Pollution and How It Affects Water

Global Crisis

Few cities in developing countries have adequate sewerage systems, and they often are limited to more advantaged areas. Purification and recycling of wastewater in sewage treatment plants is rare. In Asia, for example, treatment plants process only an estimated 35% of wastewater, and in Latin America and the Caribbean, about 14%. Worldwide, two-thirds of the sewage from urban areas is pumped untreated into lakes, rivers, and coastal waters. Even fewer people have access to improved sanitation facilities than to improved water supplies. While the numbers with access increased slightly between 1990 and 2000, the increase only just kept pace with population growth.

According to WHO, nearly two-thirds of urban populations in developing countries do not have adequate sanitation in that they lack a flush toilet, a sanitary latrine, or a pit that can be covered over. While conditions may be better in developed countries if such conditions were to be neglected the results would be a sharp incline in the same diseases now seen across the world. About 2.3 billion people worldwide suffer from water-related diseases that are linked to water pollution. Water-related diseases kill millions of people each year, prevent millions more from leading healthy lives, and undermine family and health development efforts.

Nearly half of urban residents in Africa, Asia, and Latin America suffer from one or more of the main diseases associated with the inadequate provision of water and sanitation. Water-related diseases include diarrheal diseases, schistosomiasis, trachoma, ascariasis, trichuriasis, and hookworm disease. Diarrheal disease is a major source of water-borne maladies, responsible for 90% of the health problems related to water supply and sanitation. An estimated 4 billion cases of the diarrheal disease occur every year, causing 3 to 4 million deaths, mostly among children. Other diseases such as cholera can become endemic when there is poor food hygiene, lack of sanitation, or unsafe drinking water. Such sad results can only be averted when the pollution of source waters can be stopped and the water supply then adequately examined and treated accordingly.

Water-borne epidemics and health hazards in the aquatic environment are mainly due to a lack of education and improper management of water resources. Pollution of drinking water trace back to contamination by human and animal waste, fertilizer, pesticides, industrial waste, and improper disposal of hazardous waste. You can see that these are mainly human-induced problems. These problems can be reduced or even prevented but it will take the combined effort of whole communities and society at large to proactively protect our water resources. Hopefully one day everyone in the entire world will have access to clean drinking water.

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