Monday, May 7, 2012

Water Expert Warns 1.8 Billion People Will Still Lack Basic Sanitation by 2050

He has long campaigned to address the lack of political will to overhaul the way we address our world’s water crisis, with millions of people lacking basic sanitation.

Now Welsh water expert David Lloyd Owen has published a book which he hopes will challenge how policymakers improve access to water.

The 52-year-old author, says that by 2050 some 240 million people will still depend on unsafe water and 1.8 billion will lack basic sanitation.

Mr Lloyd Owen from Llangoedmor, near Cardigan, who is launching his book at next month’s Hay Festival says it is a “rallying cry” that it is time to take water management seriously.

“There is very poor information available for anybody who wants to have a debate about water policy.

“There are a lot of people in politics who think water should be free, which is a noble idea – however, just like a lot of other things in life it costs money to deliver and treat. Especially the waste water.

“Many countries don’t know what they spend on water or waste water, they don’t know how much it costs or even how many people have access to water.”

Mr Lloyd Owen, who has 23 years experience in the sector, advising companies, governments, financiers and multilateral institutions about water and wastewater management said a shift in political will is needed.

“Good management and political will are chronically scarce, I try to present a moral, economic and sustainable case for spending the many trillions of pounds needed worldwide in the coming decades to ensure safe water for all – and a more sustainable society, leaving behind the old lie that water should be free.

“The reality we face is that at current rates of progress, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) anticipates that in 2050, 240 million people will still depend on unsafe water and 1.8 billion will lack basic sanitation.”

According to the World Health Organization/United Nations Joint Monitoring Report published this year, the Millennium Development Goal for access to “improved” water by 2015 was achieved in 2010.

However Mr Lloyd Owen said the reality of the situation is not so good.

“As the report points out, 200 million of those supposedly enjoying improved household tap water rely on bottled water, while other surveys suggest that at least 1.9 billion people continue to depend on water that may be ‘improved,’ but in fact remains of unsafe quality.

“Sanitation, sewerage, and sewage treatment is another story. The UN is planning a new set of goals calling for universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, but as the OECD points out, at current rates of progress, millions of people will still lack access to improved water and sanitation. Business as usual is not an option.”

Mr Lloyd Owen said there is very poor data available for those in power to make valid judgements in debates about how much should be paid for water, or whether the private sector should be involved.

“If I have one great interest in life it is trying to persuade people to take the subject seriously and to move from ideological debates to mature discussion based on commonly understood information,” he added.

“One of the greatest impediments to dealing with this is the toxic assumption that people are unable or unwilling to pay for proper water and sewerage services. This depressing lie is dissected by considering the cost of water for those who depend on informal services, in terms of their money, time, and health, and how the mobile telecoms boom highlights that people spend money on what they need when they have a choice.

He said water and wastewater infrastructure is one of the best investments that can be made in terms of economic and human returns.

“When you compare economic and water infrastructure development in urban Singapore with that of South Korea, Japan, India, and Malaysia, it is evident that the attainment of universal household water, sewerage, and sewage treatment preceded Singapore’s economic renaissance. Development depends on modern water infrastructure.

“When it comes to water scarcity there is always an abundance of bad news. In reality, we are suffering from a scarcity of management capabilities and political will.”

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