The International Institute for Sustainable Development (iisd)  presents 




June 5, 2003

Compiled by Richard Sherman

Edited by
Kimo Goree 

Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

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Editor's note: Welcome to the fourth issue of WATER-L News ©, compiled by Richard Sherman. WATER-L is a collection of new articles, editorials and research updates addressing the implementation of the water-related Millennium Development Goals, the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the further implementation of Agenda 21. It is distributed exclusively to the WATER-L list every 2 to 3 weeks. If you should come across a news article or have a submission for the next issue, please send it directly to WATER-L News © is an exclusive copyrighted publication of IISD for the WATER-L list and may not be reposted or republished to other lists/websites without the permission of IISD (you can write Kimo for permission.) If you have been forwarded this issue and would like to subscribe to WATER-L, please visit or contact our On-Line Assistant, Diego Noguera at

Funding for the production of WATER-L (part of the IISD Reporting Services annual program) has been provided by the US Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Canada (through CIDA, DFAIT and Environment Canada), the Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL), the United Kingdom (through the Department for International Development - DFID and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs - DEFRA), the European Commission (DG-ENV), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Government of Germany (through the German Federal Ministry of Environment - BMU, and the German Federal Ministry of Development Cooperation - BMZ). General Support for the Bulletin during 2003 is provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Government of Australia, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Swan International, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES), the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (through the Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute - GISPRI), and the Ministry for Environment of Iceland. If you like WATER-L News, please thank them for their support.



1)      ‘PACKAGED WATER NOT THE SOLUTION’, The Hindu, June 5, 2003




5)      GOVT PLANS WATER FOR ALL, The Nations ( Thailand), June 5, 2003




9)      WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY TODAY, Daily News (Pakistan), June 5, 2003

10)  KENYA MARKS WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY, East African Standard, June 5, 2003

11)  HOW SERIOUS IS THE STATE ABOUT SA'S THIRST? The Cape Argus, June 5, 2003

12)  WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY TODAY, Times of Oman, June 5, 2003





17)  'MAIOMBE' NETWORK TO DISCUSS ENVIRONMENT AND WATER, Angola Press Agency (Luanda), May 28, 2003


18)  WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY MESSAGE by the Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Daily Star (Lebannon), June 5, 2003




22)  WATER ECOSYSTEMS: OUR PLANET’S LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM by Mohamed T. El-Ashry, CEO and Chairman, Global Environment Facility, June 5, 2003







The Hindu
June 5, 2003

NEW DELHI JUNE 5. Buying packaged water is not a solution to the problem of overcoming drinking water shortage. It may be a multi-core industry, but certainly not a healthy situation, says eminent scientist Yashpal. Speaking at a function to mark the World Environment Day here today, Prof. Yashpal, said that things would change for the better if the multi-core mineral water industry spent the same amount on water harvesting and conservation. "We have enough rain but the distribution is unequal. What falls on the ground has to be sent in instead of packing them."

He said while construction of flyovers, broadening of roads and shortage of parking space were considered signs of development, developed countries were now adopting cycling as an important mode of transport to reduce pollution. And bombing countries on the pretext of elimination of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction was a sign of mental degradation.  "I am proud to be an Indian and even more proud to belong to a place where cultural, religious and environmental conservation go hand-in-hand," Mr. Yashpal said.

The Vice-President, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, said people should initiate a national movement for environment-friendly activities. "India must re-dedicate itself to sensitise people towards environmental concerns such as increasing population and decreasing availability of water."

The Union Environment and Forests Minister, T.R. Baalu, reminded the people of the role each one can play in the conservation of water.  At another function organised by the United Nations Office to mark the day, speakers stressed upon the need for re-forging the relation between people and water.  Feodor Starcevic, Director, U.N. Information Centre, said that 2003 had been declared as "International Year of Freshwater" keeping in mind the concern over the shortage of drinking water. "Although 70 per cent of the world's surface is covered by water, only a fraction of that — 2.5 per cent — is freshwater. Less than one per cent of the world's freshwater resources are available for human use."  Mr. Starcevic said over 80 countries representing 40 per cent of the world's population was subject to serious water shortage and conditions might worsen in the next 50 years as population grows and global warming increases.

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BuaNews (Pretoria)
June 5, 2003

Thirteen schoolchildren from deep rural Limpopo have been invited to attend Parliament, Cape Town, on Friday as water ambassadors. National water affairs and forestry minister Ronnie Kasrils invited 10 children from Vuxeni high school in Namakgale and three from Sehloi primary school in Mabocha to attend the debate on his department's budget vote. The invitation acknowledges the role played by the youth in 2020 vision for water education programme,' said spokesperson for the provincial water affairs and forestry department,' Avhashoni Magada.

The programme aims to raise awareness of the water crisis in South Africa and develop life skills and value systems that promote the efficient equitable and sustainable use of water by all South Africans. The high school children will perform a play and the primary school children will recite poetry and sing praise songs. All 13 children participated in the Baswa le Meetse (Youth In Water) National Arts Competition in Midrand near Johannesburg in March, and walked away with two awards out of four categories. Magada said Minister Kasrils initiated Baswa le Meetse after visiting the cholera-stricken Mqunduli village in the Eastern Cape, last year. The Limpopo children leave for Cape Town tomorrow and will be accompanied by three teachers and two education department officials.

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June 5, 2003

Rome, Italy, June 5 - The lack of water risks fuelling the fire of conlficts in developing countries, and it is becoming urgent in Italy to enhance water resources through regional and international strategies. This is what president Ciampi wrote in a message sent - on the World Environment Day - to Lorenzo Ria, president of the Italian Provinces' Union, and to Ermete Realacci, president of Legambiente.

 "The sustainable management of water resources - wrote Ciampi - represent an important issue to be tackled by the international community in the near future. The problems linked to the scarcity of water in the world will increase, especially in developing countries, and can cause conflicts and controversies. The possibility of gaining access to clean and drinkable water is crucial for survival, and for economic and social development. Italy is well aware of what water emergency means: our country, with its basins and subterranean water bearing strata, is rich in water. However, because of the irregular rainfall, the leakages through the distribution network and the pollution of strata, almost one sixth of the population doesn't manage to reach the minimum water quantity during the summer". "Choosing to celebrate the 'Water Day' in extraordinary province council meetings - adds Ciampi - proves the commitment of local authorities in this matter. Such responsibilities require common strategies at regional and international levels. The cooperation initiatives of the euro-Mediterranean partnership represent a positive model to improve integrated water services, and to increase the exchange of technical and scientific know-how". (AGI)

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June 5, 2003

KABUL, 5 Jun 2003 (IRIN) - As the world marks Environment and Water Day on Thursday, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Afghanistan has announced that a major part of the country is experiencing water scarcity.  "Water is a major problem in rural and urban areas due to water scarcity, mismanagement and damaged water systems," Pekka Haavisto, the chairman of the UNEP Afghanistan Task Force, told IRIN in the capital, Kabul. According to the UNEP Post-Conflict Environment Assessment report on Afghanistan, whereas the country as a whole uses less than one-third of its potential 75,000 million cubic metres of water resources, regional differences in supply, inefficient use and wastage mean that a major part of the country experiences scarcity.

