By Marcelo Kawanami
I’m very excited with the opportunity to write on Gamiing’s blog. As my first post, I would like to address a topic which is close to Gamiing organization and also to me, as I’m currently living in Latin America.
With 500 million inhabitants or 8% of the world population distributed in 20 countries, Latin American region possesses 31% of the freshwater resource in the world. In comparison, Asia, where 60% of the world population lives, only 28% of the freshwater resource is available.
The growth in demand for water, due to the economic growth and the increasing urbanization process in Latin America, exposes the weakness of countries in the region of managing their water resources. By the end of this year, Latin American countries are set to invest billions not only to increase and improve drinking water supply from rivers and lakes but also from oceans.
In some countries the immediate need to increase supply of water leaves no other option to political and industrial leaders but to invest in seawater desalination treatment plants. Most traditional water sources in the region, such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater are polluted as a result of decades of state, public and industrial mismanagement. Their revitalization will be done during the next decades and will need billions of dollars in investments.
Brazil for example, under a Program of Accelerated Growth (PAC), allocated $25 billion to guarantee that everyone in Brazil will have access to safe drinking water and access to basic wastewater sanitation by 2015. Other countries have the similar objectives. Finance from the United Nations, the Banco Interamericano de Desarollo and other institutions are available to help reach the MDG.
Latin America may well be water rich but economic and urban growth from the last two decades has polluted the traditional freshwater resources of many countries. The priority for governments in the region is to meet the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) target and increase the access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The goal for most governments in the region is to meet the basic requirements for water and wastewater treatment.
However, countries like Peru and Chile are investing in desalination to guarantee an immediate increase in water supply and support economic and urban growth. Latin America is thirsty for more water. Some industries and urban areas simply cannot afford to just sit back and wait for improvements in water management to take place. As with the examples in Chile and Peru, investment in desalination to quench the region’s thirst is a solution that cannot be delayed.