Press Releases March 2011 - Fast pace of African urbanization affecting water supplies and sanitation - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
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Fast pace of African urbanization affecting water supplies and sanitation

Cape Town/Nairobi, 21 March 2011-Rapid urbanization over the last five decades is changing Africa's landscape and also generating formidable challenges for supplies of water and sanitation services, says a new UN report.

According to the Rapid Response Assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN-Habitat, urban centers in Africa are growing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world.

Today 40 percent of Africa's one billion people live in urban areas - 60 percent in slums - where water supplies and sanitation are severely inadequate.

Africa's urban population without access to safe drinking water jumped from close to 30 million in 1990 to well over 55 million in 2008.

Over the same period, the number of people without reasonable sanitation services doubled to around 175 million says the report launched on World Water Day 2011.

"These are the stark realities and the sobering facts which need to be addressed as nations prepare for the landmark UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

The conference, also known as Rio+20, takes a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication as one of its two major themes.

"There is growing evidence from work on the Green Economy that a different path in terms of water and sanitation can begin to be realized. Indeed, public policies that re-direct over a tenth of a per cent of global GDP per year can assist in not only addressing the sanitation challenge but conserve freshwater by reducing water demand by a fifth over the coming decades compared to projected trends," added Mr Steiner.

Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, said: "This report could not come at a more opportune moment. Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent on the planet and the demand for water and sanitation is outstripping supply in cities. As cities expand, we must improve our urban planning and management in order to provide universal access to water and basic services while ensuring our cities become more resilient to the increasing effects of climate change".

Full Release

The size of the urban population in Africa without access to safe drinking water increased from 30 million in 1990 to over 55 million in 2008



Further Resources

Download report: 'An ecosystems approach to water resources management for African cities'

UNEP Africa Water Atlas

World Water Day 2011

Sick Water: The central role of wastewater management in sustainable development


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