Water in an Urbanising World

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Fredrik Mugira
August 15, 2011

The Executive Director, UN-HABITAT Dr. Joan Clos laments that the supply of water resource in most cities around the world has not kept pace with the high demand created by economic activity and rapid population growth.

This, he says is mostly being witnessed in less developed regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Outdated infrastructure caused by low investments, poor planning, weak and un-enforced legislation and poor governance are some of the major challenges confronting those charged with the responsibility of providing water in our cities,” notes clos further stressing that, “climate change, including disruptive events such as flooding and drought also calls for urgent water-related mitigation and adaptation measures.”

Expanding and upgrading water and basic sanitation services in urban centers in developing countries remains a big challenge. The above photo was taken in Mbarara town, Uganda.

The challenge now lies in expanding and upgrading water and basic sanitation services to keep pace with urban growth, says Clos.

“With large sections of the urban population living in informal settlements where water and basic sanitation are severely deficient, the challenge is how to expand and upgrade these services to keep pace with urban growth, while ensuring access to an adequate level of services for the poor,” notes clos.

Clos’ remarks come ahead of the World Water Week to be held from 21-27 August 2011 in Stockholm, Sweden.

UN –Water designated UN-HABITAT to coordinate the organisation of World Water Day 2011 under the theme “Water and Urbanization.” UN-HABITAT will now continue the water and urbanisation debate in Stockholm, Sweden during the World Water Week.

“The 21st session of the annual World Water Week in Stockholm under the theme “Responding to Global Challenges: Water in an Urbanizing World” provides a good opportunity to build on the outcome of this year’s World Water Day celebrations coordinated by UN-HABITAT in Cape Town South Africa,” notes Clos.

A group of artists performing during the 2011 World Water Day celebrations in Cape Town South Africa

The Cape town even whose final report was released by UN-HANITAT last week, focused international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.

It also encouraged action by governments, organisations, communities, and individuals around the world to engage actively in addressing urban water, management challenges.

To further this, during the World Water Week in Sweden, UN-HABITAT and its partners will convene a number of seminars to discuss important issues such as building water related resilience in urban areas, bench-marking governance and partnerships of water operators, the human rights based approach and community involvement in public water supply and getting the “Five Year Drive for Sanitation” on track among others.

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