Azara Blog: UN releases another report on water

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Date published: 2006/11/09

The BBC says:

A new report from the United Nations Development Programme has demanded a big increase in spending to provide clean water.

The UNDP wants another $4bn (£2bn) a year spent, and says that water has not received the attention it deserves.

Water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea kill far more people than HIV/Aids and malaria combined, it said.
The report says that 2.4 billion people in the world do not have access to safe sanitation.
But Kevin Watkins, the report's author, says that the world needs to think on a much bigger scale than this.

He says a similar initiative is needed as that carried out 100 years ago in major European cities, including London, to provide water and sewage treatment.
In the modern world of what Mr Watkins calls "water apartheid", the rich do not suffer in the same way, and the incentives for government to act are less.

"You can't help wondering - if the children of the wealthy were suffering the same fate as the children of the poor regarding water and sanitation, if high income women were also walking four hours a day to collect water - whether something would have been done about it."
The report does not believe that water represents a major security threat, and the prospect of 'water wars' is not as serious as others have predicted.

Well the world does not pay nearly enough attention to the supply of water, as compared with other problems. This is partly because it is not sexy (compared with terrorism or global warming). It is also partly because a lot of the chattering classes spend all their time and effort trying to bring the rich people of the world down to the standard of the poor people rather than the other way around (since the latter is allegedly "unsustainable").

But the argument by Watkins about "water apartheid" is spurious. All people, not just high income people, care less about problems which do not affect them. This is not a very original or deep statement, and proves nothing. And why is it that the rich countries are deemed to be the ones responsible for sorting out the water supply for the poor countries of the world? This is just another example of assuming the governments of the poor countries should be absolved of all responsibility for their actions. Of course rich countries can help, but they should be taking a back seat, not be the driver. Colonialism should be dead.

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