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Tackling water pollution and guaranteed access to drinking water

May 18, 2011 1:01 PM

Access to safe drinking water must be a priority issue for governments especially in the developing countries. It needs an adequate legal framework to guarantee this fundamental right. Water pollution must be tackled by striking a balance between economic viability, social solidarity, employment and environment, said parliamentarians during the plenary debate of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA).

Contaminated water causes 1.5 million deaths annually, mostly of children under five and one in six people globally do not have access to safe freshwater. "A good infrastructure for sanitation is the most important pre-requisite for health", stressed co-rapporteur Christa Klass (EPP, Germany).

Access to safe drinking water must be guaranteed if the 7th Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is to be achieved by 2015. MDG 7C aims at reducing by half the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

However, investing in networks supplying drinking water and disposing of waste water is expensive and weighs on the limited financial capacities of many ACP countries. Nonetheless it must remain a priority for the public authorities, underscore MPs. In this context they call for more boreholes to be built in villages and shanty towns with rapidly increasing populations. Moreover innovative solutions should be used, such as chlorine tablets to combat epidemics like cholera, which are caused by increasingly frequent flooding.

Addressing pollution from industry and agriculture

In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply. MPs call on EU Member States and ACP countries to take all possible measures to prevent industry, deforestation, mining, chemical production and extensive use of pesticides in agriculture and horticulture from affecting water quality.

Referring to the polluter-pays principle and the need to have legislation in place to enforce it, Fiona Hall (ALDE, UK) said: "We have to be coherent in our policies. On the one hand we sign up to the MDGs, while on the other hand we let European mining companies get away with causing water pollution because we do not insist that they respect proper standards overseas."

Climate change and urbanisation

"If we do not pay attention to climate change, we will not have any water. We also need to protect forests which protect water sources", said co-rapporteur Bobbo Hamatoukour (Cameroon). Another challenge is the increasing urbanisation in ACP countries which triggers large investments needed to deliver clean water and to process waste.