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Asparagus a threat to water security

21 October 2010

by a staff reporter

THE demand in Britain for delic­acies such as asparagus is threat­ening the water security of millions of people in developing countries, a new report says.

The study, Drop by Drop, led by the international development char­ity Progressio, investigated the sustainability of the world’s water supply. It found evidence that, in some countries, the production of goods for consumers in the UK is lead­ing to social, health, and eco­nomic problems for the local com­munity.

The report, published last month, highlights the case of asparagus grown in Ica Valley, Peru, a large pro­portion of which is sold in the UK, in a trade worth £149 million a year to the Peruvian economy. A lack of consideration of the long-term sustainability of water resources is threatening the water supply of a third of a million people — and may leave some of the region’s inhab­itants without water in as little as 25 years.

Progressio, the Peruvian Centre for Rural Development, and the research and advocacy group Water Witness International say that water levels in the Ica Valley are falling dramatically. In some cases, people in the area are surviving on as little as ten litres of water per person per day, compared with the 50 litres specified by the World Health Org­anisation as the minimum needed for basic health mainten-ance.

Last week, the UN Human Rights Committee announced that the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties, and is therefore legally binding. The UN’s independent expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanita­tion, Catarina de Albuquerque, said: “This landmark decision has the potential to change the lives of the billions of human beings who still lack access to water and sani­tation.”

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