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ENVIRONMENT REPORT – International Year of Fresh Water - 2003-02-20

Broadcast: February 21, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Environment Report.

Everywhere, water use is increasing. Humans already use fifty-four percent of all the fresh water in rivers, lakes and underground. There are some estimates that this rate will reach seventy percent by two-thousand-twenty-five.

Fresh water is necessary for life on Earth. People need water for everyday activities and to produce food. Water also is important for energy production and the health of Earth’s environmental systems.

The United Nations is organizing a series of events to increase concern about water issues. U-N officials have declared two-thousand-three the International Year of Fresh Water. A goal of the campaign is to build support for policies to use water more wisely. Another goal is to get more people to use water in ways that will not hurt the environment.

The world population is more than six-thousand-million people. More than one-thousand-million lack safe drinking water. More than two-thousand-million suffer from diseases linked to dirty water. And, more than two-thousand-million live without waste-treatment systems.

Water was one of the issues discussed at the U-N Millennium Summit two years ago. Leaders said they would work to cut the number of people without safe drinking water in half by two-thousand-fifteen. Officials renewed that goal last year at the Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg, South Africa. They also promised to cut in half the number of people without safe systems to treat waste by two-thousand-fifteen.

Nitin Desai directs the U-N Office for Economic and Social Affairs. He says success in these goals will require major changes in the ways people use water. He says water reforms have to be linked to changes in policies for land use, human settlement, agriculture, industry and energy.

Next month, the World Water Forum will meet in Kyoto, Japan. Officials plan to release the first U-N report on world water development. This report will examine the world’s water problems. And it will offer suggestions on ways to meet future water demands. Experts say international reaction to the U-N report will be an important test of the political desire to solve the water crisis.

There is a U-N Web site on water issues: w-w-w dot wateryear-two-thousand-three-dot o-r-g (

This VOA Special English Environment Report was written by George Grow.