The International Institute for Sustainable Development (iisd) presents
19 March – 12 April, 2003
Editor's note: Welcome to the first issue of WATER-L News ©, compiled by Richard Sherman. WATER-L is a collection of new articles, editorials and research updates addressing the implementation of the water-related Millennium Development Goals, the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the further implementation of Agenda 21. It is distributed exclusively to the WATER-L list every 2 to 3 weeks. If you should come across a news article or have a submission for the next issue, please send it directly to email@example.com. WATER-L News © is an exclusive copyrighted publication of IISD for the WATER-L list and may not be reposted or republished to other lists/websites without the permission of IISD (you can write Kimo for permission.) If you have been forwarded this issue and would like to subscribe to WATER-L , please visit http://iisd.ca/scripts/lyris.pl?join=water-l or contact our On-Line Assistant, Diego Noguera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding for the production of WATER-L (part of the IISD Reporting Services annual program) has been provided by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL), the United Kingdom (through the Department for International Development - DFID), the European Commission (DG-ENV), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Government of Germany (through German Federal Ministry of Environment - BMU, and the German Federal Ministry of Development Cooperation - BMZ). General Support for the Bulletin during 2003 is provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment of Finland, the Government of Australia, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment of Norway, Swan International, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES), the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (through the Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute - GISPRI), and the Ministry for Environment of Iceland. If you like WATER-L News, please thank them for their support.
Arguments over the causes of global warming will bring little succour to the people of Bangladesh. Flooding in the country is set to increase by up to 40 per cent this century as global temperatures rise, the latest climate models suggest. Each year, roughly a fifth of Bangladesh is flooded, and climate change is forecast to exacerbate the problem as sea levels rise, monsoons become wetter and more intense cyclones lead to higher tidal surges. To make things worse, heavier rainfall triggered by global warming will swamp Bangladesh's riverbanks, a previously unforeseen effect, flooding between 20 and 40 per cent more land than today, says Monirul Qader Mirza, a Bangladeshi water resources expert now at the Adaptation and Impacts Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Bangladesh is flood-prone because it lies in the delta of three great rivers, the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, which together drain 175 million hectares. People can grow crops on land regularly fertilised by nutrient-laden silt from the rivers. But extreme floods cause considerable hardship and loss of life: in 1988 and 1998 over two-thirds of the country was under water at some point. Most climate models predict up to 20 per cent more precipitation in South-East Asia if temperatures rise by 5 °C. But no one had investigated how Bangladesh's three major rivers would cope, says Mirza.
His team collected data on the relationship between current precipitation levels and the resulting discharge of water by the three rivers. They then fed this data into a software program developed by the Danish Hydraulic Institute, which simulates how factors such as sediment and water quality affect the flow of water within river basins. Researchers at the Surface Water Modelling Centre in Dhaka helped calibrate the model to Bangladesh's particular geography.
Mirza's team then ran the program for four climate change scenarios, known as global circulation models. In each, the peak mean discharge for all three rivers increased as global temperatures rose by 2, 4 or 6 °C. If temperatures rose by just 2 °C, two of the models showed that the mean flow of the Meghna and Brahmaputra rivers would increase by 20 per cent. If there is an increase in temperature of 6 °C, the maximum predicted by the International Panel on Climate Change, then the greater flow of water through Bangladesh's three great rivers will inevitably lead to between 20 and 40 per cent more flooding.
There will also be a steep increase in deeply flooded land - that covered by more than 1.8 metres of water for nine months of the year. Of the 3.1 million hectares that floods each year, 42 per cent is already deeply flooded. That will climb to 55 per cent if temperatures rise by 6 °C. The land available to grow rice, vegetables, lintel, onion and mustard crops will be significantly reduced, placing an intolerable pressure on farmers. Policy planners should begin working on adaptation measures now, Mirza says.
Journal reference: Climatic Change (vol 57, p 287).
SABC News (South Africa)
World Health Day, celebrated tomorrow, will focus on the creation of a better environment for children, complementing the global movement which the World Health Organisation (WHO) initiated at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year. Welile Sasha, head of the WHO office in South Africa, said: "Almost one third of the global burden of disease is attributable to environmental factors, and children under the age of five are particularly vulnerable."
In the year 2000, some two million children worldwide died from acute respiratory infections, 1,3 million from diarrhoeal diseases and one million from malaria and other infectious diseases. In Africa it was estimated that one in five children would not live to see their fifth birthday mainly because of environment related diseases. Sasha said: "Young children are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards. They bear over 40% of the environment related burden of ill health, while making up only about 10% of the world's population. "They are more vulnerable because their organ systems are not fully developed, they breathe more air and consume more food and water than adults do in relation to their weight, and they are also naturally curious."
The major environmental threats to children's health and safety occurred in the very places where they ought to be protected - their homes, schools and neighbourhoods. Sasha said: "The worst environmental threats are faced by children who live in poverty and high levels of malnutrition among poor children may actually increase their vulnerability to environmental threats. "This can lead to long-term, irreversible consequences for children such as blindness, mental retardation, and deformities." In South Africa, diarrhoeal diseases - associated with inadequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene education - remained among the top five killers of South African children. More than half of South African households may be exposed to indoor air pollution on a daily basis from fuels such as wood, coal and cow-dung, which can lead to increased acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia in young children. Unsafe energy sources had also been linked with high levels of burn injuries and paraffin poisoning. In poor urban townships, as many as 60% of first grade school children may have blood lead levels on par with or over international action levels. - Sapa.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Many poor countries will miss the United Nations goals of cutting poverty by 2015 unless rich countries dig into their wallets to help them, a World Bank report obtained by Reuters found. The paper was prepared for discussion by the world's finance ministers at the spring meetings of the bank and International Monetary Fund on April 12 and 13. "Bluntly speaking, many of the poorest countries will not reach the millennium development goals unless all partners take decisive action without delay," the report said. The targets were put together by the United Nations in 2000 and world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring they are achieved at a conference in Mexico last year.
