Foreword drinking water


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Examples of Successful Experiences in Safe Drinking Water

Of all the natural resources needed for survival and economic development, water is the most crucial. The global water crisis is one of both quality and quantity and is closely linked to the global environment crisis and the degradation of critical ecosystems. It is a crisis of fragmented
institutions, inadequate policies and legal systems, insufficient funding for
water supply and pollution control, and lack of political will.

Volume 11 was produced by the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World(TWAS), the Third World Network of Scientific Organizations (TWNSO) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

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Foreword drinking water

  1. 1. In 2002, prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa,Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, identified five areas that are key to improving the quality of life of people across the globe and especially in developing countries. These five areas, collectively known as “WEHAB”, are water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity. It is no accident that water is the first item on the list. Simply put, life on Earth cannot exist without it. From space, Earth appears blue because of the large amount of water present on the planet’s surface. However, for many people, especially those living in developing countries, such distant views can be deceptive. Some 98 per cent of the Earth’s water is salt water and is not suitable for human consumption. Of the remaining two per cent that is fresh water, less than half is available for use by the planet’s six billion people. In the developed North, access to safe drinking water is rarely a prob- lem. Most people simply need to turn on a tap, one of many in every home, to receive seemingly unlimited quantities of clean, fresh water. In many parts of the South, however, the story is dramatically different. Some 40 per cent of the world’s population lives with supplies of water classed as “limited”, “scarce” or “stressed”. This water not only must be used for drinking but it must also provide for other needs, including washing, cooking and irrigation. A simple lack of water is not the only problem, however. In some areas, such as the Amazon Basin, there is, in fact, ample water. The problem is that it is not always clean, that is, free from chemical pollutants and disease-causing organisms. Foreword 5
  2. 2. 6 VOLUME 11: SAFE DRINKING WATER Access to safe drinking water is at the heart of many health and other sociological and development issues. Among children, for example, a higher frequency of diarrhoeal episodes leads to fewer days at school and a more limited education. In some African countries, chil- dren are required to travel long distances to collect water for the family, often instead of attending school. In other words, without access to safe drinking water, many children are unlikely to realize their true potential. In addition, it is estimated that more than half of the hospital beds in developing coun- tries are occupied by patients suffering from ailments associated with poor-quality water. If safe drinking water were made more widely available, many countries could redesign their healthcare spending plans to tackle other critical issues. There are, however, suitable technologies available, many of them based on traditional technologies developed in the South and others based on modern science being carried out in the South, that can be applied more widely to solve these problems. Indeed, whether by improving and refining traditional techniques or developing new methodologies, science must play a central role in programmes aimed at providing safe drinking water. However, as many of the 21 case studies that follow illustrate, science alone cannot solve all the problems related to the provision of safe drinking water. Indeed, case study after case study emphasizes the requirement of community involvement in any scheme designed to provide safe drinking water whether to isolated rural villages or large urban districts. Even if a community will undoubtedly benefit from an improved water supply and sanitation programme, without the input of the local people from the initial planning stages and without such built-in mecha- nisms for the long-term operation of the system as training workshops for local contractors and equitable payment schemes, no programme will achieve long-term sustainability. The case studies contained in this volume offer examples of hands-on experience in addressing these issues and others in 18 countries of the South. Together, they offer vital les- sons to people interested in their replication or adaptation. However, they by no means rep- resent the entire range of similar initiatives now being undertaken throughout the global South; this would go beyond the scope of our particular knowledge-sharing objective. This volume is the product of a partnership between the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), the Third World Network of Scientific Organizations (TWNSO), the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). As with other volumes in the series, this collection derives from the fact that an ever-increasing number of on-the-ground experiences show successful uses of science and technology to overcome social and economic obstacles to development. Although they
  3. 3. Foreword 7 often have a significant impact where they take place, they frequently remain almost unknown elsewhere. This book therefore aims not only to inspire countries and commu- nities to draw upon these innovations for their own needs but also to stimulate the inter- national community to support the sharing of such development knowledge on a South- South and a triangular basis. We hope, too, that the successes and lessons described in this volume will guide other institutions and communities in developing safe, effective methods for providing potable water as well as advancing direct cooperation and knowledge-sharing through- out the global South. Mohamed H.A. Hassan Executive Director Third World Academy of Sciences Secretary General Third World Network of Scientific Organizations Trieste, Italy Yiping Zhou Director Special Unit for South-South Cooperation United Nations Development Programme New York, New York, United States Mohamed Mahmoud Tawfik Chief Hydrology Division World Meteorological Organization Geneva, Switzerland