Water

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Vol. L No. 1 2013

Issue 1, 2013 of the UN Chronicle looks at the challenges and benefits of water cooperation, within the context of the 2013 UN International Year of Water Cooperation. Some of the issues covered in the magazine include the sustainable exploitation of the ocean's minerals and resources; women and agricultural water resource management as a pathway towards gender equality; impacts of climate change on coral reefs and the marine environment; empowering people through integrated water resource management practices; the private sector's role in addressing water challenges in urban and rural areas; and water cooperation among the universities of the Black Sea region.

In the recent past, rapidly increasing demands on water resources as a result of growing populations and increased industrial and agricultural development have put many river basins under stress all over Africa. Semi-arid to hyper-arid climates in southern Africa lead to a very high natural spatial and temporal variability in the availability of water resources.

In March 2012, 3,000 scientists gathered in London for the scientific pre-Rio+20 conference, Planet Under Pressure: New Knowledge Towards Solutions. Scientific research concerning sustainability was addressed and a State of the Planet Declaration was approved, which stated the need to redefine the role of scientists and science in society.

In the modern world, water has become the key element for addressing food security, energy security and environmental sustainability. Given the above, the world cannot achieve today's global development goals without establishing global water governance.

Aging infrastructure and a lack of government management capacity are leading to insufficient and inconsistent water deliveries, sometimes stalling industrial activity. As these challenges and demands escalate, governments tighten controls on water use and wastewater discharge as a means of mitigating depletion and degradation of resources, while communities and civil society groups are more likely to hold companies accountable for unsustainable practices.

Coral reefs, which comprise only about 0.5 per cent of the ocean floor, are complex three-dimensional structures built up over thousands of years as a result of the deposition of calcium carbonate skeletons of the reef building coral species. These reefs are often referred to as the "rainforest of the sea".

Current United Nations predictions estimate that the world population will reach 9 billion in 2050. The exponential growth in population and the more intensive use of water per capita are among the leading key drivers behind hydrologic change and its impact. It is a huge challenge on an already resource-limited planet to meet the various needs of the people, especially of those who already lack access to clean water.

The importance of involving both men and women in the management of water including agricultural water and ensuring equitable access to and control over water resources have been overwhelmingly recognized by the international community. The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action called for governments to promote knowledge and research on the role of women, particularly rural and indigenous women, in irrigation and watershed management and sanitation.

The Mediterranean Sea is a symbol of creativity, of the search for the meaning of life and for wisdom, and of the love of people and nature. This sea has always been an environment that has bred outstanding people who have made remarkable contributions to the development of history in philosophy, art, music, literature, science and technology.

In contributing to the theme of the International Year of Water Cooperation, this article provides a perspective from a Pacific Small Island Developing State. In the context of the large body of water that surrounds Fiji and other Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), a vital and long-standing concern has been the sustainable exploitation of the ocean's living resources and, more recently, the non-living or mineral resources.

The availability and quality of water resources in the coastal areas and the Danubian Valley represent a major factor for sustainable development. The issues on water management and water pollution are generating many debates in the cross-border area and sometimes lead towards political conflicts, like in the Middle East region.