By Patrick Musira
in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Anybody who can solve problems of water will be worthy of two Nobel Prizes – one for peace and one for science.
The above remark by former United States president John F. Kennedy poignantly captures the current reality as people across the world grapple with a looming water crisis, says Professor Andras Szollosi-Nagy, rector of UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, adding: “The challendge is to put water in the minds of people!”
Speaking during the opening session of the 11th WaterNet Water Research Fund for Southern Africa / Global Water Partnership symposium underway in the tourist resort towen of Victoria Falls Prof Szollosi said: “The world has entered an era of growing crises encapsulated in the three Ps – population, pollution and poverty – becoming more frequent and more severer.
Is it true a water crisis is looming?
“Yes!” he categorically declares, explaining to the conference that the world must now wake up to the current reality to address and manage the above three global change drivers to save the world from disaster.
“Population is the most important change driver and we need to act fast!” he said, underlining that exponential growth in popoulations and urban growth means more pressure on demand for water resources and supplies.
Pointing out that water is a political issue, Prof Szollosi-Nagy called for accountability and good governance from local authorities, national governments and international funding agencies.
“It may be local or regional but the water crises have global dimensions!” he said.
Amplifying the effects of population growth, SADC’s WaterNet professorial chair in Integrated Water Resources Management at the University of Zimbabwe, Prof Innocent Nhapi, explained that the water challenges are going to be critical in the success or failure to attain the Millennium Development Goals.
“When people move into urban centres, it means more pressure on supply and quality of water resouces while for the rural areas and agriculture sector this means we have to produce more food to feed the urban population,” he explained.
“In Africa and the SADC sub-region, the growth of urban populations means the growth of slums – and these present their own challenges in terms of water supplies, water quality, sanitation and hygiene and food,” he said.
Where is this water going to come from? What is our future? How are we going to feed these people?
“How we are going to answer the above questions is going to be critical in the fight to attain the MDGs,” he said.