"Water quality, quantity, and its guaranteed availability to all people regardless of income or social status is one of the most pressing challenges facing not only Afghanistan but also the world community today," Haavisto remarked. He described it as a major issue requiring the attention of all. Government officials have also expressed concern. "The water issue is becoming a serious problem, and the last four years of drought added to an already big issue," Yusuf Nuristani, the Afghan minister of irrigation, water resources and environment, told IRIN at the World Environment and Water Day ceremony in Kabul.  He stated that only 20 percent of Afghans nationwide had access to safe drinking water in both cities and rural areas. The minister said water mismanagement was widely practised in the country, and that as a result of prolonged conflict most water channels and other systems had suffered greatly.

"Restoration of water resources is one of the priorities of the government," said Nuristani, noting that his ministry was now working out a strategy to bring about the improved management of water resources. UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi said the water issue was more than an environmental problem in the country.  "Water is, perhaps, the most precious resource in Afghanistan, and so it can be a source of conflict," Brahimi told IRIN, observing that much of the conflict in the country was the result of land disputes. "Land rights do not mean much without water rights," he said, stressing that one of the most important tasks facing the country was to impose order and the rule of law over land and water rights. Samandar, a 40-year-old peasant of Andarab, a district of the northern province of Baghlan, agreed, saying he had lost a son and a brother to a water dispute in his village. "They were killed by farmers of a nearby village," the father-of-eight told IRIN in Kabul. He said he believed that over 70 percent of the tensions and anxieties affecting his village arose from disputes over the distribution of irrigation water.

Following two decades of war, Afghanistan faces many environmental problems, mainly in terms of the degradation of water tables and wetlands, and deforestation. According to the Ministry of Irrigation, Water Resources and Environment, some 40 percent of forests have been cut down, while desertification and pollution of underground water represented other serious challenges.  "Most of the degradation of forests has been caused by the timber mafias. Our plan is to work with UNEP on projects to prevent increased environmental disaster in years to come," Nuristani underlined. But the road ahead is a long one. The ministry says it has finalised a three-year development budget to cope with its most pressing problems. "We have estimated close to $700 million for our three-year development plan," the minister said, noting that $55 million of that sum had already been pledged by different donors for the current year.

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The Nation (Thailand)
June 5, 2003

Drinking unclean water is responsible for up to 25,000 deaths a day in developing countries, according to the  World Health Organisation.  Natural Resources and Environment Minister Prapat Panyachatraksa said this yesterday, when he announced government plans to help more than 16,000 villages that still have no access to tap-water.  Speaking at a World Environment Day event, Prapat said the ministry would present a water-supply plan for the villages without tap-water to Cabinet before the end of the month.  "We hope to make tap-water available for all villages within the next five years," he said. There are about 70,000 villages nationwide, according to government statistics.

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June 5, 2003

With the state celebrating the World Environment Day on Thursday, water crisis in the state is the burning environment issue demanding immediate attention.  "Though Narmada waters have arrived in Kutch, proper distribution so that people benefit is highly important," coordinator for Rural Development Programme, Atul Pandya said. Even as the state is providing financial aid to overcome the crisis, a lot depends at the community levels, he said.  Water scarcity is equally important among the urban areas. Borewells in urban areas are dug deeper to draw underground water leading to ecological imbalance. Premesh Balan of Pravah, that works on the network of drinking water, said, "The water quality of Ahmedabad is not what it was 10 years ago." He further urged for water conservation.Besides, water pollution caused by disposal of toxic waste into the coastal belt by the plethora of chemical industries poses a major threat. "Chemical industries particularly in the industrial belt near Vapi dispose toxic waste in the water bodies affecting water regenerating methods," Sanjay Dave, coordinator of Charkha, an NGO dealing with water related issues, said. Water pollution paves way for waterborne diseases, said Kaushik Rawal working with Uthan, another NGO.

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Haveeru Daily (Maldives)
June 5, 2003

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said that water comprised one of the most vital environmental resources. In his World Environment Day message on Thursday, which was published in a special newspaper supplement issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs Housing and Environment, Gayoom cited this year’s World Environment Day theme, which is, “Water: Two Billion People Are Dying for it!”, and noted that this year had been designated as the International Year of Water. The President said that the attention drawn to the importance of water in the selection of the Environment Day theme showed the priority given by the international community to increasing the accessibility of water to all peoples and to using the resource in a sustainable manner.

While pointing out that the marine area of the nation exceeded the land area, and further that the water table was nearing exhaustion in many islands, the President stressed the importance of employing sustainable principles and practices in the consumption of the country’s water resources. He added that it was imperative that the government and the general public undertook strenuous efforts in that regard. The President said that just as the infrastructure related to the provision of potable water was expanding, so was also the number of consumers, which made sustainable water resource management even more vital.

He recalled that in the early 1980s, only 50 percent of the country’s population had access to safe drinking water, and observed that today great progress had been achieved in this regard with the coverage having being extended to 90 percent of the population. He said that the attainment of such a high degree of coverage, despite the rapid rate of population growth, should provide great encouragement in the quest to achieve universal access to safe drinking water in the country. In his message, the President expressed his greetings and good wishes to the people on the occasion of the World Environment Day. He also conveyed his felicitations and good wishes to the executives of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment, to all staff of the Environment Section of the Ministry, and to all who were serving the environment of the Maldives.

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June 5, 2003

The Swiss Environment Agency has called for a more coherent global environmental policy in order to safeguard the world’s resources and future economic development. On World Environment Day, the organisation also criticised G-8 leaders meeting near Lake Geneva this week for failing to tackle environmental issues.  “I would like to see the G-8 nations work in solidarity to address not only the final [consequences of environmental damage], but also the original problems,” said Philippe Roch, head of the agency. Roch told swissinfo that polluters should pay for damage their industry causes to the environment, while production and consumption should become more compatible with the planet’s ecological capacity.

Nature has had to evolve and diversify over the millennia in order to survive and globalisation should now do the same if the planet is to survive, he said. “There will be no economic development in the long-term if we do not develop a coherent environmental policy.”


War, migration, poverty and environmental damage are the result of an imbalanced globalisation policy, Roch maintains. Almost two billion people lack access to clean water, fuelling poverty and violent conflicts. Continued desertification is depriving entire populations of any hope of development and is wreaking havoc on the environment. The agency estimates that around 10 million hectares of irrigated land are being abandoned each year, leaving millions without a livelihood and food.


