On Monday 21 March 2022, Macky Sall, current president of the African Union, opened the 9th World Water Forum in Diamniadio, near Dakar. In his opening remarks, the head of the supreme African organisation sounded the alarm on the scarcity of water resources in the world and particularly in Africa.
“Twenty-five years after its first edition in Marrakech, the World Water Forum is once again being held on African soil, at a time when the scarcity of water resources and environmental degradation continue to worsen,” said Macky Sall at the opening ceremony. This World Forum, which will continue until 26 March 2022 on the theme of “water security for peace and development”, brought together several heads of state and government. They include the Congolese Denis Sassou Nguesso, the Bissau-Guinean Umaro Sissoco Embalo, the Ethiopian Sahlé-Work Zewde and the Mauritanian Mohamed Ould Ghazouani. In addition, Naruhito, the Emperor of Japan, spoke via video conference. Similarly, heads of international institutions and organisations such as the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay; David Malpass of the World Bank; Akinwumi Adenisa of the African Development Bank and many others attended this large-scale meeting-debate.
Alert on the scarcity of water resources
According to the current chairperson of the African Union, the indicators in the UN water report, published in March 2021, are not reassuring. Indeed, two out of five people in the world live in areas where water is scarce. According to the report, women and girls spend over 200 million hours a day fetching water. What is worse is that 2.1 billion people are forced to consume polluted water while 80% of wastewater is discharged untreated into the environment, endangering the health and lives of 4.5 billion people.
“There is every reason to believe that if nothing is done, the situation will get worse and worse,” the President said, assuring that the 9th World Water Forum was “an opportunity to sound the alarm on the gravity of the situation. This situation, occurring in a context of insecurity, is giving much thought to the world’s leaders. While we struggle for peace, the availability of hydrocarbons; the lack of water resources adds to the list.
Unesco’s call for an ultimate perspective
The 9th World Water Forum coincides with the publication of a UNESCO report highlighting the potential of groundwater. According to this study, these waters have the potential to generate social, economic and environmental benefits, provided they are managed in a sustainable manner. In this 272-page document entitled Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible, the UN organisation explains that groundwater accounts for almost 99% of the Earth’s freshwater supply.
Nevertheless, Unesco deplores the fact that this potential “too often goes unnoticed or is ignored, leaving many [roches réservoirs] aquifers without adequate protection” Yet these waters provide half of the volume of water withdrawn in the world, according to the institution. To remedy the water scarcity problem the world is facing, groundwater could offer “solutions to mitigate climate change”, according to the report, which states that aquifers “have a unique buffering capacity to limit the impact of climate variations”. Scheduled to last a few more days, this meeting is expected to provide solutions for sustainable access to water resources in the world.