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Germany

The Water of Life

Access to water resources will be one of the most important global issues of the future. A conference in Bonn is looking for new ways to overcome the water crisis.

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Water is everybody's business, at least this week in Bonn, Germany

The global shortage of freshwater is one of the most pressing issues facing mankind. That's what Germany's federal environment minister Jürgen Trittin said in his opening address at the International Conference on Freshwater in Bonn on Monday.

The conference, which will end on Friday, is hosted by the German government. 2,300 participants from 145 countries have registered for the meeting. The delegates are representatives of national governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations.

Their findings and recommendations will help prepare for the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.

Limited water resources and increased consumption

In many countries of the world, the water resources are decreasing because of intensive farming and population growth. It is estimated that by the year 2025 about 17% more water will be needed to grow sufficient food and reduce hunger in developing countries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water. The WHO estimates that up to 1.5 billion children die every year of diseases and infections caused by polluted drinking water. Nearly 2.5 billion people globally do not have adequate sewage treatment facilities.

The problem of water pollution

One of the big issues at the Bonn conference is combating water pollution. Developing and newly industrialized countries are most affected by environmental problems caused by rapid urban and industrial growth. When a country's population doubles, environmental pollution tends to increase five to ten times.

But the world's ecosystems are already under pressure. Scientists and environmentalists think that if pollution continues and more water is withdrawn from nature, the resource base of future generations will be seriously damaged.

"Everybody's business"

The Bonn conference will aim to find solutions to these problems on regional, national and local levels. "The main challenge is to make water everybody's business," say the organizers of the conference.

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