The agency has set out key areas needed to bring economic development in line with the environment. Roch explained that the main goal being pursued by Switzerland was for the World Trade Organization to define, by the end of 2004, the relationship between trade regulations and multilateral environmental agreements. Conventions regarding chemicals needed to be adopted, while implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would slow down climate change and conserve biodiversity, Roch said.


Water is another factor central to the environment and the global economy - be it in agriculture or industry. The dwindling natural resource has been given political priority this year, which has been designated as the United Nations International Year of Fresh Water. “Ecosystems that naturally capture, filter, store and release water, such as forests, wetlands and well-managed soils [should be protected]”, Roch pointed out. If not, the impact on not just on the environment but also the global economy will be catastrophic, the agency warns.

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Daily News (Pakistan)
June 5, 2003

World Environment Day is celebrated today under the theme "Water- two billion people are dying for it". The two-day National celebrations under the theme "Water - the Source of life" is being held at the Vihara Maha Devi Open-air Theatre in Colombo under the partnership of Government, Non-Government and Private Sector institutions. The celebrations organised by the World Environment Day Celebration Network are coordinated by the National Environmental Farmer Network.  The aim of the two-day celebrations is to impart to the general public the message on the importance of conserving water which is the foundation of bio diversity.

The National celebrations will include an exhibition show-casing work carried on by organisations receiving grants from the United Nations Development Programme/GEF-Small Grants Scheme on both days. It will also feature local technological developments on water, culture, expertise and recent research work. One hundred sales outlets displaying local and traditional handicrafts will be a special feature on both days.

The National celebrations on June 50 will be launched by the Environment and Natural Resources Minister Rukman Senanayake, Irrigation and Water Management Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Colombo Mayor Prasanna Gunawardena and the Resident Representative of UNDP Miguel Bermeo. Four lectures on ` Water, Environment and Ecological Balance; Unbroken bonds between Water, Village, Farmer and Environment, Watershed Management, Water Consuming and Water and Future Challenges' have been schecduled for the afternoon session which will be chaired by former Additional Secretary of the Environment Ministry Sunil Sarath Perera. Traditional folk songs and dances, playlets and songs on water and the environment and a Cultural Show will bring down the curtain on the June 5 celebrations. The presentation of certificates and awards to winners of the school and public competitions will also be made. The June 6th celebrations will commence with a March highlighting water related issues followed by a discussion forum on Experts views, a Cultural item by farmers and a discussion forum with presentations by political parties. The day's proceedings will conclude with a Deva Kannalawwa (invoking the gods) to safeguard water resources.

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East African Standard
June 5, 2003

World Environmental Day celebrations were yesterday marked at the United Nations Headquarters complex in Nairobi. The activities that took place throughout the country involved youth groups, school children, environmental groups and the general public under the theme "Water is Life, Conserve the Source". According to the Executive Director Unep, Klaus Toepfer, the main national celebrations will be in Kilome, Makueni District since it is a water scarce area. He said this year's theme emphasises the urgency of providing an adequate supply of water to everyone in the world. "It is sad that one third of our fellow human beings face lives of disease and hardship simply because they lack access to safe water," he said. Toepfer said the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan supported the theme, saying it highlights the centrality of water to human survival and sustainable development.

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The Cape Argus
June 5, 2003

Water - the liquid of life, the essence of being, the life-blood of species everywhere... Talk water in any context and its critical function as the basis of life on Earth is immediately central to the debate. In the Western Cape, water is particularly critical because of this region's limited freshwater resources, and the ability to manage what little there is on a truly sustainable basis is the key to the province's future prosperity; mismanaging this precious resource will mean a reduced potential and lesser quality of life for many.

So how sensitive are the provincial environmental authorities to this issue? This question is particularly relevant on Thursday, World Environment Day, which has as its international theme: Water: Two Billion People Are Dying For It. At face value, the provincial authorities are making the right noises. The theme is derived from the UN General Assembly's proclamation of 2003 as International Year Of Fresh Water, to encourage governments to foster an awareness of the sustainable use, management and protection of freshwater resources. The local South African World Environment Day 2003 theme is My Environment, My Life, which focuses on issues such as access to clean air, a clean environment, fresh water, and the preservation and conservation of the country's resources. At face value, the provincial authorities are making the right noises.

Last month, for example, Western Cape premier Marthinus van Schalkwyk spoke eloquently at the Western Cape Water Summit in Stellenbosch, telling delegates his government believed the key to the sustainable use of water in the province was not to find more water but rather to reduce the present demand. Two current developments show, or will show, the extent to which the provincial authorities are practising what the premier is preaching - and the signs are not auspicious for either. In the southern Cape town of Stilbaai, the municipality ignored statutory environmental requirements when it built a dam on the Melkhoutfontein River, a tributary of the Goukou River on which Stilbaai is situated, and an illegal pipeline and pumphouse.

More than two-thirds of the required water of the estate is for the golf course. Although it was aware that the illegal dam was under construction, the provincial environment department did not attempt to get an interdict against the municipality; instead, it sanctioned the completion of the structure and only belatedly insisted on a "post construction" environmental impact assessment process. The municipality claimed the water was urgently needed because of water shortages in the growing town, and obtained a permit from the department of water affairs and forestry.  But that permit did not obviate their obligation to obtain environmental permission and the dam wall has been built to a height to contain some 400 000 cubic metres of water, yet the department permit was for only 250 000 cubic metres.

There are no signs the municipality will be told to reduce the wall, and the department must take part of the responsibility. The municipality's flagrant ignoring of the environmental regulations and the province's wimpish response is bad enough, but there's a more fundamental concern: why has Stilbaai been allowed to develop so quickly without proper planning for adequate water supply? The answer is partly because some people stood to make a lot of money out of new townhouse complexes which added to water demand, but also because the planning approval process was inadequate. 

The second case relates the controversial phenomenon of golf estate developments. While these developments undoubtedly bring revenue into the province, serious questions have been raised about their long-term sustainability, and about whether the decision-makers are using the information available to them when approving them. This particular case involves an application by the owners of the luxury Pezula private estate and associated Sparrebosch golf estate at Knysna to abstract 790 megalitres a year of water from the modest Noetzie River and pump it via a 3,4km pipeline to the estates.

Pezula is one of the developments approved when the planning minister was controversial David Malatsi - now facing corruption charges in respect of another development: Roodefontein near Plettenberg Bay. It is clear from correspondence in the department's files that the Pezula developers were pushing Malatsi last year in an effort to get their development approved. At the time, the question of how the estate would obtain sufficient water was raised as a major concern by South African National Parks and the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board. Noetzie home-owners say when Sparrebosch was developed, they were assured by developers there was no intention to use water from the Noetzie River, and that treated sewage effluent from the Knysna municipality would suffice. Now, it seems, the developers were either being disingenuous at the time of the original application, or they miscalculated their water needs rather badly.

