Focusing on Urbanization in Developing Countries
The United Nations’ World Water Day (WWD) campaign marked its 18th anniversary on March 22 with celebrations, discussions, forums and numerous other events at the Cape Town International Convention Center in this year’s host city, Cape Town, South Africa.
An international event, World Water Day, started in 1993 and held annually, highlights the importance of freshwater and the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Hundreds of events, held all around the world, accentuated the awareness and support that WWD has already amassed. From symposiums focusing on “Optimization Technology in Water Resources Management” in Asia to university campus initiatives in Africa, thousands of supporters have been promoting the 2011 WWD campaign, some having started months ago.
The 2011 theme, Water and Urbanization, chosen by UN-Water, called for the focus of international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.
“Today, one in two people on the planet live in a city,” the 2011 WWD website explains. “Ninety-three percent of urbanization occurs in poor or developing countries, and nearly 40 percent of the world’s urban expansion is growing slums. Between 1990-2001 the world’s slums increased at a rate of 18 million people a year, and is projected to increase to 27 million new slum citizens per year between 2005-2020.”
The cause for concern, as it pertains to fresh water initiatives, lies in the fact that “investments in infrastructure have not kept up with the rate of urbanization, while water and waste services show significant underinvestment,” according to the website. As urban authorities in developing nations cannot afford to invest in piped water coverage in many settings (including the slums), the management of urban waste is becoming an increasing problem, resulting in the poor having to pay the highest prices, for the worst services.
“Solid waste disposal is a growing threat to health and the environment,” the website makes clear.
Climate change, conflicts and natural disasters also play their role in affecting water resources. As natural disaster and conflict affect more people, migration to cities will increase, placing stress on the already-expanding problem facing urban systems. “The effect of climate change will also mean more complex operations, disrupted services and increased cost for water and wastewater services,” according to the website.
There is growing evidence that the quality and quantity of water resources are to be significantly affected by these matters.
– Kane Carpenter