Hundreds Of Millions Face Health Risk As Water Pollution Rises Across Three Continents


Water pollution has risen across three continents, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases like cholera and typhoid, United Nations Environment warns today.

The worrying rise in the pollution of surface waters in Asia, Africa and Latin America also threatens to damage vital sources of food and harm the continents’ economies, says UN Environment in its latest report, Snapshot of the World’s Water Quality. By making access to quality water even more difficult, water pollution also threatens to breed further inequality, hitting the most vulnerable – women, children and the poor – the hardest.

Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist of UN Environment, said, “The increasing amount of wastewater being dumped into our surface waters is deeply troubling. Access to quality water is essential for human health and human development. Both are at risk if we fail to stop the pollution.

“Luckily it is possible to begin restoring rivers that have already been heavily polluted and there is clearly still time to prevent even more rivers from becoming contaminated. It is vital the world works together to combat this growing menace.”

Population growth, increased economic activity, the expansion and intensification of agriculture, and an increase in the amount of untreated sewage discharged into rivers and lakes are the main reasons behind the troubling rise in surface water pollution in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Pathogen pollution and organic pollution rose in more than 50 per cent of river stretches from 1990-2010 on all three continents, while salinity pollution has risen in nearly one third, the UN report finds.