Interestingly, an independent consultant was appointed by Malatsi's department specifically to review the environmental assessment process around Pezula. In July last year, she reported: "In our opinion, the Environmental Impact Assessment documentation provided for the proposed Pezula development is not sufficient for Decas (provincial planning and environment department) to authorise the proposed project in the public interest, and be aware of the consequences, according to its mandate." However, the development was approved in October.

Of course, the owners are now quite entitled to apply for a licence to extract water from Noetzie River, in terms of the National Water Act, and the department of water affairs and forestry will make a decision. But an application will also be required in terms of environmental legislation, and this decision will lie with the province. More than two-thirds of the required water of the estate is for the golf course. According to the abstraction application, the course gets 1,1 megalitres of sewage effluent from Knysna's sewerage works each day. "But this supply is proving to be inadequate and of poor quality," it states. They note that the course is planted with "Kentucky & Rye" grass - a winter grass which requires more water than other grasses during the summer months."

The department's independent consultant also pointed out that government policy required that land be put to "optimal use", and that the benefits flowing from any development should be received by previously disadvantaged communities. "The Pezula application does not consider this policy," her report stated. When Pezula submits an application for water extraction also on environmental grounds, the provincial authorities' response will be closely watched. And that response, coupled with how the province resolves the Stilbaai issue, will give a good indication of whether Van Schalkwyk's words about water conservation are real. Will they help to assure the life-blood of the province - or are they are just hot air that evaporates into the atmosphere?

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Times of Oman
June 5, 2003

MUSCAT — The Sultanate will today join countries of the world in celebrating the World Environment Day which falls on June 5 every year.  This year’s celebration is held under the motto “Water — Two billion persons die for it.” This slogan reflects the importance of this vital resource and sheds light on the problems facing it and the efforts required to manage and develop water resources in the light of the water shortage suffered by some countries due to the increasing populations and the emergence of water contamination and misuse of water.  The Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources implements several projects to curb water shortage and protect water resources from contamination and develop water resources in the country.  Several projects were already implemented including the establishing of 18 underground reservoirs, 40 surface reservoirs to utilise rain water, one dam to protect against the sea and Al Massarat water basin project which will provide potable water to 115,000 persons in the Dhahirah region.

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June 5, 2003

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei will celebrate the World Environment Day on June 16 with a series of activities. The Department Of Environment, Parks and Recreation have arranged a number of activities, including a seminar on water pollution, youth camps, colouring competition for primary students, radio quiz and slogan competition through SMS. The World Environment Day is celebrated on the 5th of June every year. This year's theme is "Water-two billion people are dying for it!". -- Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei

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June 5, 2003

Rome 2003 -- On the occasion of World Environment Day 2003, celebrated today under the theme "Water - Two Billion People are Dying for It!", FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf called on the international community "to help safeguard the source of food security on our planet."  "I am convinced that if all countries concerned made better agricultural water management a political and financial priority, we would experience fewer disasters like the current food crisis in Southern Africa and in the Horn of Africa," Dr. Diouf said. "We could then concentrate our efforts more on improving the development and management of water for agriculture to meet the growing demand for food, alleviate poverty and sustain economic growth," he added.

Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, is hosting this year's World Environment Day, which will also be marked throughout the world by celebrations aimed at stimulating more awareness on environmental problems. Water shortage is one of the most worrying problems for the new millennium. The FAO Director-General indicated that, in line with other UN organizations, the FAO had chosen for its World Food Day - celebrated last October - the theme "Water, Source of Food Security". Clearly, it will be an enormous challenge to provide enough water for global food production. Looking 30 years in the future, FAO estimates that feeding a growing world population will require 60 percent more food.


Most of that increase will come from intensified agriculture supported by irrigation. But water is already scarce in many countries. By 2030, one in five developing countries will be suffering actual or impending water scarcity, according to FAO.  More water is needed to grow enough food to feed the world. The answer lies in improving agricultural productivity and water efficiency. By using more efficient irrigation methods, enhanced water harvesting, better seeds and improved agricultural techniques, farmers will be able to produce higher yields, obtaining the greatest gains from precious water supplies, FAO experts say.

Currently, some 20 percent (around 205 million hectares) of agricultural land in the developing countries is irrigated and it provides about 40 percent of crop production in these countries. Developing countries are expected to expand their irrigated area by 40 million hectares by 2030. Some regions are facing serious water problems. Several countries of the Near East and North Africa, as well as South and East Asia are using more groundwater than is currently replenished. Some are even drawing on precious fossil groundwater for crops, a resource whose value for drinking water should not be ignored. Countries should invest in both improved technologies and better management in order to achieve more 'crop per drop', according to FAO.

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June 5, 2003

Switzerland - World Environment Day, commemorated every year on 5 June, is focusing this year on water, with particular reference to the 1.1 billion people with no access to improved water supply and the 2.4 billion people with no access to improved sanitation. WWF is calling for action to help safeguard the most precious source of life on our planet — water.

Each year there are about 250 million cases of water-related diseases, with roughly 5–10 million deaths. By 2025 two-thirds of the world are expected to live in areas of water shortage or stress. The rate of decline of animal species and populations has also been shown to be greater in freshwater than in any other habitat — around 50 per cent in the last 30 years according to WWF’s Living Planet Index — signalling that one of the underlying causes of the freshwater crisis is the continuing degradation of land and water ecosystems.

WWF is urging world leaders to make firm commitments to implement the UN Millennium Development Goals and World Summit on Sustainable Development targets to halve the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015. The conservation organization emphasizes that investment in a healthy environment is essential for the provision of reliable supplies of clean water for people and nature. WWF is calling on the world's richest nations to fund a full range of options for delivery of food, water and sanitation services that support local communities and restore the health and function of ecosystems that is vital to safe and clean water supplies, risk prevention, and food security, rather than relying solely on expensive and socially and environmentally damaging infrastructure-based approaches.

There are 1,700 large dams being developed around the world. These dams will provide few benefits for most of the people who lack access to water and sanitation as they live in rural areas that this infrastructure does not reach. Instead the dams will help suck dry even more rivers, destroying the livelihoods of fishing communities. A growing number of rivers now rarely reach the sea, such as the Colorado River in USA and Mexico and the Yellow River in China.

At the recent G8 Summit, leaders of the G8 countries (Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia) committed to an agreement to provide their poorer neighbors with technical, financial, and logistical support to address the water crisis. WWF criticizes the plan as repeating the ‘concrete led’ approach of building more dams and dykes that has failed to fix the global water crisis.

“At the core of every effort to establish good health care, good government and a good economy is clean water,” said Jamie Pittock, Director of WWF’s Living Waters Programme. “Without it, there is no security and stability." Water security often comes down to a battle of technologies, where nature and the people who depend on it lose to development interests. “Governments must act to protect water at its source — ensuring that natural resources are managed wisely and sustainably,” said Jamie Pittock. “The large sums of money planned for new infrastructure like dams should primarily be directed at repairing the environment to provide a more reliable and clean supply of water for people and nature.”

