23 August 2015
The UNESCO International Hydrology Programme (IHP) launched a three-year project to strengthen scientific research about emerging pollutants in water and wastewater, and to improve awareness of wastewater management in developing countries.
The Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) is fully supporting the three-year project, which is implemented under the IHP International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ). The project was launched at a side event that took place during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden on 23 August 2015.
UNESCO highlighted the need for Member States to monitor emerging pollutants in water, assess their potential human health and environmental risks, and manage their disposal. UNESCO stressed that the water quality project responds to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all), in particular the targets on ensuring safe drinking water, minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, and improving wastewater management and the safe reuse of wastewater.
UNESCO defines emerging pollutants as any synthetic or naturally-occurring chemical or micro-organism that is not commonly monitored or regulated, and is thought to have harmful impacts on human health and the environment, possibly including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides, industrial and household chemicals, metals, surfectants, industrial additives and solvents. Their potential impacts could include chronic toxicity, endocrine disruption in humans and aquatic wildlife, and development of bacterial pathogen resistance.
At the launch event, researchers presented case studies of emerging pollutant impacts from: pharmaceutical pollution in Nigeria and the Baltic Sea region; persistent inorganic and organic pollutants (POPs) in the hydrological system of the Keoladeo National Park in India; organochlorine pesticides in Yucatán, Mexico; and contaminants in irrigation water in the Oued Souhil area, Nabeul, Tunisia. A study of rapid risk assessment based on modeling the chemical fate of emerging pollutants in waterways of Africa, Asia and Latin America was also presented.