Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right, but it is not a fact in many parts of the world. Contaminated water causes 1.5 million deaths a year, 2.5 billion people live without basic sanitation and one in six people does not have access to clean water. The ACP-EU meeting in Budapest 17 May called for comprehensive measures to alleviate the situation, including improving sanitation, conserving rainforests and punishing water polluters.
In developing countries, 70% of industrial waste is dumped untreated into water, polluting the usable water supply. Pollution is mainly caused by industry, agriculture and sewage, but the most common contaminant of drinking water is fecal matter. The impact of this is dramatic: according to UN statistics, every 20 seconds a child dies as a result of poor sanitation.
"A good infrastructure for sanitation is the most important pre-requisite for health," said German Christian Democrat Christa Klass, one of the people who drafted the report on water for the meeting.
But investing in networks and disposing of waste water is expensive and many African Caribbean and Pacific countries do not have the financial means. On the other hand, the increasing urbanisation in ACP countries makes investment in delivering clean water and processing waste urgent.
The Joint Assembly calls for:
more boreholes in villages and shanty towns with rising populations
innovative solutions, like chlorine tablets to combat epidemics including cholera, that are linked to polluted water
EU and ACP countries should prevent industry, deforestation, mining, chemical production and extensive use of pesticides from affecting water quality - polluters should pay.
Environmental standards must be observed
One of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) is to halve the number of people without access to clean water by 2015. "We have to be coherent in our policies. On the one hand we sign up to the MDGs, on the other hand we let European mining companies get away with causing water pollution because we do not insist that they respect proper standards overseas," British Liberal Fiona Hall said.
Tropical forests have an important role as well. They store vast quantities of carbon and help regulate temperatures and generate rain. "If we do not pay attention to climate change, we will not have any water. We also need to protect forests which protect water sources," said Bobbo Hamatoukour from Cameroon, the ACP draftsman for the water report.
ACP-EU Water Facility
The ACP-EU Water Facility was set up in 2004 to provide water and basic sanitation to the poor and to improve water management governance in ACP countries. It has received €200 million from the 10th European Development Fund (2008-2013).