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eNews from Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Prize-Winning Water Scientist Slams Biofuels, Urges Vegetarianism

AP WorldStream English (all) -- August 18, 2008 -- Stockholm, Sweden -- The winner of the Stockholm Water Prize criticized the growing use of biofuels Monday and urged people to eat less meat to help cut the amount of water used in food production.

British professor John Anthony Allan said the effect of the growing use of biofuels "is too frightening to even begin to realize."

Allan, 71, of King's College, London, was awarded the 2008 water prize for his concept of "virtual water," which measures the amount of water used in industrial and food production.

He said meat consumption was bad for the environment.

"Non-vegetarians consume five cubic meters (176 cubic feet) of water per day; your bath is a tiny puddle compared to that. It is the water for food that is the big problem," Allan told The Associated Press. "Be rational and eat less meat."

He was speaking on the sidelines of the World Water Week, a conference attended by 2,500 scientists, politicians and officials from 140 countries. Allan will receive the US$150,000 (€95,000) cash award at a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall on Thursday.

A report unveiled earlier Monday showed that people in developing countries are facing growing health risks caused by the widespread use of raw sewage to irrigate crops.

The International Water Management Institute, which published the findings, said that more than half of farmland near 70 percent of cities in Third World countries is watered with sewage that threatens to spread epidemics.

"Irrigating with wastewater isn't a rare practice limited to a few of the poorest countries," said Liqa Raschid-Sally, a researcher at the institute. "It's a widespread phenomenon, occurring on 20 million hectares (50 million acres) across the developing world, especially in Asian countries, like China, India and Vietnam, but also around nearly every city of sub-Saharan Africa and in many Latin American cities."

An increasing demand for water and food has spurred the use of sewage to water crops but in many cases is the only form of irrigation for farmers who lack clean water, the study showed. It is mostly used to produce vegetables and cereals, and poses a major health risk to consumers of uncooked vegetables.

However, the report said sewage also provides a livelihood for many by making possible the cultivation of land, and it recommends an increase in purifying water supplies rather than a total ban on the use of wastewater.

Conference participants also stressed the need to increase transparency in the water production chain.

Up to 45 percent "of costs for providing clean water around the world go toward corruption," Transparency International global programs director Christiaan Poorter told The Associated Press.

Author: MALIN RISING, Associated Press Writer

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