Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The price of clean water

Countries need to quadruple spending to $150 billion a year to deliver universal safe water and sanitation, helping to reduce childhood disease and deaths while boosting economic growth, said the World Bank. To place this cost in context, the USA spends around $600 a year on its military and the world, as a whole, military spending was  $1.686 trillion on arms in 2016, a 0.4 percent increase on 2015.

"Millions are currently trapped in poverty by poor water supply and sanitation," Guangzhe Chen, senior director of the World Bank's global water practice, said in a statement.

More than three quarters of those without piped water supplies live in rural areas, where only 20 percent have access to "improved sanitation" said the report. In cities, poor people are up to three times less likely to have piped water than people in better off areas.

 The risk of diarrhoeal diseases and malnutrition caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation is creating a "silent emergency", with stunted growth affecting more than 40 percent of children under five in countries including Guatemala, Niger, Yemen and Bangladesh, said the report. It said under-nutrition could have long-term effects on children, including poor mental development and reduced ability to work, which would eventually affect economic development.

Some countries fail to maintain infrastructure or struggle to cope with growing populations. Nigeria provided piped water to fewer than 10 percent of city dwellers in 2015, down from 29 percent 25 years earlier. In Haiti, only 7 percent of households have piped water, compared to 15 percent previously. In some countries, tap water is even more unsafe than pond water, with around 80 percent of Bangladesh's piped supplies contaminated by E.coli bacteria, said the report. An estimated 5 percent of deaths in Bangladesh are attributable to drinking water with high levels of arsenic. About 20 million Bangladeshis, or one in eight, have been drinking water with arsenic levels higher than the government's limit of 50 microgrammes (μg) per litre. That limit is five times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of 10 microgrammes per litre. In 2002, the U.N. agency described the Bangladesh crisis as "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history". 
"It's been an emergency for the past 20 years," said Alexander van Geen, a professor at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory,

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