The idea is to wipe out extreme poverty and hunger, ensure all primary school age children have access to education, empower women, reduce child mortality, beat HIV/AIDS and other diseases and ensure environmental sustainability by 2015. The bank estimates around 1 billion people in the developing world live without access to safe drinking water while each minute a woman dies in pregnancy or child birth, with 99 percent of maternal deaths occurring developing countries.
The education target is the closest to being met but is still in desperate need of more funding. The bank estimates a program to fast-track the education programs of seven countries to meet the goal has a funding gap of about $430 million. Officials from rich countries met in Paris last week to try and come up with the cash but they did not announce they reached agreement as to where the money would come from. Funding for HIV/AIDS has seen new pledges but there is still a financing gap, the report said. The Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria has committed over $1 billion for at least 62 countries to be used over the next two years. "But to date there is a lag in payments by donors to the Fund as well as delays in disbursements to the countries," the report said. The bank also urges the poor countries to manage their budgets better to cope with inflows of development aid.
Daily Times (Pakistan)
ISLAMABAD: Water and Power Division Additional Secretary Riaz Ahmed Khan on Thursday launched the ‘Pakistan Water Gateway’, a website for all water related information pertaining to Pakistan on the Internet, and said the website had been launched by the World Conservation Union of Pakistan with the Dutch government’s support.
Talking to journalists here after the launching, he said water had recently emerged as one of the most critical themes of sustainable development, especially in arid countries of the developing world like Pakistan. Scarcity of water, he said, was fast becoming a source of major conflict, not only between countries, but also between different regions and communities within countries. Almost 70 percent of water across the globe was being directly consumed in agriculture, whereas for a country like Pakistan the figure has exceeded to 90 percent, he said
“Tensions between the provinces on dams are due to the dearth of reliable data and information on these subjects,” he added. Presenting the welcome address, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan Abdul Latif said Pakistan lacked the culture of information sharing and open access. Emphasising the importance of information and communication, he said the launching of the ‘Pakistan Water Gateway’ would bridge the gap between the government, civil society, media, water experts, students, researchers and general public Dr Khalid Mohtadullah, a renowned water expert, Chief of Communication and Knowledge Management Group, IUCN, Pakistan Hasan Rizvi and Asif Zaidi also addressed the ceremony.
European Commission chief Romano Prodi called Thursday on EU governments to set up a one-billion-euro fund to provide clean drinking water for the world's poorest nations. In a letter to European Union leaders, the president of the EU's executive arm said the 15-nation bloc had to seize the initiative after promising much at the world development summit in Johannesburg last September.
He said a UN target to halve the number of people without access to clean drinking water and sanitation by 2015 "is still within our grasp but will require extraordinary mobilisation of all those involved". Last month's World Water Forum in the Japanese city of Kyoto had failed to advance the clean water drive, Prodi said. He said the one billion euros (1.1 billion dollars) for his proposed fund should come from an EU development budget set aside for the 78 members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries. Prodi called for the EU to capitalise on the symbolism of announcing the fund at a Group of Eight (G8) summit being held in June at the French resort town of Evian, home of the mineral water.
The G8 club of leading industrial powers includes four EU members -- Britain, France, Germany and Italy.
"The announcement of such an initiative at the G8 summit in Evian, where water and Africa dominate the agenda, would give it a high profile and could lead to similar initiatives by other participants," he said.
About 6,000 children die every day from disease linked to poor sanitation and unclean water, according to UN children's fund UNICEF.
BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 10, 2003 (ENS) - Researchers in drought prone Mediterranean countries, including Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Greece and Cyprus, have pooled resources to devise a common strategy for sustainable water use in horticulture. The €1 million (US$1.079 million) project known as Hortimed and funded by the European Union, will provide guidelines for Mediterranean farmers who suffer from the adverse effects of low quality water with high saline content. "Research helps build bridges between cultures in the Middle East," said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "The scientists involved are looking beyond political hostilities to construct a lasting framework for crop irrigation. Their endeavors will help to ensure that both Arabs and Israelis will have stable access to high quality crops as well as better drinking water supplies."
The Hortimed project has been prompted by the need to preserve fresh water for use in Mediterranean towns and cities, and the rising discharge of domestic effluents for which agriculture can provide safe means of disposal. Using advanced technology, researchers are exploring means of reducing crop dependency upon fresh water, without compromising the quality of the crop yield. This includes exploring climate control to lower transpiration rates in greenhouses and maximizing the potential for recycling water. On the other hand, researchers intend to make the best possible use of low quality water by increasing the crops' saline tolerance with fertilizers and nutrients.
