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‘Question of water is central’ to Habitat II


APRIL 15 – 30 1996

‘Question of water is central’ to Habitat II

By Ashali Varma

Dr. Wally N’Dow, Secretary General of Habitat II, spoke to The Earth Times, about the significance of water resources for cities. Excerpts from an interview:

How critical are water supply and sewage disposal to the cities of the future?

Today in the developing world, between 2 to 5 percent of all sewage is treated before it reaches the water systems. That means that an unacceptable quantity of untreated and therefore dangerous material is lodged in rivers and lakes and coastal water systems, in a majority of countries in the world. This is not acceptable. The issue of water supply and health can never be resolved unless sewage and sanitation are addressed in developing countries. And since cities have become the biggest generators of sewage and solid waste, and at the same time the places where more and more of the world’s population is living, you can see the connection between urbanization and the challenge of improving water supply and sanitation. This is the subject of Habitat. This is why the question of water is central.

How are countries responding to the challenges of Habitat II?

I am very optimistic about the engagement of the entire international community, with reference to the major issues behind the Habitat II Conference. And I am very encouraged by the universal acceptance today of the notion that to solve this major global crisis a new philosophy must be adopted.  A philosophy of partnerships—–partnership between government and the, private sector, as well as local authorities and civil society.  Partnerships not only for the evolution of better ideas but for the securing of new resources because vast amounts of resources are required to meet these challenges by the governments.

How do you view China’s Agenda 21?

The central pillars of the Chinese Agenda 21 are environmental protection and a real commitment to the idea of sustainability as a philosophy, as a challenge to be met.  It addresses some of the most critical needs of the Chinese population: water particularly and food, improvement of water supply, integration of crop farming into agricultural cycles—these are very well addressed.

The Chinese are also, seeking complementary source of energy in addition to coal, which is the primary source of energy in China.  These are all components of this new vision.  A very important area is in planning the process of urbanization, which China today has accepted as a fact of national life.