18 June 2002

Nigeria: Untreated Water, a Health Hazard

Abuja — The Minister of State for Water Resources, Chief Precious Ngelale has identified use of untreated water as one of the greatest environmental threats to health in the developing countries. He made this statement in his address at the just concluded Pre-conference World Summit on Sustainable Development in Bali, Indonesia.

He said water had remained a major crisis which had not been seriously tackled by the international community since the Rio Summit on environment held 10 years ago.

Quoting the United Nations Environmental Programme, Ngelale said about one third of the world's population live in countries suffering from moderate to high water stress while 80 countries representing 40 per cent of world's population continue to suffer from serious water shortages.

Ngelale noted that in his recent environmental lecture, entitled "Towards a Sustainable Future", the Secretary-General of UN had pointed out that more than one billion people are without safe drinking water.

Highlighting the critical importance of water to Africa's socio-economic and environmental security, Ngelale said, "there is an intimate link between the health of our planet and human health. The link between poverty, health and the environment is nowhere close than with regard to water issues. Water is the key to sustainable development and good health.

"Some two billion people lack the energy they need to pump water or light their homes. Ironically, this energy can be harnessed through water resources development. While over 70 per cent of the hydropower potentials of the developed countries have been harnessed, only a mere five percent of Africa's potentials have been developed.

"75 per cent of the world's poor live in rural areas. Sustainable agriculture depends on the proper use of the environment as a common asset, avoiding water pollution, desertification and deforestation. In addition, water supplies and irrigation must be managed efficiently to ensure optimum results.

"The importance of aquatic biodiversity to socio-economic development and environmental management cannot be over emphasized".

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