Water Pollution in River Basins: River Basin 3 - Volta

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Main messages • Good water quality, together with an adequate quantity of water, are necessary for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for health, food security and water security. Therefore it is of concern that water pollution has worsened since the 1990s in the majority of rivers in Latin America, Africa and Asia. • It is important that actions to protect and restore water quality are linked to efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. • Severe pathogen pollution already affects around one-third of all river stretches in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In addition to the health risk of drinking contaminated water, many people are also at risk of disease by coming into contact with polluted surface waters for bathing, clothes cleaning and other household activities. The number of rural people at risk in this way may range into the hundreds of millions on these continents. • Severe organic pollution already affects around one-seventh of all river stretches in Latin America, Africa and Asia and is of concern to the state of the freshwater fishery and therefore to food security and livelihoods. • Severe and moderate salinity pollution affects around one-tenth of all river stretches in Latin America, Africa and Asia and is of concern because it impairs the use of river water for irrigation, industry and other uses. • The immediate cause of increasing water pollution is the growth in wastewater loadings to rivers and lakes. Ultimate causes are population growth, increased economic activity, intensification and expansion of agriculture, and increased sewerage hook-ups with no or a low level of treatment. • Among the groups most vulnerable to water quality deterioration in developing countries are women because of their frequent usage of surface water for household activities, children because of their play activities in local surface waters and because they often have the task of collecting water for the household, low income rural people who consume fish as an important source of protein, and low income fishers and fishery workers who rely on the freshwater fishery for their livelihood. • Although water pollution is serious and getting worse in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, the majority of rivers on these three continents are still in good condition, and there are great opportunities for short-cutting further pollution and restoring the rivers that are polluted. A mix of management and technical options supported by good governance will be needed for these tasks. • A wide range of management and technical options are available to developing countries for water pollution control. Many of these options were not available or used by developed countries when confronted with similarly deteriorating water quality decades ago. • Monitoring and assessment of water quality are essential for understanding the intensity and scope of the global water quality challenge. Yet the coverage of data in many parts of the world is inadequate for this purpose. For example, the density of water quality measuring stations in Africa is one hundred times lower than the density used elsewhere in the world for monitoring. An urgent task is therefore to expand the collection, distribution, and analysis of water quality data through the international GEMS/Water Programme and other activities. Hot spot areas of water pollution identified in this report can be used to set priorities for data collection.

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