The project seeks "fertigation recipes," climate control operations, crop and crop mixture rotations that improve yield and quality under constraints of marginal water use. Experiments have been conducted to examine the effect of irrigation on crop development and yield. An additional objective of the project is to define strategies to maximize use of lower quality water with particular emphasis on the problems derived from salinity. Partners studied the response of tomatoes to fluctuating electrical conductivity. They completed the salt accumulation model when the irrigation solution was recirculated.
Researchers also extended the study of yield response of tomatoes to salinity when fogging systems operate due to high vapor pressure deficit. In particular, they looked into the effect of controlled humidity increase using a wet pad and fan system. These results are being integrated in a decision support system to help in the irrigation of protected horticultural crops with low quality water. This system, combined with greenhouse control systems, are intended to ensure better management of available water resources at each specific instant along the crop cycle, the European Commission said. The project "demonstrates that scientific cooperation can cross sensitive cultural and political boundaries," the Commission said in a statement. "It has provided an opportunity to develop new professional and personal ties between Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian experts."
Research efforts will be integrated with a newly launched common database for the use of all partners. Twice a year, all participating scientists unite to share their experiences and to analyze and debate the data presented by each research group. Managed by the Department of Land Reclamation and Agricultural Engineering at the Agricultural University of Athens, the 42 month long project will conclude at the end of August.
THE VOLTA regional minister, Hon. Kwasi Owusu Yeboah, has stated that the provision of potable water to the rural people is so high on the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government's agenda that it considers it as an essential component of the poverty reduction programme that it is pursuing. He, therefore, promised that the government will do all in its power to achieve that objective. Hon. Yeboah made the statement at recently at a one-day meeting of members of Parliament (MPs), district chief executives (DCEs) and representatives of Water and Sanitation Development Boards (WSDB) of some communities in the region.
The minister said there is a memorandum of understanding with the German government to fund 905 water projects in identified rural communities. He, however, noticed that district assemblies and benefiting communities have not been able to come up with their component contribution which is 10%. He wondered whether the non-payment is due to failure arising out of incapacity or wilful refusal to pay, and reminded participants that it is universally recognized that the most effective way of establishing sustainable ownership of water system is to be part of the project.
The meeting which was a medium of brainstorming over practical strategies for the payment of the prescribed contributions, was said to be the last chance for the assemblies and communities to indicate their interest in the programme or lose out.Earlier, the regional chief executive of Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Mr. E. F. Boateng, said for now 11 communities in the Volta region are to benefit from a multi-billion-cedi German Technical Co-operation (GTZ/KFW) facility. They include Kpetoe, Ahamansu, Keta-Krachi, Nkwanta, Adidome, Akatsi, Dzodze, Ehie, Penyi, Katanga and Likpe Mate.
According to Mr. Boateng, the project which falls under an Eastern and Volta regions assistance programme has been awarded to top international engineering company.Welcoming participants in an opening speech, the MP for Ketu North and chairman of the meeting, Hon. Modestus Y.Z. Ahiable, suggested that considering the low levels of rural incomes part of the HIPC relief funds should be channeled to offset the contributions of poor communities. The entire assistance of 90% German funding nationwide is said to be up to ¢50.9 billion.
Meeting in Yaounde last Friday, experts discussed that it was an emergency to effectively implement the continent's Agricultural programme. Time for the implementation of the ambitious programme for Africa's Agriculture, proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO and endorsed by the New Partnership for Africa" Development. Experts have resolved that for the programme to save Africa's crisis situation, its implementation must be immediate. Meeting in Yaounde last Friday under the auspices of the ministry of Agriculture and the FAO, experts in the sector discussed the pertinence of the programme and how each African country could contribute in the ensuring its success. There was a complete convergence of ideas on which sectors to be prioritised in order for Africa's agriculture to improve the food situation of the continent.
These sectors are not in the real sense new. They were identified last year in Rome when African ministers of Agriculture met within the framework of the FAO African Regional Conference. The three sectors are: increase in a sustainable manner of surface land for agriculture through the use of viable water systems; amelioration of rural infrastructure and trade facilities; and increase food supply and hurger alleviation.
The regional conference in actual fact went beyond these three sectors but what appears to be striking about the proposals is the special emphasis on the research factor which it suggest must be a whole gamut of research, results and adoption of technologies. This is a domain which is expected to in a long term accelerate productivity.
Africa; this is not news to anyone, is a rural continent where agriculture plays an important role in its economy. In the whole region, the agric sector represents about 60 per cent of its GDP. The latest figures published for 1997-1999, show that about 200 million people, representing 28 per cent of the population suffer from chronic hunger. In 1990-1992, the figure stood at 173 million. The proportion of people suffering from hunger may have dropped slightly, but absolute figures on the situation have increased significantly.
Cameroon is not left behind in the bit to fight hunger by improving on the activities of the rural sector , notably agriculture. The country's development strategy to that effect, portrays an ambition that may change the face of things for Cameroonians. The strategy has set four objectives to achieve: one, fight poverty, two, satisfy growing demand for food, three, integrate the sector in both the sub regional and international market, and four assure the sustainability of its performance in the long run. The choice of the sector has surely been made taking into consideration the sector past contribution to the economy and its potentialities. Agriculture is officially recognised to have contributed immensely in Cameroon's economic recovery. The present strategy has identified four areas of intervention: one, modernisation of the production system, two, promotion of institutions, three, building of an incisive framework, and four, sustainable management of natural resources. Within each of the areas of intervention, the following approach must be deployed: promotion of revenue-generating activities within vulnerable groups, participation of those concerned, taking into consideration the gender approach and putting of operations under contract basis.
