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The United Nations calls for preservation of water resources to improve food security

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Islamabad, 21 March 2012

World Water Day (22 March) highlights the urgency for governments, organisations and individuals around the world to preserve water resources, prevent wastage, use safe and less water-intensive products to enhance health and food security, says the United Nations.

The global day’s theme, ‘Water and Food Security’, establishes links between use of water resources for food production, use of unsafe water and its direct impacts on the health and nutrition of women and children, especially those living in rural and urban slums.

Water is a basic human right. Every human being deserves enough water to live a decent life, including water for making his/her livelihoods. Water is essential for production of all food and industrial crops and livestock that form the basis of our daily diet and contribute to the national and global economy. Imagine the cotton or dairy industry without sufficient water – how many jobs would be lost from production to processing to distribution?

Eventually there will be a need for large desalination plants for the mega-city Karachi with 20 million persons and industry. Eventually, cities will have to clean the water they use for other downstream users – human organic waste and toxic compounds from industry and daily life. Eventually, we will have to learn to keep oils, batteries and other pollutants out of streets that drain into downstream sources. We need to remember that each day, with each growth of the population, there is less water available to each person – and that each of us is using more water as the economy develops!

The United Nations in Pakistan is committed to supporting the country for the wise use of water for the benefit of agriculture and livestock – better lining of channels to keep water from leeching away; high efficiency systems including minimum tillage, land leveling, trickle irrigation and ground water management; and new drought and saline water resistant varieties. There is still a long way to go so that these technologies are widely available and used across Pakistan.

Unsafe water contributes to diarrhea and under-nutrition, leading to stunting of growth, intellectual impairments, diminished productive and creative capacities resulting into poor school attendance and performance.

The United Nations in Pakistan is actively working to improve access to safe water - supporting the federal and provincial governments to finalize drinking water and sanitation policies; supporting the development of Pakistan Water Quality Standards and establishment of water quality monitoring labs and Environmental Health Protection Units within provincial Health and Water Departments; working on all aspects of water, sanitation and hygiene, including water quality management and surveillance, cholera surveillance and prevention, where the health burden is high, where interventions can make a major difference and where the present state of knowledge is poor.

“Improving access to safe water in both rural and urban areas of Pakistan can help mitigate waterborne diseases and malnutrition in women and children. It would reduce women’s work load and improves hygiene and sanitation practices at the household and at the community level,” said Timo Pakkala, the UN Pakistan Resident Coordinator. “World Water Day 2012 provides us an opportunity to reflect on all dimensions of water issues including rural and urban, household and industrial, and even international security-related – and for each of us to think how to use water wisely,” said Pakkala.