want of water and sanitation.
here to learn more about: World