President János Áder said at the opening ceremony of the international Budapest Water Summit on Tuesday that “the drama of scarce water, too much water and polluted water is unfolding before our eyes”.
Áder added that this was “the drama of humanity and the logical consequence of our irresponsibility.”
He said the gathering in Budapest was about trying to prevent water crises which endangered safe food supplies, disrupted energy production and the development of cities while causing severe health problems.
The UN’s report published ahead of the last summit warns that some 700 million people might be displaced due to water shortages by 2030, Áder noted.
The president said the main question was how to prevent a water crisis where this was still possible and how to adapt in places where there were already crises.
Although Hungarian water supplies are 11 times over the water scarcity limit, ten percent of the country is vulnerable to desertification, the president warned. Water management efforts will have to be doubled in vulnerable regions, he said.
Water preservation, the utilisation of precipitation and waste water, and irrigation development will “consume a lot of taxpayer money”, he said.
Hungary will also have to upgrade its dam and levee system which, in their current form, are not equipped to deal with the extreme floods expected in the region, he said.
Hungary currently cleans some 90 percent of its waste water, he said, with “rivers leaving the country cleaner than they arrived,” he said.
On the sidelines of the conference, an exhibition is held showcasing innovative Hungarian solutions to the water crisis, he said.
The Budapest Water Summit is running through to Thursday and is expected to attract some 2,300 participants from a record 118 nations. Over 30 ministerial delegations, as well as the head of international organisations and multilateral financial institutions and water experts will discuss ways to prevent a global water crisis.
In a video message to the summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said access to clean water was a human right.
The UN is committed to ensuring the necessary amount of clean water for everyone, he said.
Currently 90 percent of the world’s population suffers from flooding, 40 percent from water scarcity and some 80 percent from untreated waste water, Guterres said. He called for cooperation to solve global water-related problems, and noted that some of the solutions, such as nature protection strategies and desalination technologies, were already at hand.