Special Report: World Water Day 2011

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Freshwater resources across the globe have been found to be depleted, many of which are also heavily polluted. In an effort to raise people’s awareness of the importance of water and to promote sustainable conservation, World Water Day has been observed annually on 22 March. 

In 1993, the United Nations (UN) resolved to designate 22 March of every year as World Water Day as proposed by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a year earlier. This year, the day comes under the theme “Urban Water Management: Key Issues and Priorities for Action” with an aim to bring to light potential threats against freshwater resources from the expansion of urban populations and industrialization as well as natural disasters resulting from the global warming crisis.UN-WATER and UN-HABITAT will discuss the organisation of the day, content and key messages in their seminar at the Stockholm World Water Week. International governments, organizations, communities and the general public are encouraged to join hands in solving water problems and ensuring efficient water management in urban areas.

Based on the findings of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), freshwater covers merely 1 percent of Earth’s surface, in contrast to saltwater which accounts for two-thirds. Moreover, only 0.25 percent of freshwater in natural resources, such as rivers, lakes and underground springs, is accessible to people; the remainder is locked in icecaps and glaciers in the North and South Poles.

Undoubtedly, such little amount of water cannot sufficiently accommodate the growing consumption of the world population of over 6 billion. About 1.2 million people have no access to clean water while another 2.5 million live in unhygienic conditions and are at risk of water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, typhoid and leptospirosis.

According to a survey on people’s water usage behaviors, an average person drinks at least 2-5 liters every day and uses 5-15 liters for toilet flushing and 50-200 liters for bathing. However, the consumption rate varies, depending on each city. Hong Kong residents reportedly use 112 liters per person per day, the lowest rate in the world, whereas Bangkok has one of the highest consumption rates of 265 liters and is responsible for releasing large volumes of pollutants into the water.

Considering the rapid depletion and severe contamination of freshwater, the world is destined to suffer a major water crisis in the not-so-distant future. Therefore, World Water Day serves as a reminder for all countries and peoples to value the importance of water, take part in conservation efforts and get into the habit of using water sparingly and efficiently in order to extend the life of water and the life of mankind.