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June 5, 2003

The Falling (and in some curious cases rising) Fortunes of the World's Hidden Water Stores Beirut/Nairobi, 5 June 2003 - Many of the world's "natural underground reservoirs" upon which two billion people depend for drinking water and irrigation are under increasing stress and strain, a new report launched on World Environment Day (WED) shows.  The report, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), paints a worrying picture of this critical, hidden, natural resource as growing and thirsty cities, industries and agriculture take their toll.  It cites cases from across the world to highlight the global threat while also outlining a range of options to help secure and conserve supplies.

In Arizona, United States, 400 million cubic metres of ground water is being removed annually which is about double the amount being replaced by recharge from rainfall.  Almost a fifth of the water in storage in the huge Ogalla/High Plains Aquifer of the Midwest of the United States has been removed. The water table there has fallen in recent decades by, on average, three metres and up to 30 metres in some places. Other countries highlighted include Mexico where the number of aquifers considered over-exploited has jumped from 32 in 1975 to nearly 130 by the 1990s, says the report, Groundwater and its Susceptibility to Degradation.

Impacts include contamination by salt as seawater seeps in to replace the freshwater loss and contamination from the surface caused by pumping. Land subsidence causing damage to property and infrastructure has been recorded in several states including Mexico City, Queretaro and Celaya, as a result of the falling water table.  In Spain, more than half of the nearly 100 aquifers are over-exploited. "In the important Segura River Basin of eastern Spain, the ratio of ground water storage depletion to available renewable water resources has increased from less than 20 per cent in the mid-1980s to 130 per cent by 1995".  Ironically, some cities in very dry and arid regions like the Arabian Gulf are suffering a form of flooding, known as waterlogging, because of a heavy dependence on desalinated water from the coast which is leaking and becoming trapped in the ground.

A typical Arabian Gulf coast city may be losing as much as a third of its water supplies to leaky mains and even more from over-watering of parks and gardens. This heavy reliance on treated sea-water is, in some cases, partly due to these cities having polluted their own underground waters making them unfit for human consumption.  The report, which is being released at the main WED celebrations in the Lebanon, is also being launched at several key locations around the world including at a conference in London, UK, on 4 June called Environment Day "Event 2003". This is being hosted by Barbara Young, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency.  Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director, said: " Some two billion people and as much as 40 per cent of agriculture is at least partly reliant on these hidden stores. Groundwater also supplements river flows, springs and wetlands vital for rural and urban communities and wildlife. Indeed most of the world's liquid freshwaters are found not in rivers and lakes, but below ground". (Vital Water Graphics 2002 can be found at

"We are here in Lebanon for World Environment Day, the first time the event has been held in the Arab world. This report will have particular resonance in a region where it is estimated that in some areas over 90 per cent of the population could be suffering severe water stress by 2032," he said. Mr Topefer said the past 50 years had been marked by dramatic increases in the use of ground waters as populations have grown, demand for food has climbed and industrialization has expanded in the developed and into the developing world  "This report is both cause for hope and concern. It shows that many underground supplies are proving quite resilient to chemical and other kinds of pollutants because slow passage through the rocks above them helps reduce or even eliminate health-hazardous substances before they reach supplies," he added. "However, they appear more vulnerable to neglect or over-use. If a lake, river or reservoir becomes depleted or dries up, the event is highly visible, there is public outcry and often action taken. I hope that this report will serve as a wake up call concerning the human, social and economic consequences of squandering our vital underground water supplies. Hopefully its findings will ensure that underground water supplies are no longer 'out of sight and thus out of mind', but quite rightly conserved for current and future generations," said Mr Toepfer.

The UN's Millennium Development Goals and the water component of the World Summit on Sustainable Development's (WSSD) Plan of Implementation will be almost impossible to achieve without improvements in water efficiency in agriculture, industry and households which should in turn conserve freshwaters above and below ground.  Martin Walshe, Senior Water Adviser at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), said: "The importance of water and its fundamental contribution to sustainable development is now recognised, but the contribution of water to poverty reduction will only be realised if it is set in the broader context of social and economic development and environmental improvement. At a regional level groundwater is of huge importance in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. Nationally, countries from Palestine to Denmark are dependent on groundwater and examples of local reliance can be drawn from Mexico City to Ethiopia".

"In a rural context, groundwater provides the mainstay for agricultural irrigation and will be the key to providing additional resources for food security. However, concerns are growing over the sustainability of individual water sources and there is a growing need for management strategies that recognise the complex linkages that exist between groundwater supplies, urban land use and effluent disposal," he added. Brian Morris, principal hydrogeologist at the British Geological Survey in the United Kingdom which has been involved in the report, said: " The difficulty is managing groundwaters lies in the fact that they are often easy and relatively cheap to tap for large numbers of users. What is needed is pragmatic management such as increasing public and government awareness, properly resourcing the agencies that manage groundwater, supporting community management and encouraging the use of incentives and disincentives particularly in poorer countries and rural areas. It is vital we give groundwaters value like any other scarce resource".

The report, Groundwater and its Susceptibility to Degradation: A global assessment of the problem and options for management, is available at Earthprint

It is also available, along with the report on West African city aquifers, at

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Angola Press Agency (Luanda)
May 28, 2003

The importance of rational use of water and preservation of the environment will be discussed at a seminars in Luanda in June to be run by the "Maiombe" Network. According to a note from the "Maiombe" Network, an environmental NGO's concert forum, distributed to Angop, the seminar taking place between May 31 to June 5, aims at educating people and at an exchange of views among students. The event marking the celebrations of the June 5, the Children and environment day, is also meant to sensitise members of district associations about the advantages of rational use of water, plants and preservation of environment.

The seminar will also discuss such topics as "importance of water for human consumption", "Consumption of water in the communities" and "Supply of Water in the Communities." Tree planting campaigns at Luanda primary schools, a clean-up operation at the "Roque" market and some streets in the capital will also take place.


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18) WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY MESSAGE by the Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

Daily Star (Lebannon)
June 5, 2003

Hosting the World Environment Day celebrations in Beirut is a declaration of hope during these challenging times. By taking environmental concerns seriously, we wish to convey a loud message that we are not satisfied with mere survival, but rather opt for a better quality of life. Decades of war have destroyed our city, but failed to break our spirit. Against all the odds, Beirut has risen from ashes, and is being rebuilt as an environmentally-friendly metropolis.