7 April – In a message marking World Health Day, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on the international community to guarantee the health of every child as the starting point to achieve sustainable development. “Healthy children are crucial to sustainable development,” Mr. Annan said. “That is why this year's World Health Day carries the theme ‘Shape the Future of Life: Healthy Environment for Children’.”
He stressed that a child’s world was centred around the home, the school and the local community, places where children should be able to play, thrive and develop, and be protected from disease. “But in reality, these are often places where children – particularly children in poverty – face multiple threats to their health,” he said, noting the common risks of unsafe drinking water, air pollution, poor housing, lack of hygiene and sanitation, as well as inadequate waste disposal.
“The only sustainable response is to make sure that children can live, learn and play in safe environments,” he declared. “This will not only save many lives; it will have positive consequences for economic development. It will prevent many children from being taken out of school due to chronic disease, and thus, help society as a whole build the skill-base it needs for economic growth.” That meant recognizing that “children are our future – and that a future of sustainable development begins with safeguarding the health of every child,” he concluded. “On this World Health Day, let us rededicate ourselves to that mission.”
For his part, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, noted that 5 million children between birth and 14 years of age die annually, mainly in the developing world, from avoidable environmental hazards. “These are appalling statistics, because most of these deaths are regarded as preventable,” he said. “The dire situation facing children in unhealthy environments is intimately linked with issues such as poverty, lack of adequate nutrition, education and poor sanitary conditions.” Underlining the priority these issues have within the UN Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Kavan declared: “It is obvious that affording children at least the minimum in environmental standards is necessary to empower them for their future. As such, I believe it is imperative that we continue to push for measures at all levels of society that alleviate these worsening conditions.”
Monday, 7 April 2003: Experts from Iran and nine neighbouring countries will cooperate in identifying ways to reduce the risks posed by such natural disasters as drought and earthquakes, which can undermine development gains and worsen poverty. They gathered at a recent workshop in Tehran, Iran, organized by UNDP in cooperation with the Disaster Task Force of the Iran's Ministry of Interior, to identify common needs and priorities. Participants came from Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Participants included high-level government representatives, and participants from national Red Cross and Crescent societies, academia and civil society. The workshop identified several themes for a joint initiative, including reducing risks related to earthquakes and floods, improving drought management, developing a policy and legal framework, promoting community-based disaster management and emergency search, rescue and relief planning. Drought management is a main concern for all the countries and a priority for the UNDP regional bureaus working with them.
To follow up, UNDP is supporting a one-year project to prepare a sub-regional disaster risk management initiative. This will involve action at the local, national and regional levels by governments, UN agencies, civil society and academic institutions. "The initiative can help develop a wider multi-disciplinary understanding of disaster management practices within a range of political, professional and institutional contexts," said Siba Das, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. It can also promote synergies between disaster risk management and socio-economic development activities, he noted.
The participants agreed to set up a knowledge network to promote the exchange of information and experience. This may comprise an email network and a web site with a roster of experts, an inventory of ongoing disaster management initiatives, including UNDP capacity building programmes, an inventory of competency areas, seismic hazard mapping and training curricula. Exchange visits and study tours are also envisaged.
Global Water Partnership
The Water and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Global Water Partnership (GWP) this week that formally facilitates collaboration between the two organizations. “This is for sure,” says Gourisankar Ghosh the Executive Director of the WSSCC, “a happy beginning for our joint plan for a long and effective partnership!”
Two areas of work have been identified for specific collaboration – communication and information management, and program implementation. “At the simplest level, GWP and WSSCC representatives will participate in each other's annual general meetings,” explains Emilio Gabbrielli the new CEO of GWP, “and we will be exchanging information on our membership at regional and national levels to better facilitate the coordination of our activities.” Information on the events and activities conducted by each organization will be also be exchanged together with cross-referencing of information on the WSSCC and GWP websites.
“At a higher level,” adds Ghosh, “the Global Water Partnership and the WSSCC will exchange more detailed information on our work programs so that we can better identify synergies and complementarities between us. This will enable us to work in close cooperation, avoid overlaps and maximize the use of our limited resources.”
During the International Conference on Freshwater in Bonn in December 2001, GWP launched the IWRM (Integrated Water Resources Management) ToolBox. The IWRM ToolBox supports policy makers and water professionals by offering easy access to practical information and guidance on establishing integrated water resources management at national and local levels. The WSSCC will contribute to the continuing development of the ToolBox by contributing case studies and user experiences on implementing IWRM in the field. “As the WSSCC's network includes grassroots level NGOs,” Ghosh explains, “our contributions will mainly focus on community participation and empowerment in water resources management, mainstreaming gender in IWRM, and integration of sanitation in IWRM.”
Commenting on the first phase of cooperation between the two organizations Gabbrielli notes, “We have agreed to focus first on the GWP regions of Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Caucasus, and South Asia, especially Pakistan, while our GWP regions in Africa have been identified as potential areas of collaboration in the future.”
SocialFunds.com -- "There are two wars going on now: a war in Iraq and another one against the tremendous plight of humans lacking water," said Michel Camdessus, former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), at the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan late last month. "It is the war against water scarcity that will increase and take on dramatic proportions very soon."
