Growing cities ‘facing water crisis’

Exploding urban populations are threatening to spark a water and sanitation crisis in many cities - particularly in the developing world - experts have warned.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) predicts an additional two billion people will live in urban areas by 2030, many of which will be in developing countries.

Decision makers, governments and planners should act urgently to provide access to water and sanitation for these growing populations and considerably reduce their water footprints to avoid a future crisis.

SIWI issued its warning as it held a seminar at the fourth World Urban Forum, held by the UN-HABITAT, in Nanjing, China, on Monday.

Anders Berntell, executive director of SIWI, said: “By 2030, the estimate is that another two billion people will be living in cities around the world, primarily in the developing countries, and in those developing countries, in slum areas.

“This poses an enormous challenge to those cities and the planning of those cities.

“It will have serious effects when it comes to the pollution of water and groundwater, which at the end will also lead to increased diseases, bad health, which also will have an effect on the economic development of these cities.”

The seminar built on the discussions between governments and water experts from around the world at the 2008 World Water Week earlier this year (see related story).

Cecilia Martinsen, director of World Water Week, said: “We are here at the World Urban Forum to stress the urgency of the water issues and the challenges that are facing our cities today.

“Today we see more than half the population of the world living in cities and that number is increasing every day.”

SIWI is expected to produce a report on the conclusions of the seminar later this month recommending strategies to address the critical lack of access to water and sanitation in slums, and policies to cut cities’ water footprints.

You can watch Mr Berntell discuss some of the problems SIWI predicts in cities below.

Kate Martin

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