Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Water scarcity, water stress and the international decade for action "water for life" 2005 - 2015

The most popular measurement to examine water stress is the so called Falkenmark Water Stress indicator. According to this indicator, an area is experiencing water stress when annual water supplies drop below 1,700 m3 per person. When annual water supplies drop below 1,000 m3 per person, the population faces water scarcity, and below 500 cubic metres "absolute scarcity".(1)

This indicator further developed the index created by Gleick in 1996 which analysed the water requirements for basic human needs: drinking water for survival, water for human hygiene, water for sanitation services, and modest household needs for preparing food. The proposed minimum amount needed to sustain each is as follows: 

1. Minimum Drinking Water Requirement: Data from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences was used to estimate the minimum drinking water requirement for human survival under typical temperate climates with normal activity is about 5 liters per person per day. 
2. Basic Requirements for Sanitation: Taking into account various technologies for sanitation worldwide, the effective disposal of human wastes can be accomplished with little to no water if necessary. However, to account for the maximum benefits of combining waste disposal and related hygiene as well as to allow for cultural and societal preferences, a minimum of 20 liters per person per day is recommended.
 3. Basic Water Requirements for Bathing: Studies have suggested that the minimum amount of water needed for adequate bathing is 15 liters per person per day (Kalbermatten et al., 1982; Gleick 1993).
 4. Basic Requirement for Food Preparation: Taking into consideration both developed and underdeveloped countries, the water use for food preparation to satisfy most regional standards and to meet basic needs is 10 liters per person per day. 

Water stress causes deterioration of fresh water resources in terms of quantity (aquifer over-exploitation, dry rivers, etc.) and quality (eutrophication, organic matter pollution, saline intrusion, etc.). Water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world's population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world's population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers).(2)

International organizations and water providers are recommended to adopt this overall basic water requirement as a new threshold for meeting these basic needs independent of climate, technology, and culture (P. H. Gleick 1996). Both Falkenmark and Gleick developed the “benchmark indicator” of 1,000m 3 per capita per year as a standard that has been accepted by the World Bank (Gleick 1995; Falkenmark and Widstrand 1992). 2.3. The Social Water Stress Index building on the Falkenmark indicator, Ohlsson (2000) integrated the “adaptive capacity” of a society to consider how economic, technological, or other means affect the overall freshwater availability status of a region. Ohlsson argued that the capability of a society to adapt to difficult scenarios is a function of the distribution of wealth, education opportunities, and political participation. 
The UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) is a widely accepted indicator used to assess these societal variables. The HDI functions as a weighted measure of the Falkenmark indicator in order to account for the ability to adapt to water stress and is termed the Social Water Stress Index.

The world is waking up to the water and sanitation crisis. At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, the largest-ever gathering of world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration; from the Declaration emerged the Millennium Development Goals, an integrated set of time-bound targets for extending the benefits of globalization to the world's poorest citizens. Among them was target 10, to cut in half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. At the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development, in 2002, this target was expanded to include basic sanitation, and water as a resource was recognized as a critical factor for meeting all the Goals. This sanitation objective is now an integral part of target 10. Since Johannesburg, further international deliberations on water and sanitation have helped advance cooperation and action in this area. Significant progress has been made since then in providing people with access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation. But a major effort is still required to extend these essential services to those still , the vast majority of whom are poor people. 
Given the magnitude of the task, in December 2003, the United Nations General Assembly, in resolution A/RES/58/217, proclaimed the period 2005-2015 International Decade for Action 'Water for Life'. The decade officially started on World Water Day, March 22, 2005.

WHAT is the purpose of the International Decade for Action 'Water for Life' 2005-2015? 

The primary goal of the 'Water for Life' Decade is to promote efforts to fulfil international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015. Focus is on furthering cooperation at all levels, so that the water-related goals of the Millennium Declaration, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit for Sustainable Development, and Agenda 21 can be achieved. The challenge of the Decade is to focus attention on action-oriented activities and policies that ensure the long-term sustainable management of water resources, in terms of both quantity and quality, and include measures to improve sanitation. Achieving the goals of the 'Water for Life' Decade requires sustained commitment, cooperation and investment on the part of all stakeholders from 2005 to 2015 and far beyond.