Indeed, battles were pitched before his eyes while he presented a report entitled Financing Water For All, which supported water privatization, as protesters unfurled banners reading "No Profits from Water" onstage. Concern about water supplies is seeping to investors who own stock in companies that use large amounts of water. A group of PepsiCo (ticker: PEP) shareowners have filed a resolution asking the company to report on the business risk of water use throughout its supply chain. The resolution also asks the company to disclose its "current policies and procedures for mitigating the impact of operations on local communities in areas of water scarcity."
"Water is going to be one of the most important environmental issues of the 21st century," said Deb Abbey, CEO and portfolio manager of Vancouver-based Real Assets Investment Management, which co-filed the resolution with Boston-based Trillium Asset Management. "Pepsi has to adjust to this new reality." PepsiCo counters that it is already making this adjustment. In its letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requesting permission to omit the resolution from its proxy, the company contended that its November 2002 Environmental Commitment report "substantially implemented" the resolution's requests.
"Pepsi-Cola plants are increasingly designed to avoid burdening municipal wastewater treatment systems and reduce our use of water," PepsiCo's Environmental Commitment report states. In his letter urging the SEC to require PepsiCo to include the resolution in its proxy, Real Assets Vice President of Social Research Kai Alderson pointed out that such statements "are vaguely worded and unverifiable." Mr. Alderson characterized PepsiCo's Environmental Commitment report as containing "anecdotal information on ad hoc water conservation efforts."
The PepsiCo report contains a "Water Quality/Water Use" section for the Pepsi Cola, Tropicana, Gatorade, Frito Lay, and Quaker Oats divisions, each of which had between one and nine bullet points with general information and specific examples. "But there is no evidence [in the report] to suggest that these ad hoc initiatives have been undertaken in the context of a corporate-level strategy, that concrete goals have been set, or that performance measurement and management systems are in place to assure shareholders that these goals are being achieved," wrote Mr. Alderson. Mr. Alderson's letter compared PepsiCo's commitment to addressing the impending water scarcity crisis with that of the Coca-Cola Company (KO), where Real Assets voluntarily withdrew a similar resolution.
"Coca-Cola has not only conveyed to the [resolution filers] a deep understanding of its challenges relating to water, but has also signaled its commitment to addressing this emerging business risk by sharing with the [resolution filers] plans, training materials, and internal operational targets," the letter stated. Coca-Cola also shared its plans to release a report later this year that addresses the very issues requested by the resolution: water-related business risks as well as policies and practices to mitigate the risk. The issue boiled down to whether PepsiCo's Environmental Commitment report amounts to full disclosure, as the company maintained, or "superficial" disclosure, as the resolution filers asserted. "The SEC sided with us, and did not concur with PepsiCo's arguments," Steve Lippman, Trillium's Senior Social Research Analyst, told SocialFunds.com.
Accordingly, PepsiCo has included the resolution on its proxy statement, along with a response from the company that cites several examples of water use reduction. Ms. Abbey of Real Assets pointed out that the business risks of water scarcity are not an isolated issue. "Although soft drinks companies face the biggest brand risk, they're not the only ones who have to deal with the water issue," said Ms. Abbey. "One way or another, increasing water scarcity is going to lead to higher prices for everyone, from manufacturers to mining firms." "Unless companies begin to address this issue strategically, margins will get squeezed," Ms. Abbey concluded.
DAKAR, Apr 1 (IPS) - Balancing a large bucket of water on her head, Fatou Sarr, a 20-year-old domestic, reflects the plight of hundreds of thousands of women in Senegal who spend hours searching for clean water everyday. ”I cover several kilometres on foot -- several times a day -- to fetch water for my employer. It's really tiring,” complains the young woman from Medina, a working-class neighbourhood of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. ”Only 56 percent of rural and 78 percent of urban households have clean drinking water in Senegal,'' says Ousmane Masseck Ndiaye, the minister of tourism.
Alimatou Diouf, a housewife in Dakar, says she is still forced to search for clean water everyday, despite the promises made by politicians during the World Water Day, which was celebrated on Mar 23. ''Sometimes, the water is rusty and full of sand,'' says Diouf. ''The shortage and the poor quality of water are due to a lack of infrastructures and antiquated state of pipes,'' explains Badian Nfally of the Dakar-based Urban Participatory Development programme, a non-governmental organisation (NGO). Pape Ndiack Sall of the state-owned water company, La Senegalaise des Eaux (SDE), says the water shortage in Senegal is also caused by ''pipe bursting”.
Water shortages become more pronounced during the winter. Because of the heat, there is a spike in electricity use, which causes outages. ''If the electricity stops, so do the pumps, and the water along with it,” explains Sall. Customers also complain about the high water bills. ''My water bills are extremely high, sometimes as much as 80,000 CFA (about 133 U.S. dollars) a month, which is extraordinary,'' complains Khady Diagne of Point E, a suburb of Dakar. ''My sister lives in Guediawaye, a working-class neighbourhood, and yet she pays only about 10,000 CFA (about 16.7 US dollars) a month,'' she says.
Nfally believes the answer to the urban water shortage lies is decentralisation. ''Pumping stations should be built for each Senegalese town,'' he suggests. Water shortage is even more acute in rural areas where drought and climactic uncertainties are rife. Mont Rolland, 70 kilometres from Dakar, used to be famous for its mineral springs. Today, villagers need to drill as deep as 80 metres to pump water. The village's groundwater was seriously depleted by over-extraction by the mineral water company, which closed its doors recently. Almost 80 percent of Senegalese horticulturalists are located around Mont Rolland, where the most critical problem is water. The reduction in the groundwater level, which has been known for some time, has led to decreasing land fertility and, as a result, food insecurity.