Lebanon, home of the cedars and garden of the Orient, is once again hosting the world. Last year, Beirut hosted the Francophonie summit, the Arab summit and the World Congress of the International Advertising Association, among other world and regional events. WED 2003 in Beirut is yet another manifestation of a spirit exploring the future, setting the platform for challenging aspirations where no horizons are impossible. The third millennium promises huge technological and scientific breakthroughs, which open to mankind horizons that were, not long ago, considered to belong in the realms of science fiction. However, past successes in exploring the secrets of the universe have coincided with appalling damage to our small blue planet. Its limited resources have been depleted, its waters, air and soil polluted. In the process of seeking a more abundant life, man has destroyed basic elements on which his life depends. But whereas environmental degradation was in most cases due to excessive development schemes that over-exploited the natural resources, in other cases it was due to damaging wars.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) should play a pivotal role to identify and suggest possible responses to environmental hazards arising from military conflicts. We commend the UNEP’s study on the environment in the occupied Palestinian territories, published early this year, and stress the urgent need to support UNEP’s efforts to assess the environmental impact of the war in Iraq, especially regarding the contamination from weapons containing depleted uranium. This should lead to the implementation of a comprehensive clean-up program covering all affected sites. Coming from a region trying to achieve sustainable development under the threat of war and aggression, I can testify that resolving conflicts in such a way that safeguards and respects human dignity and national rights, is a prerequisite to achieving sustainable development. It is particularly sad to witness the spending of trillions of dollars on armament and wars, at a time when international aid for development is diminishing.

Water is the theme of this year’s World Environment Day, and UNEP argues that two billion people are dying for it. While the World Water Forum in Kyoto was pleading in despair for $100 billion to solve the global drinking water plight of the poor, a war was waged with a budget exceeding this amount. Isn’t it time to wage a “green preventive war” aimed at saving the world environment, with sustainable development as its ammunition?

As we long for just peace, which in itself will boost the cause of the environment, we support the call for declaring the Middle East a region free of weapons of mass destruction. This can only be serious when equally, not selectively, enforced on all countries.  A fraction of the budgets spent on arms would be enough to eradicate poverty, diseases, malnutrition and protect the environment. However aid levels fall short of demand, and developing countries rightly complain that industrialized countries have failed to fulfill their pledges. Over the last decade, official development assistance has declined by one-third, to 0.22 percent of the gross domestic product of the rich countries, instead of increasing to the promised 0.7 percent. While developing countries are willing not to pursue the same development patterns followed by industrialized countries, which have caused environmental havoc, they must be assisted to adopt alternative sustainable patterns of development, without compromising their own national resources and sovereignty.

Sustainable development should be accepted as a goal in itself, not a negotiation item in the midst of talks on governance and aid. Selective interpretations of good governance by some developed countries should not be used as an excuse to deprive poor countries of needed aid. Simultaneously, insufficient aid from rich countries does not absolve developing countries of the obligation to ensure good governance and fight corruption. Good governance, based on the principles of sound quality management, is in the interest of developing countries, regardless of the levels of foreign aid, as much as delivering aid is a moral obligation of developed countries. Whatever the cost, this remains the cheapest path to global stability.

Allow me to share some of Lebanon’s experiences to integrate environment in development planning. Like other countries, we have established an Environment Ministry, enacted laws, ratified major international conventions and cooperated with international agencies to implement various environmental projects. The government has passed a clean-air act, embarked on a nation-wide reforestation scheme, and included integrated environmental management in its policy statement. Our civil society became increasingly vibrant and active on environmental matters. However, international cooperation on sustainable development during the past decade was, in spite of many successes, often characterized by ready-made solutions that resulted in projects designed to fit the conditions and requirements of donor agencies and the international bureaucracy, rather than the actual needs of local communities.

The answer to globalization’s failure to benefit the poor is not isolationism, but more global integration, based on fair and equitable distribution of resources, in the framework of decent international governance that respects diversity.  Global partnership, required to make sustainable development a reality, calls for a meaningful dialogue among civilizations, based on mutual respect and understanding of different cultures. We cannot win a “war on terror” if we fail to attain peaceful coexistence and wage a war on poverty and injustice.

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June 5, 2003

At the Millennium Summit and 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 preventable.

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 lion’s 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 today’s 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 two billion of our fellow human beings, who are dying for want of water and sanitation.

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June 5, 2003

Mr. President, Prime Minister, Excellencies, distinguished honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, It is my honour today to welcome you all to the thirtieth celebration of World Environment Day, being held this year here in this beautiful city of Beirut.  This is the first time World Environment Day has been held in the Arab World.  Each year, World Environment Day is observed by the United Nations family and by communities across the globe to raise awareness of the importance of the environment to all our lives. It is a time to reflect, not just on the challenges we face, but on the many initiatives, small and large, that people are involved in the world over to make sure that the world becomes a better, safer, more equitable place for us, our children, and their children.

Each year we choose a theme. This year the theme is “Water: Two Billion People are Dying For It”. The slogan emphasises the urgency of providing an adequate supply of water to all the people of the world. It is a sad fact that one third of our fellow human beings face lives of disease and hardship simply because they lack access to safe water or proper sanitation—the most important elements for a healthy and productive life.  It cannot be stressed enough just how important clean water and sanitation is to human lives and development.  At the turn of this century the world signed up to a set of time-bound commitments called the Millennium Development Goals. Water and sanitation feature amongst them. But what needs to be emphasised is that few, if any, of these goals will be achievable without making great strides in the provision of clean water for everyone, especially the poor.

This message, I know, is not lost on the people of this region, where scarcity of water, and the need for its wise use, is integral to daily life. It is appropriate, then, that this year—thanks to the generous support of the Government of Lebanon—the World Environment Day celebrations in the International Year of Freshwater are being held in the Arab World.  Although this is the first time World Environment Day has been held in this region, I am sure it will not be the last.  We could not have celebrated this most important day in the United Nations calendar here without the intervention of some very influential people. I would therefore like to thank:  The President of Lebanon: His Excellency Mr. Emile Lahoud.  The Prime Minister of Lebanon: His Excellency Mr. Rafic Hariri.  The Head of the Lebanese Parliament: His Excellency Nabih Berri.  And the Lebanese Minister of Environment: His Excellency Mr. Fares Boueiz.

The words Beirut and Lebanon conjure up many images in many minds. To some, it is images from a glorious past—the fabled cedars of Lebanon and the trading empire of the Phoenicians. To others they are bywords for cosmopolitan sophistication—culture, cuisine and civilisation. Others recall the horror and confusion of civil war, a city and a country torn apart by strife.  It is fitting then that we are able to come here to see the truths that we all need to be reminded of in this troubled world in which we live. Wounds can heal, cities can be rebuilt, and people can come together, working for a common good.  This is a message the world needs.

