World's water crisis needs vigorous and concerted action, says Busquin

October 8, 2003

Brussels, 07 Oct 2003

Marking the theme of this year's World Habitat Day - water and sanitation for the cities - on 6 October, EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin reiterated his support and commitment to the United Nations Millennium development goals on water.

Speaking at United Nations House in Brussels, Mr Busquin said that water quality and its scarcity is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. 'People in developing countries are living a 'double injustice' given the price they have to pay for water that is unsafe to drink or use,' said the Commissioner. 'Providing safe water and basic sanitation to the urban poor is a critical challenge which requires vigorous and concerted action on an international scale.'

It estimated that almost one billion people, or 32 per cent of the word's urban population, live in slums, the majority of them in developing countries. In the United Nations Millennium declaration, world leaders pledged to tackle this immense challenge by setting the goal of achieving significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020. Specifically, they agreed to address the problem of water and sanitation for the poor living in slums and squatter settlements, and in doing so pledged to halve the number of people who lack access to safe water by 2015.

'For its part, the Commission has launched its own initiatives to tackle the issues related to water,' explained Mr Busquin, alluding to the 'Water for Life' initiative, which seeks to ensure access to clean water and to generalise the adoption and practice of river basin approaches based on scientific knowledge and innovation.

Mr Busquin also pointed to the concepts being developed in the Sixth Framework Programme's priority 'sustainable development, global change and ecosystems', affirming that its work programme is focused on, among other things, reaching out and helping developing countries tackle problems related to rapid urbanisation, such as water and sanitation. Over the next four years, the Commission will spend over two billion euro on initiatives to accelerate sustainable development in Europe, as well as developing countries.

One concept already being developed under FP6 is modelling mechanisms for water management, which can be transposed to developing countries. 'Europe has the expertise and know-how in this domain,' said the Commissioner. 'By collaborating on modelling processes, investment and human resources can be optimised and a global vision of the water management processes can be developed.'

A working example of this concept is the TWINBAS project, which refers to the twinning of European and third country river basins for the development of integrated water resources management. To achieve its objectives, a number of research tasks will be carried out on hydrology, modelling of pollution flow, impact assessment, socio-economics, scenario analyses and action efficiency.

Another twinning project being funded under FP6 is the twinning of four river basins in Spain, Israel, Namibia and South Africa. The focus of the WADE project will be on the long term assessment of water resources in selected semiarid to hyperarid ephemeral river basins by determining transmission losses from floods and quantifying floodwater recharge into alluvial aquifers.

The Commission will launch a call for proposals in 2004 for Integrated Projects focusing on twinning European technology centres and developing countries with a view to creating long term technological solutions in the area of sustainable development.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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