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Holy See's Update of 'Water, an Essential Element for Life'

3/21/2006 - 6:30 AM PST

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"For the Promotion of a Hydro-solidarity"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2006 (ZENIT) - Here is the text of an update on the 2003 document "Water, an Essential Element for Life," prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The Holy See presented the text at the 4th World Water Forum, being held in Mexico City through Wednesday. The forum is an initiative of the World Water Council, an organization that aims to raise public awareness to questions concerning water resources.

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Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Vatican City

Water, an Essential Element for Life: An Update

Introduction

In 2003, the Holy See delegation to the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto prepared a document on water entitled "Water, an Essential Element for Life." The text noted and highlighted ethical considerations which must underlie any reflection on the issue of water. The document, starting from the point that water plays a central and critical role in all aspects of life, analyzed water as a social good, an economic good and an environmental good while briefly treating a limited number of other issues impacting water. In concluding, the text highlighted the central role of the human being in caring for the environment and its constitutive elements.

Since 2003 the awareness and attention on the issue of water and sanitation has increased. There is greater recognition that water, particularly access to safe water, is at the root of some of society's pressing concerns. Today common agreement exists that the survival of humanity and all species on earth depends to a great degree on the fate of water.

The 4th World Water Forum, organized by the World Water Council together with the Government of Mexico, presents an opportunity to reflect attentively on the issue of water. Access to safe water and sanitation is important for the human family and thus of direct concern to the Holy See and the Catholic Church. The Holy See has chosen to present this update to its initial observations contributed on the occasion of the World Water Forum in Kyoto.

I. Water: A concern for all

"Today the means of mass communication have made our planet smaller, rapidly narrowing the distances between different peoples and cultures."[1] This "togetherness," our ability to know almost instantly about the needs of others, challenges us to share their situation in life, even their difficulties. Despite the great advances made in science and technology, each day we see how much suffering there is in the world due to poverty, both material and spiritual. The times call for a new readiness to assist our neighbors in need.[2]

The problem of water scarcity and water deprivation is experienced most dramatically by men and women living in poverty and often in the poorest countries. However, the concept of "family of nations" recalls that responsibility for the destiny of the less favored countries rests also with those more richly blessed. In a family, every member is responsible for each and every other member, the suffering of one becomes the suffering of all. The many children who die each year in poor countries due to the lack of access to safe water and sanitation are a loss for the future of the whole world and for humanity as a whole.

The challenge faced today in the water and sanitation sector is also an opportunity, both from a social as well as an economic perspective. Properly addressed, this challenge has the possibility to unlock huge potential and to transform countless lives. Investments for safe water and sanitation can, in their turn, be an engine for accelerated economic growth, sustainable development, improved health and reduced poverty.

The requirements of developing countries in the water sector are at times so great that they cannot be resolved by developing countries themselves. Developing countries require the necessary know-how and technology along with developmental assistance of a scale sufficient to address major projects needed to guarantee access to safe water and sanitation for present and future generations. Development efforts in poor countries risk being in vain without a deep and worldwide engagement in favor of increased access to safe water and sanitation. In an authentic spirit of solidarity, rich countries need to foster increased assistance to be placed at the service of the poor.

II: Water: Fundamental good of God's creation

Water is a natural resource vital for the survival of humanity and all species on earth. As a good of creation, water is destined for all human beings and their communities. God intended the earth and all it contains for the use of all, so that all created things would be shared fairly by humankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity.[3]

Human beings, and the communities in which they ...

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