II. The issue of water [27 – 31]




I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Papa Francisco's 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

27. Other indicators of the present situation
have to do with the depletion of natural resources.
We all know that it is not possible to sustain
the present level of consumption in developed
countries and wealthier sectors of society, where
the habit of wasting and discarding has reached
unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the
planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and
we still have not solved the problem of poverty.

28. Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary
importance, since it is indispensable for human
life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic
ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary
for health care, agriculture and industry. Water
supplies used to be relatively constant, but now
in many places demand exceeds the sustainable
supply, with dramatic consequences in the short
and long term. Large cities dependent on significant
supplies of water have experienced periods
of shortage, and at critical moments these have
not always been administered with sufficient
oversight and impartiality. Water poverty especially
affects Africa where large sectors of the
population have no access to safe drinking water
or experience droughts which impede agricultural
production. Some countries have areas rich in
water while others endure drastic scarcity.

29. One particularly serious problem is the
quality of water available to the poor. Every
day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the
spread of water-related diseases, including those
caused by microorganisms and chemical substances.
Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate
hygiene and water supplies, are a significant
cause of suffering and of infant mortality.
Underground water sources in many places are
threatened by the pollution produced in certain
mining, farming and industrial activities, especially
in countries lacking adequate regulation or
controls. It is not only a question of industrial
waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly
used in many places of the world, continue
to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.

30. Even as the quality of available water is
constantly diminishing, in some places there is a
growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize
this resource, turning it into a commodity subject
to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable
water is a basic and universal human right, since it
is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition
for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has
a grave social debt towards the poor who lack
access to drinking water, because they are denied
the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity
. This debt can be paid partly by an increase
in funding to provide clean water and sanitary
services among the poor. But water continues
to be wasted, not only in the developed world
but also in developing countries which possess
it in abundance. This shows that the problem of
water is partly an educational and cultural issue,
since there is little awareness of the seriousness
of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.

31. Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase
in the cost of food and the various products
which depend on its use. Some studies warn
that an acute water shortage may occur within a
few decades unless urgent action is taken. The
environmental repercussions could affect billions
of people; it is also conceivable that the
control of water by large multinational businesses
may become a major source of conflict in this
century.23

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