He said that water scarcity may cause conflict and the whole globe could be headed towards a great world war over it.
Speaking at a Vatican sponsored meeting calling for the universal right to safe and accessible drinking water, Pope Francis said the situation was now very urgent and cited statistics from the United Nations indicating that every day day a thousand children die from water-related illnesses.
He also said that access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life.
“The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity,” Pope Francis said during a meeting with international experts participating in a ‘Dialogue on Water’ at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on February 24, as cited by americamagazine.org.
“All people have a right to safe drinking water,” he said, adding “I ask [myself] if in this piecemeal third world war that we are living through, are we not going toward a great world war for water?”
“Every day, a thousand children die of illness linked to water and contaminated water is consumed by millions of people every day… This situation must be stopped and reversed. Fortunately, this is not impossible, but it is urgent,” the pontiff said, as cited by ANSA news agency.
A February 2017 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that “groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly,” citing “water scarcities” as one of the major problems.
“Mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate,” it said.
In 2016, UN Water released a report saying that about 663 million people “lack ready access to improved sources of drinking water, while the number of people without reliable access to water of good enough quality to be safe for human consumption is at least 1.8 billion.”
Since Catholic cardinals elected him as pope in March 2013, Pope Francis has become known for his liberal approach and emotional, caring statements that reach out to the poor and sexual minorities.
In 2015, Pope Francis warned that those harming the environment and the “powerful of the earth” will face the wrath of God of they don’t protect the environment and make sure everyone has enough to eat.
During a UN summit in 2015, he stated that helping the poor and excluded is part of saving the planet.
Without referring to any specific countries or individuals, the pontiff blasted a “selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity,” leading to “both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.”