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Monday, April 10, 2006

Poverty in Africa Linked to Water Management

Dominican Today -- According to the United Nations, African countries will be hard pressed to emerge from poverty due to poor water management, not a lack of available water.

African countries will be hard pressed to emerge from poverty due to poor water management not a lack of available water, the United Nations said on Thursday. "There is enough fresh water in Africa for everybody, but management of water resources is less than optimal," said Nick Nuttall, spokesperson of the U.N. Environment Program.

Nuttall spoke in Nairobi after the release of a U.N. report on water development ahead of the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City, which links mismanagement of water to development.

"Water is power and those who control the flow of water in time and space can exercise this power in various ways. It is often claimed that clean water tends to gravitate towards the rich and waste water towards the poor," it said.

The United Nations estimates 1.1 billion people globally do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion still do not have basic sanitation. Although it is unevenly distributed, there is plenty of water for everyone in the world, but poor management is why everyone does not have access, the United Nations said.

The United Nations estimates 1.1 billion people globally do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion still do not have basic sanitation.

The majority of Africa's population live on less than a dollar a day and African countries lack the basic infrastructure to provide adequate health services. In sub-Saharan Africa access increased from 49 percent to 58 percent between 1990 and 2002 but that fell short of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 75 percent, the report said.

In water-scarce North Africa, good water management is the reason its countries use more of available water than water-rich sub-Saharan Africa, said Kevin Pietersen, director of the South Africa-based Water Research Commission. The report said Algeria uses 42 percent of its available water while the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has twice as much water, only uses 0.03 percent.

Although it is unevenly distributed, there is plenty of water for everyone in the world, but poor management is why everyone does not have access, the United Nations said.

Improved water management can also boost a country's economic growth. In Kenya, improved ability to deal with floods and drought could help raise its gross domestic product from 5 percent to 6 percent annually, the report said.

Water management also impacts energy output, one of the most important ingredients for economic growth in developing countries. In Ethiopia, it is estimated that 30,000 mega watts (MW) of hydropower can be generated from existing water, but only 670 MW are actually used, the report said.

"While Europe makes use of 75 percent of its hydropower potential, Africa – where 60 percent of the population has no access to electricity – has developed only 7 percent of its potential," the report said.

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