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    Press Release No:   UNIS/GA/1630
    Release Date:   22 March 2000
    Assembly President Stresses Need to Continue to Develop Holistic Strategies to
    Manage and Conserve World’s Water Resources

     NEW YORK, 21 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of General Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) for the occasion of World Day for Water, which will be observed tomorrow:

     Three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water, yet a mere 1 per cent of all that water is available for human use.  It is, therefore, as precious a resource as the air we breathe and must be conserved.

     While plentiful in our oceans and seas, the water that sustains human life, for drinking, for sanitation and for agriculture, is dwindling, as world population, now at 6 billion, climbs to a projected 8 billion in the next 25 years.

     Only 2.5 per cent of the world’s water is not saline, and most of that amount is locked up in ice caps or in areas too remote for human access.  The rest comes at the wrong time and place, as witnessed by the recent disastrous floods that hit southern Africa, in particular Mozambique and Madagascar, and last December’s torrential rains in Venezuela.

     An adequate supply of safe, clean water is essential for human life.  The General Assembly recognized how central this resource is to human existence when it declared 22 March of each year World Day for Water.  In adopting resolution 47/193, the Assembly called for the observance of the Day to promote a wider appreciation of the extent to which water resource development contributes to economic productivity and social well-being.

     The Assembly observed, correctly, that with the growth of populations and economic activities, many countries were rapidly reaching conditions of water scarcity or facing limits to economic development.  It, therefore, called for the promotion of water conservation and sustainable management at local, national, regional and international levels.

     The experts warn that a rising world population is facing a shrinking supply of water unless changes are made in the way we manage and use water.  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) predicts that two-thirds of the earth’s population will live in water-stressed conditions by 2025 if current consumption patterns continue.  The World Commission on Water for the twenty-first Century reports that, with the growth of mega-cities and industrialization in the third world, water demand is expected to increase by 40 per cent over the next two decades; and that although 70 per cent of the fresh water available for human use is being taken up by agriculture, a further 17 per cent more water will be needed to grow food for the rising populations.

     To meet these needs, the international community and national governments must continue to develop holistic strategies to manage and conserve the world’s water resources.  Until the technology exists to manufacture water, its conservation and management are vital.  The Second World Water Forum, which has been meeting in The Hague, is addressing the problems of the looming global water crisis, and I commend the efforts of the organizers and participants, and wish them success in their undertaking.

     The supply and quality of fresh water will be a critical issue in the twenty-first century.  Let us, therefore, create conditions of greater awareness and worldwide solidarity to ensure that water does not become an issue of contention and conflict now and in the future.  Let water, the source of life on earth, be a fountain of unity for the common good of humanity and heighten our awareness about our fragile environment and its finite resources.

     Let us act now to improve water-saving technologies and reduce waste.  In this way, we will lay a solid foundation for the conservation and sustainable management of water for future generations.  The time for action is now.

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