UN: More Than 300 Million at Risk Due to Polluted Waters


Photograph: Paula Bronstein /Getty Images

A recent report by the United Nations revealed that increasingly polluted rivers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America could bring disease to over 300 million people and threaten farming and fisheries in these countries.

It estimated that 164 million people are at risk in Africa, 134 million in Asia and 25 million in Latin America.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said some 3.4 million people die annually due to diseases contracted from dirty water, such as diarrhoea, cholera, and typhoid. Many of these ailments are usually caused by human waste in the water.

The report showed that the rise of dirty water can be blamed on fertilizer and pesticide runoff, factory waste and increase in untreated sewage into bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers.

“The solution is not only to build more sewers but to treat wastewater,” the UNEP said in a statement, as perPhys.org.

Many people in these countries still rely on open bodies of water for their drinking water, putting them at grave risk for life-threatening water-borne diseases.

Eco-Business reported that lead author Dietrich Borchardt said the water quality problem and the number of people affected are “much more severe” than they have expected.

In an interview with the Thomas Reuters Foundation, Borchardt said the trend of worsening water conditions was at critical level, with the challenge lying at implementing proper management of these bodies of water.

Ensuring access to water and sanitation for all is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. It aims to achieve access to safe water and sustainable and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, as well as the improvement of water quality by reducing water pollution.

According to the UN, at least 1.8 billion people in the world use a drinking water source that is contaminated by feces. Water scarcity also affects more than 40 percent of the global population, and 2.4 billion do not have access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets.

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