Selected highlights from the high-level segment
“Water is life and it has to be an instrument of peace. It is a shared resource and it has to be a matter of cooperation,” said Danilo Türk, Chair of the Global High Level Panel on Water and Peace, calling for more water diplomacy and trans-boundary water cooperation.
UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak said a global water crisis was an increasing threat. Millions of people drink contaminated water and climate change is drying up rivers. “We see the water crisis from Flint, Michigan, to Cape Town, South Africa. People’s lives and livelihoods are at risk. The pressure is on us to make Sustainable Development Goal 6 (water) a reality,” he said. “The good news is that, more and more, the world is coming together to solve these challenges. The outcome will be better policies, more collaboration and smarter solutions.”
UN Deputy-Secretary-General Amina Mohamed said much progress has been made in understanding the bigger picture about water. Improved data and information is required to inform sound investments and sustain services to ensure “we leave no-one behind.”
Khayrullo Ibodzada, Chair of the Committee for Environmental Protection under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan: Over the past 60 years, the average temperature has increased by 1° Celsius in Tajikistan, accompanied by more frequent and intense hydrometeorological disasters. 60 percent of Central Asia’s water supply comes from Tajikistan. Increasing temperatures will speed up glacier melt, reduce river flows and undermine sustainable development. Tajikistan is hosting a conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development” from 19-21 June 2018.
Reza Ardakanian. Minister of Energy, Islamic Republic of Iran, said his country is experiencing the driest year in the last 50 years. Of the 80 million-strong population, 17 million face water stress this summer. Sand and dust storms exacerbate the problem, with major health and economic impacts. Hydrological data services can help with forecasting, warning management of water-related events.
Khaled Abdelhay Ramadan Mohamed, President of National Water Research Center, Egypt, said that the impact of climate change on river catchments is causing variants of floods in some places and droughts in others and so must be factored into any water management plan. Egypt is located in an arid region with very limited freshwater resources. All its ground and surface water comes from neighbouring countries. “The Nile is life. Without the Nile we can not live,” he said. Population increase is adding to the water stress and the government is working on plans to improve water efficiency and recycling.
Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, referred to the Blue Marble planet of which 71 percent is oceans, and yet only 0.4% can be used. “It looks like there is an abundance of water, but it is actually very scarce,” he said. “We have to manage water on every scale much better than we do now,” said Ovink, summing up the take-home message of the conference.
Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General José Graziano da Silva said water management is a high priority for FAO, which takes action on a daily basis to promote more ways for food systems to use less water.
Andrey Vasilyev, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe said that trans-boundary cooperation on shared river basins and water resources was key to achieving the sustainable development goals.