STOCKHOLM – An estimated US$ 9 billion a year, or 2 percent of the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam went to drain due to problems on poor sanitation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in its Green Economy report released recently at the World Water Week forum being held here.
“Improving access to cleaner drinking water and sanitation services is a cornerstone of a more sustainable, resource-efficient society,” United Nations (UN) Undersecretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said during the launching of the report.
Currently, the failure to invest in water services and to collect, treat and re-use water efficiently, is exacerbating water shortages in many parts of the world and contributing to a situation where global demand for water could outstrip supply within 20 years.
He stressed that with no improvement in efficiency of water use, water demand is expected to outstrip supply by as much as 40 percent by year 2030.
Based on the report, investing US$ 198 billion or 0.16 percent of the global GDP in the water sector could reduce water scarcity and halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation in less than four years.
“The Water Chapter on the Green Economy Report shows how accelerated investment in water-dependent ecosystems, water infrastructure and water management, coupled with effective policies, can boost water and food security, improve human health and promote economic growth,” Mr. Steiner said.
The improvements in water productivity, as well as increases in supply (from new dams and desalination plants as well as more recycling) are expected to narrow the gap by about 40 percent, but the remaining 60 percent will have to come from infrastructure investment, water policy reform and the development of new technologies.
Meanwhile, Prof. Mike Young of the University of Adelaide, lead author of the water chapter in the Green Economy Report, said “water supply crises will become increasingly common (with the absence) of investment and policy reform.”
Improving the efficiency and sustainability of water use is also vital if the world’s increasing energy demands are to be met. As the countries become wealthier and more populous, industrial demand for water is expected to increase, he explained.
Under the green investment scenario outlined in the report, global water use could be kept within sustainable limits and the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation could be met by 2015.
With the annual investment of US$ 198 billion by 2030, water use could be made more efficient, enabling increased and sustainable agricultural, bio-fuel and industrial production.
Under this scenario, the number of people living in water-stressed regions is four percent less than under the business-as-usual scenario and seven percent less by 2050.
Meanwhile, the report also included a chapter on Bio-energy and Water Nexus where the use of water for bio-energy production has been underlined, saying that renewable, sustainable sources of energy are an essential part of the transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy.
The report stated that bio-energy’s water demands are in large part linked with the cultivation and processing of feed stocks such as crops, which, in turn, have important implications for sustainable, land use and production.
In a world where more than 70 percent of global freshwater is used for agriculture, the report says that bio-energy develop needs to be carefully planned to avoid it adding to the existing pressures (on water supply and resources). –Philippine News Agency
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