UN calls for action to improve water quality worldwide

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The United Nations on Monday marked the World Water Day with the release of a report by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in Nairobi that says investment in safe water will have high returns in ensuring a healthy ecosystem and human society.

The event, which was marked at the UNEP/UN-Habitat headquarters in the Kenyan capital was attended by government representatives, UN agencies, civil society and non-governmental organizations, private sector, scientists and local and international media.

According to the report, an investment of 20 million U.S. dollars in low cost technologies such as drip irrigation and treadle pumps could lift 100 million poor farming families out of extreme poverty.

It adds that repairing leaky water and sewage networks can also secure not only supplies but reduce pollution and generate employment.

During the launch of the report, the Chair of UN-Water Adeel Zafar said water quality impacts the lives of millions of people world wide every year, a majority of them under the age of five. "It is a delight that this year's World Water Day puts great emphasis on this delicate issue which is so much reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," Zafar said. "The MDGs stress clearly the importance of safe water and sanitation, and with UN-Water as the coordination mechanism of the United Nations community, great emphasis to support worldwide efforts for improving water quality and restoring degraded water ecosystems will be put in place."

UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP Achim Steiner said that human activity over the past 50 years is responsible for unprecedented pollution that increasingly challenged the quality of the world's water resources. "World Water Day highlights how the work of improving and sustaining the world's water quality is everyone's responsibility, " he said. "It may seem like an overwhelming challenge but there are enough solutions where human ingenuity allied to technology and investments in nature's purification systems such as wetlands, forests and mangroves can deliver clean water for a healthy world. "

The global event aims at bringing attention to the state of water quality around the world and calls for action on pollution prevention, clean-up and restoration of waterways in order to sustain healthy ecosystems and human well being.

Speaking during the same occasion, the Chair of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands said each year World Water Day gains momentum and spurs thousands of local initiatives around the world among schools, places of worship and in communities. "Emphasis on local action is what gives World Water its power and beauty. We know that no single global instrument can ensure our most important common goal is saved. Water must be saved locally," he said.

Prepared in collaboration with the Pacific Institute, one of the world's leading non-profit research organizations the report calls for worldwide action to increase awareness to change individual behavior around what people put in their water; promote policies that improve water quality with education and advocacy; increase enforcement of the regulations put in place to protect water quality; and to put investor and consumer pressure on corporations that pollute waterways.

The UN General Assembly designated the first World Water Day in 1993 and each subsequent year the March 22 event has highlighted a specific aspect of freshwater sustainability.

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