At the end of the United Nations Water Conference UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the world to practice sustainable water management. Human survival depends on how water is used. “It depends on realizing the landmark inclusive and action-oriented commitments made by Member States and others at this conference.”
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The UN Secretary-General was alluding to numerous individual, non-binding measures and projects. States, non-governmental organizations and the free economy, among others, had promised before and during the multi-day conference. Which more than 700 measures and projects are included can be seen in the “Water Action Agenda” read.
The initiatives with German participation include, for example, a project that deep underground freshwater springs wants to make accessible as well as that Living Lakes Project, which aims to protect and restore lakes and wetlands. Companies also use the “Water Action Agenda” to promote themselves and their dealings with the element of water. Among them is Bayer, for example. The chemical and pharmaceutical company states that by 2030, among other things, it intends to reduce the consumption of water in the cultivation of rice by a quarter per kilogram of the crop.
First water conference since 1977
“It means reducing the pressure on our water system,” said UN Secretary-General Guterres in his closing remarks. Alternative food systems would also have to be developed. In this way, the unsustainable use of water in food production and agriculture could be reduced. The strategies in the areas of water, ecosystems and climate must be interlinked in order to reduce greenhouse gases. Guterres cited resilient infrastructure, water mains and wastewater treatment plans, and an early warning system for natural disasters as examples.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks at the conclusion of the United Nations Water Conference.
© Source: Koen Van Weel/ANP/dpa
The UN Water Conference took place in New York from March 22nd to 24th. At the meeting, developing countries called for more support for access to cleaner drinking water and better sanitation. It was the first major UN meeting since 1977 to deal solely with the issue of water.
The United Nations had sounded the alarm in view of a global water crisis. Before the conference was a UN Water Development Report public, according to which 26 percent of the world’s population – two billion people – have no access to clean drinking water. In addition, 46 percent lack basic sanitation. By 2030, almost half of the world’s population will have massive problems accessing water, according to the situation report.
Criticism and praise for the water conference
Critical voices said: At the conference itself there was a lot of lip service to improving the water supply, but few concrete commitments. “We have such beautiful, ambitious approaches, but in some ways they’re not feasible,” said Lina Taing of the UN-affiliated think-tank United Nations University.
However, the World Resources Institute, which analyzed the conference, concluded that the New York meeting was a much-needed wake-up call on the issue of water. A number of the voluntary commitments could mean a turning point and influence the development towards drinking water.