In the Fatick region, 155 kilometres west of Dakar, the availability of clean water is often unpredictable because of frequent pump breakdowns. ''The government has initiated a project, which will provide 116 villages with clean drinking water at a cost of 18 billion CFA (about 30 million U.S. dollars),'' says Babacar Sarr, head of the Regional Hydraulics Division. The project will ensure that 70,000 people have clean drinking water, representing yet another victory in the fight against food insecurity in Senegal, according to agricultural experts. Cleaning the wells frequently will also contribute to stamping out diarrhoeal illnesses, which have long plagued villagers.
The Senegalese government is also trying to create artificial rain in peanut-growing regions. There, the construction of some 50 rainwater retention reservoirs has already begun. Implementation of the project could begin as early as the beginning of next winter. Water was at the heart of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, last year, and at the World Water Summit in Kyoto, Japan, last month. Water needs to be supplied not only in sufficient quantity to ensure human development, but it also must be well managed. ''Rational water management as well as individual and collective conservation efforts are the objective means to guarantee future generations high quality and plentiful water,” says Sarr. (END/2003).
GENEVA, Switzerland, April 1, 2003 (ENS) - Green Cross International, a non-governmental, non-profit organization founded by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, has expressed its disappointment at the final outcome of the Ministerial Conference held in parallel to the 3rd World Water Forum in Japan late last month. "The Ministerial Declaration agreed to in Kyoto on the 23rd March is a weak document, with few identifiable new commitments or proposed mechanisms for translating already stated goals into action," the organization says.
Participants at the 3rd World Water Forum were instructed to provide the Ministerial Conference with clear recommendations. During the Forum, the major regional and thematic sessions identified dozens of recommendations for action, commitment, policy change and financing - but the Ministerial Declaration failed to take these recommendations into account. Other environmental organizations were also critical of the Ministerial Declaration. The IUCN-World Conservation Union says the ministers produced a "watered down" document and called for direct input from the thematic sessions into the declaration. WWF, the conservation organization, condemned governments at the World Water Forum for their failure to commit to a sustainable approach to ensure adequate water supply and sanitation.
"The public has been badly served by their governments at this forum, who have adopted a ministerial declaration that is a backward step from previous commitments," said Jamie Pittock, director of WWF's Living Waters Programme. "We have to ask how credible a forum like this is when governments do not draw on the 12,000 water specialists gathered together to identify common sense solutions to water problems, but instead continue to promote massive infrastructure as the sole solution to the world's water crisis." One omission in particular will affect millions of people, fisheries, wildlife and water sources, WWF wanrs. This was the failure by governments to commit to review dam development projects.
The most frustrating omission for Green Cross was their set of recommendations on the theme of water for peace, particularly since the 3rd World Water Forum was held from March 16 through the 23, the week when the U.S. led war on Iraq began on March 20. Green Cross International and UNESCO shared the task of coordinating the theme of water for peace, based on years of work and research in the field of water conflict prevention and resolution. At the Forum, experts on the subject of transboundary waters, and representatives from government, the private sector and civil society with practical experience in managing shared water resources and associated conflicts held two days of discussions and presented what Green Cross calls a "concise and realistic set of recommendations" to the ministers.
But the ministers did not mention the peaceful sharing of the world's water resources, or protection of water sources and infrastructure during times of war in their Declaration, only a very vague commitment to "encourage states to promote such cooperation" in transboundary basins. Mikhail Gorbachev, president of Green Cross International, presented the water for peace recommendations to the Forum. They include:
· Immediate ratification of the UN Convention on the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses by all states, as a first step towards the negotiation of a Global Water Convention.
· Funding mechanisms to support activities related to internationally shared water bodies.
· International support for the creation of a Water Cooperation Facility, to work with basin authorities, governments and other stakeholders to resolve intractable water disputes.
· Measures to ensure respect for the right of stakeholders to take decisions regarding water resources in transboundary basins.
· Community responsibility for and ownership of cooperation processes, backed by international solidarity and commitment to an alternative form of development which respects cultural diversity and environmental sustainability.
None of these recommendations are included in the Ministerial Declaration.
Despite the events in Iraq during the week, the strongest recommendation of the water for peace theme, and others at the Forum, to take immediate action to protect water infrastructure during times of armed conflict and from terrorist attack, was also overlooked. Days later, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations declared a humanitarian crisis as people in Basra and other towns in Iraq face the disruption of their drinking water supplies as a result of the war.
Kyoto water forum criticized for lack of action, Edie weekly summaries, March 28, 2003.
forum declaration 'vague; BBC; March 23;
Participants leave Kyoto feeling Water Forum was all wet; AFP; March 23,
Forum ends with `delicate balance'; The Asahi Shimbun;
Ministers howl at toothless declaration from Water Forum; AFP; March 23,
Governments Fail To Ensure Sustainable Water Supply;
a washout for citizens' rights? The Japan Times;
forum 'giant talking shop'; BBC; March 23, 2003;
WWF China Programme
Top-level government officials and international development organizations together launched a task force aimed at providing policy recommendations to top leaders of China’s State Council on how to implement an integrated approach to solve river basin issues and restore the balance of nature and people in the Yangtze. WWF and the Chinese government are jointly supporting the task force.
