SINGAPORE: The United Nations marked world environment day yesterday with a focus on water, saying two billion people were dying for it.
“Water-related diseases kill a child every eight seconds,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement marking the world body's annual review of the state of the planet.
“One person in six lives without regular access to safe drinking water. Over twice that number – 2.4 billion – lack access to adequate sanitation.”
This year's theme is being led by Lebanon – the first time an Arab country has taken charge of the anniversary – but events have been planned around the world to draw attention to what the United Nations says is the planet's most valuable resource.
“It will not be lost on billions of people around the globe that this special day will also hold special significance by being in the Arab world so soon after the recent conflict in Iraq,” said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the Kenya-based UN Environmental Programme.
In China, the world's most populous country, the government said it planned to invest more than US$30bil (RM114bil) over the next few years to fight water pollution and help relieve shortages.
“China is a country that still lacks water resources, and the problem of water pollution remains severe,” said Xie Zhenhua, minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration.
”This year, our top priority is to ensure clean drinking water for our people.”
China is working on the multi-billion-dollar diversion project, Three Gorges Dam along the Yangtze river – the world's largest hydroelectric project, aimed at channelling water from the flood-prone south to the thirsty north.
In Bangladesh, where water can often be both a blessing and a curse, the government launched a tree-planting drive that it said aimed to turn the country into a “garden of green” by 2015.
Although floods have killed hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis over the years, the country still faces acute water shortages.
In Canada, a national campaign has been launched to educate children on the need to clean up the planet for their future.
In Britain, corporate associations have pledged to try to become more environmentally responsible, while in Lebanon the UN has organised over a week of events aimed at making the world a cleaner, greener place. – Reuters
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