The World Chlorine Council & Sustainable Development - Working to Balance the Environment, Social Responsibility, and the Economy
The world has declared its sustainable development priorities for the next decade. One of the top goals is to reduce by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water (more than one billion) and sanitation (more than 3 billion) by 2015. Critical to achieving this goal, one that may be a bit of a surprise to those who have been active in environmental and sustainability debates, is chlorine chemistry.
The drive to provide safe drinking water and sanitation to these underserved populations may appear to be a daunting task, but it is also an urgently compelling one. Today, by World Health Organization estimates, more than 6,000 people die each day from the effects of water-borne diarrhoeal disease. Most of these are children under the age of five. Collectively, lack of safe water and sanitation constitute one of the greatest causes of morbidity and mortality through diarrhoeal disease, representing more than 5% of the global disease burden.
Consider the remarkable set of criteria that must be met to effectively respond to the need for safe water and sanitation. The solution requires a disinfectant that is broadly effective and proven. It must be portable enough to be delivered to remote areas. It must be simple enough to use in the absence of municipal infrastructure, but flexible enough to work in a wide range of local conditions. It must allow users to increase their level of sophistication as resources permit. And beyond all of this, it must be affordable, as the populations in greatest need generally live on less than $1 per day.
So why chlorine? However intractable the above set of conditions may seem, chlorine chemistry is remarkably suited to meet the challenge. In its various forms, chlorine has been the disinfectant of choice in the developed world for over a century. Chlorine eradicates pathogens almost instantly, and continues to disinfect as water is stored, or distributed through pipes, valves and taps.
And while municipal treatment systems are the optimal choice, they are years away for rural and poor communities. One of the most important characteristics of chlorine is that it can be used at the household level, as diluted bleach or tablets, providing an immediate life-or-death intervention for millions. And, costing less that US $4 a year per family, it is a solution within the reach of even the impoverished.
"Disinfection of water at the point of use is consistently the most cost-effective intervention." The United Nations World Water Development Report, 2003.
The chlorine-producing industry has committed to playing its role in a responsible and sustainable manner through its global organisation, the World Chlorine Council (WCC). As part of its societal commitment to sustainable development, the WCC is working through humanitarian partnerships with other organisations to help bring safe water and sanitation to areas in need. Most recently WCC participated in the formation of the United Nations/World Health Organization International Network to Promote Safe Household Water Treatment and Storage, launched at the 2003 World Water Forum. This public/private partnership of international organisations, governments, NGOs and the private sector will seek to implement household-based water treatment and storage for low and middle-income populations, with a particular emphasis to assisting children, the poor, refugees and internally displaced persons.
Another example of the industry partnering to achieve humanitarian goals is the West Africa Water Initiative, or WAWI (www.waterforthepoor.org). In conjunction with World Vision, the Hilton Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, UNICEF and other partners, WCC will be part of an effort to drill wells and provide sanitation for 500,000 people in the arid regions of Ghana, Mali and Niger by 2008. The WAWI initiative was launched at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development as a model of the United Nation's emphasis on "non-traditional" partnerships to be the key on implementing the goals of the Summit.
The WCC has declared nine public commitments to guide the industry's path toward sustainability. These commitments, and the global performance of the chlorine-producing industry with respect to social, environmental and economic issues, are detailed in a public report (The World Chlorine Council and Sustainable Development at www.worldchlorine.com). This report also details challenges specific to chlorine chemistry, and how the industry is responding, including dramatic reductions in emissions.
WCC looks forward to continuing to be a contributor to meeting the goals of sustainable development. We remain committed to the responsible management of our chemistry, and to broadly sharing best practices among all producers. The benefits of this chemistry are far too important to do otherwise.
For more information:
World Chlorine Council
+ 32 2 676 7350