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Huge urban growth threatens safe water, sanitation

Huge urban growth in much of world threatens safe water, sanitation – UN report

With urban populations in Asia, Africa and Latin America slated to double to nearly 4 billion, efforts must be stepped up to meet the far-reaching challenges this trend poses to providing safe water and sanitation, according to a report by the United Nations agency in charge of promoting socially and environmentally sustainable cities.

“A startling new statistic to come out of this report is that the largest share of future urban growth will be from small urban centres of less than half a million people where service provision for both water and sanitation is already woefully inadequate,” UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said on releasing the study at the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City.

The report has a pivotal role to play in global and local thinking on service provision, she said, and a critical contribution to make towards meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets seeking to slash a host of socio-economic ills, such as extreme poverty and hunger and lack of safe water and sanitation by 2015, when well over half of the world’s population will be urban.

Turning to aid assistance, Mrs. Tibaijuka said small urban centres tend to be overlooked, noting that in 2003, funding in the water sector from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of 30 industrialized countries sharing a commitment to democratic government and the market economy, amounted to $3 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA), of which only 13 per cent was allocated to small urban centres.

“This situation is all the more critical if we consider that small urban centres are the first tier markets and service providers for rural enterprise and development. Clearly, attaining the MDGs overall will depend to a large extent on how we can strengthen the prospects of local economic development and improve the living and working conditions of small towns and cities which, in turn, depend on access to clean water and improved sanitation,” she added.

Citing the example of Kyotera in Uganda, Musoma in Tanzania, and Ponani in India, she noted that these areas suffered rapid increase in population without increased water and sanitation provision. “There are countless other towns with such characteristics across the globe,” she declared. “We cannot shun away from the challenges of water and sanitation provision in these small centres.”

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