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Updated: March 22, 2011 20:32 IST

FAO for rainwater harvesting to feed bulging urban population

PTI
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Girls fetch water from a tap in Mumbai on Tuesday, as the world observes Water Day today.
PTI Girls fetch water from a tap in Mumbai on Tuesday, as the world observes Water Day today.

As the world’s urban population continues to swell, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Tuesday stressed on tapping rainwater harvesting in cities for urban agriculture.

“Within the next 20 years, 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities, with most urban expansions taking place in the developing world. Ensuring access to nutritious, affordable food for the poorer of these city-dwellers is emerging as a real challenge,” said Alexander Mueller, FAO Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources.

Rainwater harvesting in cities holds great potential for urban agriculture, but is relatively untapped as of now, FAO said on its website.

Expanding city populations require increased water supplies for drinking, washing and cooking. And growth in urban and peri-urban agriculture also means a heightened demand for water for irrigation purpose.

Good agriculture and forestry practices can contribute to sound watershed management, safeguarding water catchment and reducing runoff and flooding in cities - ever more important as climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events, FAO said on its website.

Shortages in irrigation water, in and around cities, combined with a heightened interest in urban farming, have highlighted the potential for water reuse in urban environments.

“Right now, farmers and cities are competing for water. Cities are using water, then putting it back out, polluting the environment. It would make so much more sense if more of the water used in the cities was then cleaned and reused in agriculture,” said Javier Mateo-Sagasta, a specialist with FAO Water Unit.

Doing so would reduce water scarcity and free up more of the precious resource for urban and peri-urban food producers, who would not only spend less on acquiring water but also on buying fertilisers, since treated wastewater is rich in nutrients.

FAO is working with its member countries to explore options for water reuse, while ensuring this water is carefully treated and managed in order to be safely and hygienically used to produce crops.

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