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Address by Ms. Cihan Sultanoglu UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative at the World Water Day and the launch of the International Decade for Action "Water for Life", 2005-2015, 22 March 2005
Dear ladies and gentlemen!
I would like to welcome all participants of today’s ceremony and those numerous speakers and participants who will take part in the next two events – Day of a Specialist and Scientific Cafe – where serious issues of water management and water safety are to be discussed.
On 23 December 2003 the General Assembly proclaimed the period from 2005 to 2015 the International Decade for Action, "Water for Life", to commence today, on World Water Day, 22 March 2005.
The goals of the Decade should be a greater focus on water-related issues at all levels and on the implementation of water-related programmes and projects, and the furtherance of cooperation at all levels, in order to help to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals contained in Agenda 21 and the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
Currently over one billion people worldwide have inadequate access to clean water, and some 2.4 billion people do not have adequate access to sanitation. The consequences are catastrophic: every year over 2.2 million people, mainly in developing countries, die from diseases associated with poor water quality. Each day about 6000 children die from diseases that can be prevented through the improvement of sanitary and hygienic conditions.
Belarus is lucky to be rich with water resources of various kinds. It has more than 20,000 rivers, around 11,000 lakes and 9,000 mires. Data for 2000 suggests that 100% of the population has access to safe drinking water. Correspondingly, 96% of the urban and 67% of the rural population have access to adequate sanitation. Existing resources are sufficient to satisfy both todays and future needs of the country.
However, despite wide access to water supply in urban areas, its reliability and safety is far from being satisfactory due to the poor state of repair facilities, lack of adequate maintenance and insufficient resources. According to Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in 1999 around 30% of samples taken from urban, and around 50% of those taken from rural areas failed to meet sanitary standards. Each Belarusian consumes around 200 liters of water a day while in countries of Western Europe water consumption is equal to 135 litters per person a day.
United Nations Development Programme in cooperation with the Belarusian Government and non-governmental institutions has realized a number of initiatives in the environmental sector.
By implementing its projects UNDP assisted in to developing and realization of integrated management plans for key fen mires of the Polesie area, elaborating Strategic Action Program and National Action Plan for the Dnieper River Basin and introducing environmentally compatible methods and policies into key economic sectors in the Pripyat river and its tributaries, which are the jewels of Polesian biodiversity.
In the years to come UNDP will focus on enhancing government and non-government capacities to deal more effectively with sustainable use of natural resources. This will be achieved through assistance in the creation and effective management of protected areas for the most vulnerable ecosystems as well as in sustainable use of other natural resources. Problems associated with industrial pollution, also affecting water quality and inefficient use of energy will be addressed in order to reduce the deterioration of the environment and to mitigate global climate change.
I would like to thank the State Committee on Science and Technologies and the National Scientific and Technical Library for the great initiative to mark the beginning of the International Decade for Action, "Water for Life" in Belarus by conducting such important scientific meetings. I do hope that this is just a start and next months and years will witness other significant events and initiatives
Let me conclude by quoting the massage on World Water Day by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: “Significant gains have been made. But a major effort is still required. Our goal is to meet the internationally agreed targets for water and sanitation by 2015, and to build the foundation for further progress in the years beyond.
This is an urgent matter of human development, and human dignity. On this World Water Day, let us resolve to do more to provide safe, clean water to all the world’s people. Let us also reaffirm our commitment to better management of the world’s water resources, which are our lifeline for survival, and for sustainable development in the 21st century.”
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