Durban – The World Water Day Summit and Expo has opened in Durban with a call from the High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) for world leaders to unite and do more to support the global push for expanded access to water and sanitation.
“The Panel seeks to inspire world leaders to provide political leadership and to galvanise support to accelerate the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, in particular, SDG 6 on Water and Sanitation…
“[The 2017 World Water Development Report] is aimed at drawing attention to the current dismal global status of water and sanitation and to inspire commitment to an urgent ‘Call for Action’ by world leaders to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,” said President Jacob Zuma.
He was speaking on behalf of the High Level Panel on Wednesday at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban. World Water Day is held annually on 22 March to put the spotlight on the fact that 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
The SDGs include a target to ensure that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, making water a key issue in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty.
This year’s World Water Day is held under the theme, ‘Water and Sanitation is a Human Right’, a fitting move as South Africa marks Human Rights Month in March.
Speaking in his capacity as the chairperson of the Heads of State Committee on the United Nations (UN) High Level Panel, President Zuma said the panel seeks to inspire world leaders to provide political leadership for the attainment of SDG 6, which places water and sanitation at the core of sustainable development, critical to human survival and the environment.
World Water Development Report
To address the goal of 10 billion people getting access to water and sanitation by 2030, President Zuma launched the 2017 World Water Development Report, which is focused on the theme “Wastewater: the untapped resource”.
The President said the bleak global picture presented in the report requires world leaders to urgently prioritise the improvement of access to essential water and sanitation services.
The report showed that 147 countries have met the SDG drinking water target, while 95 countries have met the sanitation target and only 77 countries have met both.
“These statistics do not do justice in conveying the development and health challenges faced by so many people or in contextualising how unevenly these basic services are distributed around the world and within societies.
“For example, it was reported that in 2011, nearly 60% of the world’s one billion extremely poor people lived in just five countries. It seems that little has changed since 2011,” said President Zuma.
The President said this unacceptable situation will only get worse, unless the world joins forces to create equal chances for success at all levels in the race against time to secure the most precious resource of freshwater for current and future generations.
The United Nations Commission on Population and Development estimates that the global population, which currently stands at about 7.3 billion people, may grow to 9.7 billion by the year 2050, with as many as 3.1 billion additional residents in urban areas.
“The largest increase in population is expected to happen here in Africa, followed by Asia. These are already amongst the regions most adversely affected by water and sanitation problems,” said President Zuma.
Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Getachew Engida, said that South Africa is amongst the countries in Africa illustrating a good example of using wastewater.
UN Water Vice Chairperson, Joakin Harlin, said the SDG Agenda 2030 is transformative.
“We are aiming high and hope that we will achieve the target for water and sanitation for all,” said Harlin.