It is a message that everybody concerned with preserving the world’s environment and promoting world peace needs to hear on World Environment Day. Namely that, whatever the challenges, however dark the days appear, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Things can get better, whenever people have the will. And, perhaps even more important, when governments have the commitment. This is also a message that UNEP has been able to broadcast throughout the years through its Global 500 awards. This year we are proud to present eight Global 500 award winners—people or institutions who have in their own way, managed to make a difference to their environment and to how people think and behave.

Sadly, one person who cannot be here today is Annelisa Kilbourn. Annelisa was nominated to the Global 500 roll of honour for her tireless work to preserve some of our planet’s most important, charismatic and endangered species, including the last remaining rhinos of Borneo, and the lowland gorillas of Central Africa. Tragically, she was killed late last year in a plane crash over Gabon, West Africa. I am pleased today to be able to welcome her mother, Mrs. Johana Kilbourn, and her sister, Ms. Kirsten Kilbourn, who will accept the award on her behalf, and also her colleague, Dr. Nan Schaffer, President and Founder of SOS Rhino.

The other winners include:

  1. Serge Antoine, from France, who has worked tirelessly and with considerable vision for over half a century to enhance the environment in Europe and beyond.

  2. The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, who are bringing environmental and social justice to their country.

  3. Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, whose eco-friendly toilet is transforming the health and lives of the urban poor in India.

  4. Boureima Wankoye, from Niger, whose company is delivering sustainable development in action by boosting farmers income while, at the same time, restoring degraded drylands.

  5. The Women Environment Preservation Committee which is transforming waste management in the mountain kingdom of Nepal.

  6. The Salle Pedagogique des Zones Arides, from Algeria, the only youth category winner this year, which is helping cut the waste of water in the Sahara.

Last but not least, is Najib Saab, who I am sure is well known to many of you. Najib, who is from Lebanon, is an internationally respected communicator about the environment. Through his magazine Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia—Environment and Development—he has almost single-handedly put the environment on the political map of the Arab world.

The achievements of Najib Saab and all the other Global 500 laureates represent stepping stones to a brighter future for us all.

Ladies and gentlemen, Today we have recognised a broad group of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. This is what the Global 500 awards are all about. Their names will be added to a prestigious list which now totals 735 individuals and organisations, stretching back over 15 years of World Environment Day award ceremonies.  What do all these people and institutions have in common? I think one word sums it up. Hope. Usually working against the odds to counter one form of environmental degradation or another, all the Global 500 laureates have demonstrated that, if you have the will, you do not need to succumb to the forces that we see all around us. These are the forces that allow forests to dwindle, water to become polluted and people to remain poor. It is easy to lose hope. To give in to despair. The challenges can appear too great.  The Global 500 winners never gave up hope. And their actions and determination, often in the face of adversity, give us all hope, hope that all humankind can look forward to a better future based on the principles of commitment and action.  At UNEP we have a motto. Environment for Development. By recognising our common humanity, by nurturing the environment on which we all depend, we can all look forward to a prosperous and equitable future. This is the message the Global 500 laureates bring us. This is the message of UNEP. This is our message for World Environment Day. 

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June 5, 2003

Water is essential for life. We need it for drinking, producing food, washing, generating power, transportation, industrial processes, and ensuring the sustainability of the Earth's ecosystem. Yet not only is this life-giving source being rapidly depleted and increasingly polluted -- but far too many people lack access to it. That is why this year's World Environment Day focuses on the key message "Water - Two Billion People are Dying for it!"  Although water is a finite resource, we have doubled our consumption of water over the last 50 years and failed to prevent the degradation of water quality. At the same time, the gulf in water use between rich and poor countries has grown starker. A child born in the developed world consumes 30 to 50 times the water resources of a child from a developing country. Currently 1.2 billion people do not have access to a safe water supply and nearly twice that number lack adequate basic sanitation.

The challenge is enormous. To meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development last year, which include the targets of halving by 2015, the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation, the world will need to connect approximately 200,000 people to clean water and 400,000 people to improved sanitation each day. That will require three things: first, innovative financing mechanisms to assure the necessary doubling in financial flows to developing countries for water and sanitation -- from current spending of US$10 billion each year, to about $20 billion a year; second, greatly improved governance of scarce water resources, built around holistic, integrated water resources management strategies that encompass priorities from drinking to agriculture and industrial development -- and third, a clear focus on building capacity where it is needed most: working directly with local communities-especially women-to help craft and implement their own solutions.

UNDP is committed to help developing countries tackle all three challenges and by doing so help achieve all the MDGs. As a demonstration of UNDP's support for local efforts to achieve these global development targets, this year's World Environment Day also marks the call for nominations for the Equator Prize 2004 -- a prestigious international award recognizing outstanding local efforts to reduce poverty while protecting the environment.

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CEO and Chairman, Global Environment Facility
June 5, 2003

Water is life. It nourishes our ecosystems, powers our industry, grows our food, and makes life itself possible. Yet the image of our “Blue Planet” is deceptive. We are rapidly losing our water ecosystems—our planet’s life support systems— as several linked crises of global proportions worsen. This trend poses new threats to domestic and international security. People are already feeling the consequences of water resource mismanagement. When water ecosystems are being damaged by overfishing and pollution, the food security and health of people in many regions is threatened. In the developing world, in communities that lack access to water resources, girls are often deprived of their education because they spend so much time fetching water from far-away sources. The causes of the water crisis urgently need to be addressed. New predictions of increased droughts and floods underscore the need for water resources management to rise to the top of the sustainable development agenda.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in August 2002, the global community set targets and adopted action programs that recognize the important role of healthy freshwater and marine ecosystems in poverty reduction and sustainable development. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) plays a key role in efforts to meet these critical targets. The GEF has been a catalyst for on-the-ground solutions to the world’s land and water resource problems for more than a decade. Since its inception in 1991, GEF has invested $974 million in water-related projects in 139 countries. In light of the serious threats to water ecosystems, the GEF is prepared to contribute another $400 million over the next four years to address critical global water issues.

GEF investments fund projects and facilitate partnerships that benefit both the global environment and local communities. In the Danube River/Black Sea Basin, for example, GEF funds have supported a long-term, 17-country effort to restore the highly polluted waters to a level of cleanliness not known since the 1960s. Some of the program’s early successes include the identification of 500 nutrient pollution “hotspots” and development of plans to install clean technology. In addition, a GEF pilot project, part of the larger Danube River/Black Sea Initiative, targeted two islands that had been harmed by polluted sediment from the Danube. Within a few years, these islands began to show signs of recovery. Sixty percent of the islands was covered once again by reeds and aquatic vegetation.

In Kenya, GEF helped to launch a project that addresses the root causes of poverty in the Lake Baringo region: biodiversity loss and land and water degradation. As soil erodes and flows into Lake Baringo, the character of the lake is changing and fish stock is plummeting. Project staff worked with local farmers to help reduce soil erosion. Their techniques worked, and for the first time in seven years, there was a crop. The other farmers who came to help with the crop copied the technique, setting into motion a cycle of renewal. Thanks to the reduced soil erosion, the old abundance of wildlife, food, and productive land and clean water is beginning to show signs of returning.

