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Include water crisis in Paris climate talks, leaders urge

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – The increasing scarcity of water resources around the world is a major issue that should be part of the upcoming global climate talks, leaders said in a gathering in this city.

Water is often taken for granted by people, but this precious liquid may ultimately lead to civil and political unrest that could lead to World War III, Manuel Gerardo Pedro Pulgar-Vidal Otalora, Peruvian Minister of State for Environment, said at the World Water Week in Stockholm.

“Water should be raised in the debate in the upcoming COP21 in Paris in December as this is a vital and very crucial concern for people’s survival,” said Pulgar, who was also the president of last year's UN climate change conference in Peru (COP20).

Data from United Nations-Water (UN Water) showed that of the world’s 1.29 billion people living in poverty, about 70% live in rural developing countries where agriculture is the main source of living. Small farms provide up to 80% of food production in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Agriculture accounts for 70% freshwater withdrawals. The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and will require a 10% increase in water for agricultural uses.

It is predicted that by 2025, at least 1.8 billion people will be facing total water scarcity which might lead to unrest.

Pulgar said the water crisis should be included under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a priority agenda.

“In 2016, it is the year of new implementation of climate agreement after the COP21 climate talks in Paris. And water should be included as critical issue. It is our fault that we neglected water and focused on forest and land as affected by climate change. There is a relationship between climate, water and science, food security and ecosystem development," he said.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said Sweden is committed to help address the growing demand of for clean water and for water sustainability. “Water is keys to development, food security and global success,” he said.

“Demand for water uses for drinking, irrigation, and industrial use will be increasing, unfortunately...clean water does not reach developing and emerging nations where a number of poor people live,” Löfven said.

He said that MDGs were achieved 5 years ahead of target but increase for water competition is neglected.

“Water [resources are] severely affected by climate change. No country can escape the impact of climate change but the poor will suffer the most and we hope that it will be addressed in the upcoming UNFCC COP21 climate talk in Paris,” Löfven said.

He said that Sweden is committed to provide 1% of its overseas development assistance (ODA) to sustainable development projects.

Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak lauded Löfven for committing to help and address the impact of climate change.

“It is...ironic that water is threatening our existence. The rising sea water is already coming into our homes. Scientists said that by the end of the century the Marshall Islands will vanish from earth because of sea level rise due to climate change,” Loeak said at a high level panel discussion.

Aside from sea level rise, Loeak said that two years ago, Marshall  suffered severe drought that prompted them to declare a state of emergency.

“Climate disaster is threatening our very own survival. The Paris climate agreement is very important for the survival of the world. It is therefore imperative that in any sustainable development agenda, water sustainability should be part of [it],” he said.

On the opening day of World Water Week, over a hundred participants from 150 countries walked together for global water sustainability to protect the earth’s most precious liquid.

More than 3,000 participants around the world composed of the world’s top leaders, policy makers, scientists, investors, academe, media, non-governmental organizations, and stakeholders met in Stockholm for the week-long summit.

World Water Week is the "leading annual global meeting place on water and development issues," and is organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute. This year's World Water Week, held August 23 to 28 in Stockholm, had the theme "Water For Development." – Rappler.com