| A child drinks from a tap in Cape Town. (Reuters)
Johannesburg, Aug. 28 (Reuters): Earth Summit delegates today tackled ways to quench the planet’s growing thirst and provide sanitation to billions of the world’s poor who do without either every day.
The world gathering entered its third day in Johannesburg amid tight security against the possibility of fresh protests and with the land seizures crisis in Zimbabwe threatening to divert the attention of world leaders flying in next week.
There was progress between rich and poor states on demands by Third World countries for more aid finance and fairer trade and United Nations organisers also reported progress in setting firm targets and deadlines for improving the state of healthcare and fish stocks among a vast array of proposals on the agenda.
“We have agreed on 99 per cent of the text on finance,” John Ashe, a Caribbean delegate who has been brokering a compromise, told a news conference. Officials also agreed to reaffirm pledges on opening markets to Third World exporters but remained divided over wording on the issue of “globalisation”, he said. Nearly one in five people or 1.1 billion men, women and children have no access to fresh water, according to the UN, while a staggering 2.4 billion lack adequate sanitation.
“To service the human community of India with sanitation and water is a Herculean task... The world community should come forward to help us through the UN organisations,” evironment minister T.R. Baalu said.
India saw the worst start to the monsoon season in 15 years in July, bringing drought to many areas. Water tables in countries as far apart as the US and China are steadily declining because of overconsumption.
At their Millennium UN summit two years ago, world leaders agreed to “halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water” by 2015.
To meet those goals, states will have to more than double their spending on fresh water investments to $180 billion, according the United Nations estimates.
Summit host South Africa is leading a drive by developing countries to halve a similar target for sanitation — an initiative resisted by the US and some other nations.
The 10-day World Summit on Sustainable Development gathers delegates from some 200 countries hoping to put together an action plan to reduce poverty while preserving the environment.