CCICED (China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development) is a high-level consultative body providing strategic consultation to China’s State Council concerning the environment and development issues. Its Task Force on Integrated River Basin Management (IBRM) was officially launched in Beijing on March 27-28, 2003. The overall objective of this task force is to promote the maximization of the public welfare of river basins in China through better governance of water resources, ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation, and environment management through information sharing, demonstration and public participation.
The task force consists of twelve prominent experts, six from China and six international experts from the Netherlands, UK, US, Japan, the Ramsar Convention Bureau, and WWF International. China’s newly revised Water Law, which took effect on October 1, 2002, includes new clauses involving the exploration, use, saving and protection of water, and formally recognizes the importance of the integrated river basin management approach. A major undertaking of the task force is to find ways of improving coordination between provincial and national government agencies responsible for managing various aspects of rivers.
“In the past, the management of water resources involved many separate concerns. The different interests of stakeholders - social pressures, electricity, flood control, environmental issues, provincial boundary issues - made river basin management very complicated. Only an integrated approach can solve the issues of river basins,” says Prof. Chen Yiyu, who convened the meeting and is the Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, “The Chinese government is now setting up coordinating bodies so these issues can be addressed in a more systematic way.”
At the meeting international and Chinese experts on IRBM shared their experiences and lessons. Government ministries represented at the meeting included China’s State Development and Reform Commission; Ministry of Water Conservancy; State Environment Protection Agency; State Forestry Administration; Chinese Academy of Sciences; Ministry of Agriculture; and the Fishery Resource Management Committee of the Yangtze River. International organizations at the meeting included CIDA; AusAid; Japan Bank of International Cooperation; the US Embassy in Beijing; and WWF.
The major tasks of the IRBM Task Force are (1) to assess existing laws and regulations and make recommendations to state legislation authorities; (2) to review existing river basin management practices, assess the coordination of existing river basin management, and make recommendations to the State Government and river basin commissions at the national level, on the Yangtze River basin in particular; (3) to promote relevant economic tools such as water rights, water pricing, subsidies, compensation, tradable permits, and green taxation for integrated water resources management at the national level and in the Yangtze River; (4) to promote stakeholder participation and community involvement; (4) to provide a platform for information sharing; (5) and establishing and promoting communication tools including workshops and publications.
The IRBM Task force is instrumental to WWF’s Yangtze programme, which aims to restore and effectively manage a significant area of the wetlands in the Central Yangtze River basin by 2010. It also aims to initiate Integrated River Basin Management policy work in Poyang Lake, to restore the Yangtze as a living river and to rehabilitate ecological processes of wetlands through pilot sites and magnifying experiences to the wider region of the Central Yangtze.
The Central Yangtze is regarded as a globally important ecoregion by conservationists worldwide and as the “home of rice and fish” by Chinese. However, fifty years of intensive land reclamation (the building of dams, dykes and polders) have sited agriculture and urban settlements where formerly there were flood plains and lakes. The wetland environment and species here has been severely affected, resulting in habitat fragmentation and the disruption of natural processes. Some unique species, such as the Yangtze Dolphin, the Yangtze Alligator and the Chinese Sturgeon are endangered.
Currently the Central Yangtze and its lakes are subject to threats and problems including the loss of wetland function due to fragmentation and degradation; frequent flood disasters; upstream erosion leading to accelerate downstream silting; lack of knowledge amongst decision-makers about the values and functions of wetland; policy failure; and institutional conflicts.
The Guardian (Tanzania)
The government of Japan, through its Official Development Assistance, (ODA), this week announced its readiness to continue to give Tanzania and a few other countries in the world, assistance for planning, infrastructure and capacity building to improve productivity of irrigation, and fishery systems. The assistance is basically for the effective use of limited water resources, and it will be pursued through research and development of crop varieties, a senior Government Minister told the Sunday Observer in Kyoto.
“In Tanzania’s case, the assistance is basically aimed at improving agricultural productivity by improving irrigation systems and techniques,” said Kazuo Sunaga, the Director of Research and Programming Division, Economic Cooperation Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “ From our past experience, with its vast land, Tanzania is among the African countries which if well supported, can do better in terms of productivity through irrigated farming,” Sunaga told this paper at the Kyoto International Conference Centre (KICH). However, he said it was the task of the Tanzanian government to come up with new proposals on the areas where assistance was most needed. “It is up to the government of the recipient country to identify the specific areas where they would welcome our assistance,” the Director stated, when asked to give more details.For instance, he said, there will soon be available some 1,000 training opportunities for experts from the recipient countries, and some of these will be Tanzanians.
Other beneficiaries of this type of assistance are Tunisia, Ghana, the Philippines, Indonesia, and India, he said. Japan is said to have provided ODA amounting to more than 650 billion yen (approximately 5.7trn/=) during the last three years (from 1999 to 2001). On drinking water and sanitation, of which the targets are set by the Millenium Development Goals and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Japan has been by far the top donor among the bilateral donors and international institutions, providing about US$ 1 billion (approximately 1trn/=), a third of the average of the total ODA financial flow for the last three years.
The Japanese government also committed itself to focus its assistance on providing drinking water and sanitation systems to poor countries and regions. It will provide large-scale financing to urban areas and continue to assist capacity building. The 3WWF that kicked-off here last Sunday, ended here yesterday with some environmentalists condemning the governments of the world for failing to commit themselves to a sustainable approach to ensure adequate water supply and sanitation. About 10,000 delegates attended the Forum, which, to some extent was “undermined” by the on-going war in Iraq.
