World Water Week: Sanitizing our water sources – 17-23

15 August 2008 | Media advisory

Background: “Progress and Prospects on Water: For a Clean and Healthy World” is the theme of the 2008 World Water Week conference, with special focus on sanitation. Held in Stockholm 17-23 August this year’s meeting recognizes the declaration by the United Nations of 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation (IYS). It focuses on the environmental and health crisis caused by the more than 200 million tonnes of human waste that ends up untreated in water systems, fouling the environment and exposing millions of people to disease.

In an effort to reach the UN’s Millennium Development Goal of “halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015”, World Water Week is centering its attention on sanitation issues. The lack of effective water and effluent treatment for sanitation continues to contaminate rivers around the world. Polluted rivers cannot support economic development or human needs unless restored to a healthy flow. Many rivers in developing countries and emerging economies are now polluted to the brink of collapse. For example, the Yangtze, China’s longest river, is suffering because of pollution by untreated waste, agricultural run-off and industrial discharge.

IUCN calls upon governments, businesses and NGOs to urgently and dramatically increase their efforts to stop the uncontrolled dumping of solid and liquid waste in rivers, and to ensure that treatment of effluents is made a top priority. It is only through the concerted efforts of all that the contamination of our surface and groundwater resources - vital to the survival of people and all living beings - can be stopped and reversed.

Key Issues:
Water and sanitation - “Sanitation, human health and the environment are inextricably linked,” says Mark Smith, Head of IUCN’s Water Programme. “Safe water supply and adequate sanitation means a cleaner environment and healthier people.”
Environmental Flows - “Rivers are the lifeblood of the Earth, and maintaining their vitality ensures the flow of water resources to the environment and communities,” says Katharine Cross, IUCN’s Water Programme.
Climate Change - “Investing in nature is investing in people,” says Stefano Barchiesi, IUCN’s Water Programme. “Healthy ecosystems are vital for communities to cope and adapt to the consequences of climate change.”

Materials for the Media:
• Support documents on IUCN’s water programme can be obtained from the Communications Team.
• IUCN Water Programme Website: http://www.iucn.org/water
• Environmental Flows Network: http://www.eflownet.org
• Podcast with Stefano Barchiesi, IUCN Water Programme http://cms.iucn.org/news_events/wild_talk/index.cfm

Interview Partners in Stockholm: Alejandro Iza, Head IUCN Environmental Law Centre; Kwame Odame-Ababio, IUCN Project Coordinator Volta Basin; Katharine Cross, Project Officer IUCN Water Programme; Stefano Barchiesi, IUCN Water Programme.

Communications:
Claire Warmenbol, IUCN Water Programme Communications, t +41 22 999 0188, e claire.warmenbol@iucn.org
Katharine Cross, IUCN Water Programme, In Stockholm, m +41 79 247 2926, e: katharine.cross@iucn.org
Sarah Horsley, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 528 3486, e sarah.horsley@iucn.org