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May / June 2003

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OPINION - Confusing Cause and Effect


Founder : Len Abrams
Water Policy International


Rio Earth Summit
Agenda 21, Chapter 18 
- Water -

- a global effort that aims to provide water services and hygiene training to everyone who lacks them by 2015.

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Carry that load - Every day

Taking South Africa as an example and using very rough figures just to illustrate the point, it is estimated that about 16 million people have no operating water supply with their source of water an average distance of 1 km away. If the average household is 5 persons that makes 3.2 million households. If an average of 2 trips to fetch water are made each day at a conservative round trip distance of 2kms each, that makes a distance of 12.8 million km walked each day, day after day, by South African women, just to fetch water. If the average distance to the moon is 384 400 km, South African women walk the equivalent of to the moon and back 16 times a day just to fetch water (or 319 times round the earth's equator). If each trip takes an average of 1 hour to walk to the place, wait in a queue, collect the water and walk back, 6.4 million trips take 6.4 million hours a day - at 8 hours a day, 21 working days a month, 11 months a year, this represents nearly 3500 working years each day fetching water. This is just South Africa - if you think of the rest of Africa, it is staggering - and this for only about 10 litres of water each and usually of suspect quality. (These are estimated figures but they are of the right order of magnitude)


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