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UN pleads action to avoid world water crisis

THE world needs to act urgently to avoid a global water crisis due to increased population, rising living standards, dietary changes and more biofuels production, the United Nations warned on Thursday.

By 2030 nearly half of the world's people will be living in areas of acute water shortage, said a report jointly produced by more than two dozen UN bodies and issued ahead of next week's major conference on water in Istanbul.

The report "Water in a Changing World" made "clear that urgent action is needed if we are to avoid a global water crisis," said a foreword by Koichiro Matsuura, head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"Despite the vital importance of water to all aspects of human life, the sector has been plagued by a chronic lack of political support, poor governance and underinvestment."

"As a result, hundreds of millions of people around the world remain trapped in poverty and ill health and exposed to the risk of water-related disasters, environmental degradation and even political instability and conflict," Matsuura said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly identified water shortage as a major underlying cause of the conflicts in a world today.

The world's population of 6.6 billion is forecast to rise by 2.5 billion by 2050, with most of the growth in developing countries, many in regions where water is already scarce.

The growth rate means demand for fresh water is increasing by 64 billion cubic meters a year, the report said.

Authors told a news conference that most of North Africa and the Middle East had already reached the limits of their water resources.

Migration from the countryside to cities was also increasing water use, according to the 318-page report, as was growing consumption of meat - the production of which requires more water than vegetables.

The report added to recent UN warnings about the downsides of developing biofuels to replace heavily polluting hydrocarbons as an energy source.

A lot of water is needed to grow crops like corn and sugar cane to produce ethanol.


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