Official Logo
(1) www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/scarcity.shtml
(2) http://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/wp-content/themes/sustainability/assets/pdf/whitepapers/2011_Brown_Matlock_Water-Availability-Assessment-Indices-and-Methodologies-Lit-Review.pdf

Monday, 17 December 2012

2013 - Année internationale de la coopération dans le domaine de l'eau

En Décembre 2010, l'Assemblée Générale des Nations Unies a déclarée l'année 2013 comme "année internationale de la coopération dans le domaine de l'eau" avec la résolution A/RES/65/154. Parmi les divers organismes du système des Nations Unies, l'UNESCO a été appelée à jouer un rôle de premier plan pour la preparation de cet événement pour son approche multidisciplinaire dans les domaines des sciences naturelles et sociales, de l'éducation, de la culture et de communication.
L'ONU encourage tous les États membres à promouvoir «des actions à tous les niveaux visant à la réalisation des objectifs liés à l'eau énoncés dans l'Agenda 21 (1):

 Le chapitre 18 de l'Agenda 21 propose les suivant activites pour le secteur de l'eau douce :

 a) Mise en valeur et gestion intégrée des ressources en eau;
 b) Bilan des ressources hydriques;
 c) Protection des ressources en eau, de la qualité de l'eau et des écosystèmes aquatiques;
 d) Approvisionnement en eau de boisson et assainissement;
 e) L'eau et l'urbanification durable;
 f) L'eau et la production vivrière et le développement rural durables;
 g) L'impact des changements climatiques sur les ressources en eau.

Pour plus de détails sur la stratégie de mise en œuvre pour l’Année internationale de la coopération
dans le domaine de l’eau:
(1) http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/C.2/67/L.38/Rev.1&referer=/english/&Lang=F 

Document intégral «La protection de la qualité et l'offre de ressources en eau douce: application d'approches intégrées de développement, la gestion et l'utilisation des ressources en eau»:
(2) http://www.un.org/french/events/rio92/agenda21/action18.htm

                                       Site officiel


Friday, 14 December 2012

2013 International Year of Water Cooperation

In December 2010, the UN General Assembly declared 2013 as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation with Resolution A/RES/65/154. Among the various agency in the UN system , UNESCO have been called to play a leading role in the preparation and implementation of the 2013 United Nations International Year on Water Cooperation, for its unique multidisciplinary approach which blends the natural and social sciences, education, culture and communication.
UN encourages all the Member States to promote actions at all levels aimed at the achievement of the internationally agreed water-related goals contained in Agenda 21(1):

(a) Integrated water resources development and management; 
(b) Water resources assessment; 
(c) Protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic ecosystems; 
(d) Drinking-water supply and sanitation; 
(e) Water and sustainable urban development; 
(f) Water for sustainable food production and rural development; 
(g) Impacts of climate change on water resources.(2)

to read more details about the implementation strategy for 2013 IYWC
(1) http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/C.2/67/L.38/Rev.1

Full document  "The Protection of the quality and supply of freshwater resources: application of integrated approaches to the development, management and use of water resources":
(2) http://www.unep.org/documents.multilingual/default.asp?DocumentID=52&ArticleID=66&l=en

Official 2013 IYWC Logo & Poster


Thursday, 13 December 2012

New Legal Landscape making parent company liable for environmental pollution in the Niger Delta exposes Multinational Oil Company Shell to growing liability suits

In the past, I published some posts on the situation in the Niger Delta outlining the severe environmental pollution caused by gas flaring, an illegal practice used by multinational oil companies to extract oil in the Niger Delta.
Furthermore, a new Oil Industry Act expected to enter into force last year in Nigeria in September/October 2011 didn't pass in the Parliament and all hopes to find more suitable regulations to address and reduce the devastation in the Niger Delta vanished again.

Therefore, I was very pleased to review the report launched by the Essex Business and Human Rights Project outlining the importance of new distinguishing cases which could represent a turning point for the stalling situation. Actually, recent pronouncements of UK courts have condemned the subsidiary company of Shell operating in the Niger Delta (Royal Dutch Shell Plc) for environmental damages and created a direct link between the multinational oil company, accountable for environmental, health and safety standard breach caused by the subsidiary.

Shell will risks soon to face a growing number of suits to respond to allegations of  environmental pollution caused in the Niger Delta by the parent companies.

Furthermore, on October 11, 2012, four Nigerians filed a court case in The Hague, The Netherlands, against oil giant Shell over environmental damage to their communities. The court case against Shell's oil spills in the Niger delta has been filed by the four Nigerian plaintiffs in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria. The plaintiffs are demanding that Shell cleans up oil pollution in their villages and compensates them for damages they incurred. In this interview, Chief Eric Dooh from the village of Goi describes how he and his community have been affected by the oil spills. This video has been produced by www.justfocus.nu for Friends of the Earth International.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

My Voice Counts - Human Rights Day 2012

10 December 2012 - This year, the Human Rights Day will focus on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to support their participation and inclusion in political decision-making.

The rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to peaceful assembly and association, and to take part in government (articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) are essential factors for the development of democratic societies in all countries worldwide. In an era of globalized economies, financial speculations, monopolistic cartels of transnational companies, the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and the thousands of initiatives organized every day in the social media testify the will of all populations around the world to participate more actively both in the domestic and international political agenda.