Water crisis cuts economic growth potential, says WB
Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) - August 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Economies experiencing water crises and high levels of water pollution may miss out on a third of their potential economic growth, a new report by the World Bank said.

In a report titled “Quality Unknown: The Invisible Water Crisis,” the multilateral bank said a creeping water crisis is now observed worldwide, with some areas registering high levels of bacteria, sewage and chemicals in urban water systems.

“The report finds that a lack of clean water limits economic growth by one third. It calls for immediate global, national and local-level attention to these dangers which face both developed and developing countries,” World Bank said.

It noted, for instance, that in a mix of both advanced and developing economies, the level of nitrates in drinking water “often cross conventional safety thresholds” because of high concentrations in surface water bodies as well as contamination of ground water.

These include water supply in India, Japan, Lebanon, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Turkey and Gaza.

The World Bank noted that most of the nitrate contamination of water bodies are caused by nitrogen, which, applied as fertilizer to crops, make its way into rivers, lakes and oceans where it transforms into such.

The study noted that early exposure of children to nitrates affects their growth and brain development, impacting their health and adult earning potential.

It also noted that the combination of bacteria, sewage, chemicals, and plastics can suck oxygen from water supplies, harming environmental and human well-being.

The report also finds that as salinity in water and soil increases due to more intense droughts, storm surges and rising water extraction, agricultural yields fall.

“Clean water is a key factor for economic growth. Deteriorating water quality is stalling economic growth, worsening health conditions, reducing food production, and exacerbating poverty in many countries,”  World Bank Group president David Malpass said.

World Bank thus recommends a set of actions that countries can take to improve water quality.

These include: environmental policies and standards; accurate monitoring of pollution loads; effective enforcement systems; water treatment infrastructure supported with incentives for private investment; and reliable, accurate information disclosure to households to inspire citizen engagement.

Policy makers and urban planners are also urged to carefully choose sites for expansion of cities and “attempt to limit the footprint that cities have on water quality.”

Likewise, in the agriculture sector, governments are encouraged to address the deepening environmental footprint of the agricultural sector especially in intensively farmed areas.

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