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The Town of the XXI Century 

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The Town of the XXI Century
Series of reports on ecological situation in Central Asia

THE SOURCE OF LIFE ON THE PLANET

Neither people, nor plants, nor animals can live without water. To preserve the health conditions each of more than 5 billion people living on Earth has to consume - together with various drinks and food - about 2,5 liters of water every day.

Luckily, there is plenty of water on Earth. In accordance with the pictures taken from space our beautiful blue planet had to be called not Earth, but Water. If we evenly spread all the water to cover all the surface of the planet, we shall get the world ocean about 2,5 kilometers deep. And it is possible to place all the land on the territory of Pacific ocean and there will still be some space left.

Water is the most abundant of all of the Earth's substances. It covers more than 70% of the world's surface and it is volume approximately equals to 1,4 billion cubic kilometers. At the same time only an insignificant part of 0,003 percent is used. The largest portion of water - about 97 percent - is located in seas and oceans, but this water is not useable for many purposes since high concentration of salt is present in the water. Out of the remaining 3 percent almost all water - about 87 percent - is captured by polar ice and Earth's depths.

To go ahead without any stops

The history of water distribution in developed countries is a history of constant evolution from individual water supply and sewage systems to city-wide and regional ones. The history tells us that to solve current problems of water supply there are no technical obstacles. In addition, changes in technology are always accompanied by changes in organizational, legal and financial spheres.

Countries passing through the transitional period have the opportunity to learn the lessons of the past and to create systems match the modern requirements, which will allow to avoid mistakes made by the now developed countries leading to accidents related to the systems and consequent ecological problems. The Center "National Plan of Environmental Protection Actions for Stable Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan" (NPDOOS/UR RK) works in the Republic of Kazakhstan. The spectrum of its actions is quite wide and includes setting up partnership relations in the society accounting for the interests of all sides to develop the ecological policy, harmonizing the national legislation with the international legislative acts governing environmental protection, attracting new partners from within Kazakhstan and from abroad to develop and coordinate joint ecological projects. Implementation of the program is related to gathering and processing national ecological data received with the assistance of local consultants from regions of Kazakhstan. About 65 specialists, not including the staff of the center, are participating in NPDOOS/UR RK activities on a regular basis. In autumn of 1997 the Center organized a pilot seminar covering ecological problems of the regions, and at the Republican-wide seminar in July, the main priority ecological problems of the Republic of Kazakhstan were identified, including the ones related to water conditions: disturbed hydro regime of the rivers, pollution of bodies of water by sewage.

A lot of water and no water

There is enough fresh drinkable water on Earth, but it is distributed unequally. His is the first of the major problems. For example, in accordance with scientific estimates in Asia there are 36 percent of the world supply of water contained in lakes and rivers, but at the same time 60 percent of the world population live in this part of the world. On the other hand, all over the world 200 river basins, the square of which exceeds half of the square of land are situated in two or three countries and only 0,4 percent of the world's population lives not far from rivers and can use their water. Rain water is distributed also unequally. In some regions of the world there are almost no rains, while other regions, though not always dry, often suffer from droughts.

Activities of the people often lead to changes in climates and this influences the amount of precipitation. The soil dies because of dying woods, destruction of crop lands and pastures. When this happens, the land starts to reflect more sun rays back into the atmosphere. As a result the temperature of the atmosphere increases and less rains fall on the ground.

There is not enough water in many many places. The lack of water poses threats to economies and people's health in more than 80 countries. 40 percent of the Earth's population - more than 2 billion people do not have access to clean water and do not have sewage systems. The demand for water increases everywhere. In the course of this century the consumption of water has at least doubled, in the next twenty years it can double again.

The population is growing and the demand is growing too

The unequal distribution of water supply is made worse by the second problem: the growth of the population forces the demand for water to increase, too. All over the world the amount of precipitation stays more or less the same and the number of people in some regions grows rapidly. If the number of people increases, this requires not only more fresh water, but also more food. And production of food also consumes a lot of water. At the same time agriculture is forced to share water with the industry. But since cities and industrial installations are growing, agriculture often does not get enough.

Growth of the population is mainly concentrated in developing countries, where even now it often happens that there is not enough water. Unfortunately, these countries have less financial and technological capabilities than other countries to tackle these problems.

Pollution

The first two problems: lack of water and growth of the world's population causes the development of the third problem - the problem of pollution. Annually more than 450 billion cubic meters of household and industrial wastes are thrown into the rivers of the world. Many rivers are polluted all the way along their lengths.

In the developing countries the unprocessed wastes are thrown into almost every large river. In Russia check-ups of the water showed that eight out of ten samples contained dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria. In the developed countries the wastes are not thrown directly into the rivers and underground waters, but still the water is often polluted by poisons contained in agricultural fertilizers. Almost every country having access to an open sea throws unprocessed wastes not far from the seashore, in shallow waters, which causes the beaches to be polluted.

As a result of using unclean water one-third of the humanity suffers from diseases and has poor health conditions, the other third faces the threat posed by chemicals, thrown into the water, the effects of which can be identified only in the future.

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