These are just a couple of the GEF projects, one large and one small, that demonstrate that it is possible to maintain the delicate balance between human needs and environmental imperatives. Of course, the GEF cannot by itself resolve the many problems facing our water ecosystems. The challenge is enormously complex. The international community’s efforts to protect water resources need to be scaled up and accelerated in order to reverse current trends. Partnerships between countries, international institutions, the private sector, and local communities are the most effective way of maximizing our collective impact. In that spirit, GEF is working to forge new partnerships while nurturing existing partnerships and replicating successful projects. After all, our fates are intertwined. And in this interdependent world, we are all winners or we are all losers, together.

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World Bank
June 5, 2003

As the world celebrates the international environment today, the World Bank takes a look at the challenges the environment is setting for development. Sea level rise, shifts of climatic zones due to increased temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns, are already affecting millions of people living in developing countries and threatening their potential of moving out of poverty. Droughts, floods, and storms are now a recurrent phenomena throughout the world, however the impact has been most severe on poor citizens in Central America, Mozambique, China, and Bangladesh, among other developing countries.

Today, water is at the top of the development agenda, and there are simple reasons for that. Water is essential for hygiene and health practices. It is important for irrigation, to ensure food security. Water is also a basic component of industry, necessary for hydropower and thus energy, and it is indispensable to maintain ecosystems and biodiversity. However, today over one billion people lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion people still live without improved sanitation. As a result of this situation, 3.5 million people die each day due to water-related diseases. The number of people affected by water scarcity is projected to rise to 5 billion by 2025.

This dire picture does not account for the potential negative impact of climate variability. In many water scarce regions, particularly in the subtropics, changes in rainfall patterns and increased evaporation as a result of short term climate variability or long-term climate change may lead to further reduction in water access. "If the international community does not take decisive action to support developing countries in mitigating the potential impacts of climate change and implementing adaptive strategies, these dramatic projections may become a reality," argues Kristalina Georgieva, Director of Environment for the World Bank. Additionally, increases in temperature and changes in precipitation are projected to accelerate the retreat and loss of glaciers, with associated negative consequences to vast areas such as the Himalayan and the Andean regions. The sea level rise associated with projected increases in temperature could displace tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas, such as the Ganges and the Nile delta, and could threaten the very existence of small island states.

World Bank research indicates that over 96 percent of disaster-related deaths, caused in part by floods and droughts in recent years, have taken place in poor countries. According to the World Bank’s Robert Watson, former Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "Human-induced climate change adversely effects key development issues such as the quantity and quality of water, agricultural production, human health, and human settlements. In addition, climate change will decrease biological diversity, hence undermining the ecosystem goods and services needed for sustainable development, exacerbate land degradation, and increase local air pollution." Georgieva emphasized that "the key challenge is to recognize the linkages between major environmental issues – in this case, climate change and water resource availability. At the national level, we must develop mechanisms capable of integrating climate change concerns into economic planning, and simultaneously act multilaterally to move this effort forward at the global level."

She called on rich countries and donors to "work together with developing country governments and non-state actors to help integrate climate variability and climate change impacts into their overall development strategies." The World Bank has been working directly over the last decade to mitigate these risks. As an Implementing Agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Bank has assisted developing countries to achieve the climate change objective of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) through support for policy reforms and lending primarily for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The Bank is mainstreaming the GEF into its regular operations. The total climate-change portfolio today includes 62 projects at a total cost of $6.8 billion, with GEF financing $578 million, and funding for the rest from the Bank, private co-funding, and government counterparts. The Bank has the largest renewable energy portfolio of any institution in the world, with renewable projects of approximately $590 million, or about 6 percent of the Bank’s total energy lending over the last 6 years.

By facilitating the carbon finance business, through the Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), the Bank is expanding this market for developing countries. Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries can meet their greenhouse gas emission reductions through projects that generate emission reductions in developing countries and economies in transition, both mitigating climate change and promoting sustainable development. Together, with Regional Development Banks, UN agencies, and other partners at the global level, the World Bank has been working to expand and harmonize adaptation strategies to climate change into long-term development strategies.

For more information on the World Bank’s work on water, please visit:

For more information on the Global Environment Facility, please visit:

For more information on the Prototype Carbon Fund, please visit:

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June 17, 2003

NEW YORK, New York, June 17, 2003 (ENS) - Every year, vast patches of the Earth turn barren and unproductive, the consequence of drought and poor land management. This process - known as desertification - has far reaching costs to humanity, United Nations Secretary Kofi Annan said today, and poses "an ever increasing global threat." In a message marking World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, Annan warned that increasing land degradation is threatening food production and triggering humanitarian and economic crises. "Because the poor often farm degraded land that is increasingly unable to meet their needs, desertification is both a cause and a consequence of poverty," Annan said. "Fighting desertification must, therefore, be an integral part of our wider efforts to eradicate poverty and ensure long term food security."

Drought and desertification threaten the livelihood of more than 1.2 billion people in some 110 countries, with 135 million around the world at risk of being displaced. Human activities such as overcultivation, overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation practices are key factors in this trend, Annan said, and arable land per person is shrinking throughout the world. Arable land per person has declined from 0.32 hectares per person in 1961-63 to 0.21 hectares in 1997-99 and is expected to drop further to 0.16 hectares by 2030. An estimated six million hectares of productive land are lost every year because of desertification, land degradation and declining agricultural productivity, according to the UN.

Last year, for example, millions of tons of productive topsoil in Australia blew away in dust storms, as the country suffered through its worst drought in more than a century. In India, dry spells and deforestation turn 2.5 million hectares in wasteland every year. And some 70 percent of all land in Mexico is vulnerable to desertification, one reason why some 900,000 Mexicans leave home each year in search of a better life as migrant workers in the United States. "But nowhere is the problem of desertification more acute than in sub-Saharan Africa," Annan explained, "where the number of environmental refugees is expected to rise to 25 millions in the next 20 years.

Sustainable water resource management is the theme of this year's World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, highlighting the issue of water scarcity and the need for better water conservation and management. The Secretary General urged countries to support the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought - the only legally binding treaty to address desertification and drought with a focus on sustainable development. Since the treaty was adopted in 1994, "numerous projects have been initiated, despite limited resources," Annan said, but much more needs to be done to reverse the trend of continued desertification. Some 187 nations are Parties to the convention, but funding has not matched this tacit support for the measures needed to address the problems of drought and desertification. "Let us today recommit ourselves to the goals of the Convention, and to achieving sustainable development for all, including in the dryland rural areas where the world's poorest people live," Annan said

See Also:

United Nations Secretary General�s message; Internet:

CCD Executive Secretary�s message; Internet:


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