"Of all the social and natural crises we humans face, the water crisis is one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet earth." So said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura on the occasion of the launch earlier this year of the World Water Development Report, a comprehensive state-of-the-resource document jointly compiled by the 23 United Nations agencies, programmes and commissions dealing with water.
Depending on factors like popultion growth and policy choices, between two and seven billion people, in as man as 60 countries, will face water scarity by the middle of this century. And while 6,000 children are now killed each day by water-borne diseases, water quality will steadily worsen in the years ahead as a result of the two million tons of waste currently dumped into rivers and lakes every day.
Presented on the eve of the third World Water Forum (Kyto, Japan, March 2003), the World Water Development Report stigmatized the political interita surrounding the looming crisis. Of all the targets set to improve water management by a long list of international conferences "hardly any", says the report, "have been met".
UNESCO, which together with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs is leading system-wide efforts in this the International Year of Freshwater, sent a strong signal of its determination to help developing countries to strenghten their capacity to address critical water issues with the creation last March of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands. Long established as a world-class scientific institution, the Institute will become the hub of a global network of UNESCO-related regional centres, UNESCO Chairs, networks and partnerships in water education and capacity building serving the Organization's 190 member-States.
Inform, educate, train professionals, build up capacity: it's a question of survival.
Michel Barton, Director and Editor-in-chief.