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Protecting the future of our rivers


25 Aug 2006 - Stockholm, Sweden – As the Stockholm Water Conference draws to a close, WWF calls on governments to direct more aid to the conservation of natural water systems and to invest in sustainability, not overdevelopment, of remaining waterways.

“More international aid is needed to conserve and restore the life-saving functions of freshwater ecosystems such as wetlands, lake and river basins" said Michael Löfroth, WWF-Sweden’s Deputy Conservation Officer.

“Only by securing safe and accessible supplies of freshwater can we hope to lift billions of people out of poverty and towards a better life.”

Unfortunately, only 12 per cent of the world’s countries have produced effective water resource management as called for under the UN Millennium Development Goals. Donor countries are providing ever smaller amounts of aid to for such planning.

The world water crisis is increasingly becoming one of the most serious environmental problems. Over one billion people do not have access to clean freshwater, more than 2.6 billion people have inadequate or no access to sanitation services, and millions of children die every year from water-borne diseases. Plants and animals dependent on freshwater ecosystems are disappearing faster than those of tropical forests and coral reefs. In addition, demands for water for agriculture and hydro-power production are rapidly increasing each year.

As a result of governments and international aid agencies focusing on large-scale water infrastructure projects, many wetlands and lakes has been dried out, and rivers have been dammed. In some rivers, so much water is being taken out for irrigation and other uses that they no longer reach the sea.

According to WWF, the benefits provided by natural systems and low cost, lower impact alternatives such as wetlands for natural flood control and water purification, micro-hydropower, and rain-water harvesting have been largely overlooked.

“The best and most economical strategies include conserving and restoring freshwater ecosystems, the natural systems that gather and deliver water for human use, combined with adaptations of all land use to safe water supply in catchments areas,” added Löfroth.

“We must conserve our precious freshwater ecosystems for billions of people in the future.”


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