By A.D.McKenzie | IPSNews.net
As non-governmental organisations question the relevance of the World Water Forum being held here this week and slam its "corporate" nature, the United Nations says that a coordinated approach to managing and allocating water is critical.
The fourth edition of the triennial World Water Development Report (WWDR), which brings together the work of 28 U.N.-Water members and partners is being officially launched Monday at the Forum. It stresses that water "underpins all aspects of development" and needs to be a key element in global policies and regulations.
Titled ‘Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk’, the comprehensive report paints a somber picture of what could result from failure to deal with water issues. Experts warn of increased political conflicts over resources, the endangering of future availability and reduction in economic and social welfare.
"We want to be optimistic but there are increased pressures on water that could make it less available for normal consumption, and that’s the bleak picture," said Dr. Olcay Ünver, coordinator of the UN World Water Assessment Programme which produced the report.
"The other side is that there’s a lot that leaders of government and civil society can do, especially by working together to ensure sustainability," he told IPS.
The stakes are high as more than one billion people lack access to safe water, and about 1.4 billion lack access to electricity (which can be generated through hydropower). With the world’s population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, demand for water will surge over the next decades, experts say.
The U.N. estimates that this demand could increase by 50 percent in developing countries and that more than 40 percent of states, mostly low-income countries or those in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia, could experience severe freshwater scarcity by 2020.
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"Wars of the future will be fought over water as they are over oil today, as the source of human survival enters the global marketplace and political arena. Corporate giants, private investors, and corrupt governments vie for control of our dwindling supply, prompting protests, lawsuits, and revolutions from citizens fighting for the right to survive. Past civilizations have collapsed from poor water management. Can the human race survive?"