Water resources, marine life under alarming stress:GEO

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New Delhi, Nov 3 (UNI) The fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO) brought out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has projected a disturbing future scenario for marine life and water resources affecting human health and food availability.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people would be living in countries with absolute water scarcity. By then water withdrawals are predicted to rise by 50 per cent in developing countries and by 18 per cent in developed countries.

Already more intense and longer period of droughts have been observed in the Mediterranean, Southern Africa and parts of Southern Asia. ''The escalating burden of water demand will become intolerable in water scarce countries,'' says the report.

It says that aquatic ecosystems were losing their capacity to provide fresh water food and other services.

Human activities mean that water quality was declining too, polluted by microbial pathogens and excessive nutrients. There is a rising concern about the potential impacts, on aquatic eco-systems, of personal care products and pharmaceuticals like painkillers and antibiotics.

In developing countries three million people die naturally from water-borne diseases, most of them under five-years old. An estimated 2.6 billion people today lack improved sanitation faciliies, and globally, contaminated water remains the greatest single cause of human disease and death.

The Report paints a grim scenario for marine life. Marine fish catches were being maintained only by fishing ever deeper and further offshore, and increasingly further down the food chain.

The demand for fish to meet population growth was expected to increase by about 1.5 per cent annually in the coming decades.

Subsidies have created excess fishing capacity, estimated at 250 per cent more than is needed to catch oceans' sustainable production.

Exploitation of West Africa's fish by Russian, Asian and the European Union fleets increased six fold from 1960's to 1990's. The licence fees paid to the countries concerned is only 7.5 per cent of the value of their fish once it has been processed, says the Report.


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