UN-Habitat, Chinese University report offers lessons on alleviating urban water challenges

NAIROBI, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Developing nations should increase knowledge-sharing and partnerships with rapidly growing economies like China to alleviate water challenges in their urban areas amid rapid urbanization, according to a joint report released Tuesday during the ongoing Sixth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

The report, jointly released by UN-Habitat and China's Tongji University, notes that many developing countries, especially those in Africa, are increasingly becoming water scarce due to the crisis of climate change and poor waste management.

Titled "Sustaining urban water supply under climate change: Lessons from selected rapidly growing cities in Southern Africa and China," the report presents evidence on the impacts of climate change and rapid urbanization on water supply in four Southern African cities, namely Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) Gaborone (Botswana), Lusaka (Zambia) and Windhoek (Namibia) and offers solutions from Shanghai in China.

According to the report, over the last century, global water use has grown more than twice as fast as the global population. Combined with more volatile and uncertain supplies, this will exacerbate conditions in water-stressed areas and create water stress in currently water-rich regions.

The United Nations World Water Development Report 2020 estimates that by 2050, some 685 million people will live in more than 570 cities and could face a decline in freshwater availability of at least 10 percent as a result of climate change.

As the leading author, Li Fengting of Tongji University and a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, said that Shanghai's high population and rapid economic development constitute a strain on the water supply system.

"To maintain quality water supply and meet the needs of the population, the city has developed strategically in terms of infrastructure, management and policies in the past decades. Shanghai adopted, for the most part, advanced treatment processes based on ozonation and biologically activated carbon adsorption to deal with emerging pollutants," Li said.

Mutinta Munyati, Human Settlements officer at the UN-Habitat Regional Office for Africa, said sound use of data and science in guiding the planning and management of water supplies in China is a lesson African cities should borrow and complement them with enabling policies and enforcement.

Munyati observed that the rapid urbanization of Africa is affecting the capacity of cities to effectively respond to their water demand. And with the urban water demand growing exponentially at a time when climate change is exacerbating the situation, Africa is facing great challenges, she added.

UN-Habitat Regional Office for Africa Director Oumar Sylla said the report reviews the effectiveness of practical responses and solutions that are helping or could help these cities avert an imminent crisis of water supply.

"UN-Habitat therefore released the publication with Tongji University to help city councils, residents and water utilities learn from each other the strategies or approaches being used to tackle shared problems, thus facilitating the dissemination of best practices," Sylla said, adding that it also help central governments better appreciate real challenges faced by their cities and see how best to support the councils and utilities to tackle them.

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