NAIROBI, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- The World Bank on Wednesday urged countries to improve their water quality as part of a strategy to achieving economic growth.
World Bank Group President David Malpass said deteriorating water quality is stalling economic growth, worsening health conditions, reducing food production, and exacerbating poverty in many countries.
"Governments must take urgent actions to help tackle water pollution so that countries can grow faster in equitable and environmentally sustainable ways," said Malpass in a statement released in Nairobi.
He said the world faces an invisible crisis of water quality that is eliminating one-third of potential economic growth in heavily polluted regions.
According to a World Bank report on water quality, countries must move faster and put in place environmental policies and standards to safeguard water treatment and management.
It calls for accurate monitoring of pollution loads, effective enforcement systems and the involvement of the private sector in the management of water treatment infrastructure.
"The governments should also put in place structures that could enable water consumers receive accurate information to inspire them to engage with water service providers," says the report.
The report reveals that in Sub Saharan Africa alone, 20 countries face the largest losses due to impact of salinity in agriculture.
It said the release of nitrogen into the water also poses a risk large enough to increase childhood stunting by 8.4 to 11.4 percent and decrease later-life earnings by 2.9 to 3.9 percent.
The report finds that the losses are clustered in the agricultural regions of coastal Morocco, Libya and Tunisia, the Nile River delta in Egypt, and agricultural areas of Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria.
It was compiled through monitoring stations, remote sensing technology and machine learning and revealed that as salinity in water and soil increases due to intense droughts, storm surges and rising water extraction, agricultural yields fall.
"The world is losing enough food to saline water each year to feed 170 million people," said the report.
It says that each year, about 1,000 new chemicals enter the environment and that 80 percent of the world's waste water is released to the environment without treatment.
The report says that whereas synthetic fertilizers have transformed agriculture and livelihoods, they have has also claimed lives.
It reveals that about 30-50 percent of nitrogen applied to soils leaches into rivers and the air, suffocating aquatic life, worsening climate change and shortening lives through contaminated waters.
The report calls for immediate global, national, and local-level attention to these dangers which face both developed and developing countries.