New Vision (Kampala)
UGANDA has been hailed for providing safe water and conserving wetlands at the third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, reports Gerald Tenywa. Speaking at the forum organised by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Conservation Union, environment minister Ruhakana Rugunda said the restoration of nature was an important foundation for development. He said policies, strategies and programmes were crucial in the drive to harness nature and safeguard it from destruction.
The country's strategy of involving grassroot communities in decision-making has become a model for most African countries, which depend on donor support to access water for rural communities. Rugunda said the communities had been empowered to participate in planning and making informed decisions on the utilisation of nature. He said the Government devotes money from the poverty action fund to the wetlands inspection division, the lead agency on wetlands conservation. "The strategy of linking environmental conservation and poverty eradication has worked well for Uganda," he said.
More than a billion people are without safe drinking water, and many depend on bottled water. Switzerland’s Nestlé is one firm set on expanding its share of the world’s bottled water market. But critics say that by tapping sources of fresh water, multinationals are squeezing local communities and monopolising what should be a public good. The bottled water market is a lucrative one, dominated by Swiss food giant Nestlé, with a 16.8 per cent share, and France’s Danone, which controls about 14 per cent.
And Nestlé shows no sign of quenching its thirst for acquisitions. Its aqueous portfolio includes household names such as Perrier, S. Pellegrino and Vittel, and the group is expanding into the profitable home and office delivery (HOD) segment. In February it added Russia’s Clear Water company and Powwow, the water business of Hong-Kong based conglomerate, Hutchison Whampoa, to its swelling reservoir.But where it gets the water needed to fill those bottles is a controversial issue, and one which has already landed the company in deep water.We are a very small player in the total fresh water withdrawal.Frits van Dijk, Nestlé Waters
The Nestlé group claims to tap a meagre amount of the world’s fresh water supplies to fill its bottles - taking just 0,005 per cent of the total annual withdrawal of 4,010 cubic kilometres. “For its bottled water division, Nestlé’s withdrawal is 0,0008 per cent,” said Frits van Dijk, head of Nestlé Waters. “These are minute amounts and we are a very small player in the total fresh water withdrawal.” But though the quantity of water tapped by firms like Nestlé may be negligible in terms of global usage, the effect on local communities which sometimes depend on the sources in question can be devastating, according to aid groups.“There could be a geographical location where there is not much water around,” Franz Gähwiler, from the Swiss charity Helvetas, told swissinfo.
“And if the multinationals pump a spring or ground water which is limited in quantity, then it could have a devastating impact on that small area.” Franklin Frederick, from the International Free Water Academy, cites the case of Sào Lourenço, a Brazilian town whose water supply was severely damaged after Nestlé began withdrawing water from a natural source for its thirsty Perrier bottles.“About three years ago, many people in Sào Lourenço began to notice a change in the mineral waters from the water parks [which serve four towns in all],” Franklin recalled.
He added that if water is pumped in greater quantities than can be replaced by nature, its mineral content will gradually decrease.“And one of the most famous water sources there, the “Magnesiana”, dried up and stopped flowing. We investigated the situation and found that Nestlé/Perrier was responsible for what was going on.”Perrier is one of Nestlé's premium bottled water brands
Nestlé Waters rejects these claims, citing a report by the primary regulatory body for water production in Brazil that did not find the multinational responsible for the ground water problems in Sào Lourenço. “The report by the National Department of Mineral Production is a vindication of Nestlé’s position that it has and continues to use water sources responsibly,” spokesman Hubert Genieys told swissinfo. “Studies carried out by Nestlé in agreement with the National Department of Mineral Production show that there is no link between our collection of water and the drying up of the Magnesiana,” Genieys continued. “Further, there is no change in the taste of the water which independent reports confirmed.” It’s not that we are taking precious water from Mother Earth and selling it at a commercial price.Frits van Dijk, Nestlé Waters.
Nestlé defends its record, saying it takes a sustainable approach to tapping water. “It’s not that we are taking precious water from Mother Earth and selling it at a commercial price - there is also a cost related to that,” van Dijk told swissinfo. “In most developing nations – including China, Mexico, India and Thailand - we pay a charge to the local community and the proceeds of these charges are then used by the authorities to improve access to water. “As a single company it is very difficult to get involved in solving the problems of access to fresh water.”And the problems are legion. The United Nations estimates that around 1.2 billion people are without safe drinking water, and many depend on bottled water.
For example in Moldova, the Swiss Development Agency (SDC) says there is virtually no clean drinking water to be had on-tap. The situation is similar in many parched Middle Eastern countries. Despite the need, supplying the developing world with bottled water is hardly a money maker for Nestlé. The multinational turned a profit (of two per cent) for the first time in 2002. A mere seven per cent of its sales come from the developing world – the lion’s share of its business is done in the developed world.
Nevertheless, Franz Gähwiler of Helvetas would prefer water resources to remain in public hands. “Multinationals owning water sources represents to my mind a big danger. For me the source should be in public hands and not in the hands of multinationals.” He acknowledges, though, that it is up to communities themselves to decide what to do with their water.
“If a democratic community wants to give a multinational the right to use the water for 10 or 20 years, it’s up to them,” Gähwiler said. For Nestlé and its rivals, the developed world is where the profit is for the moment. The Swiss multinational is already successful within the home and office delivery market in North America and the new brands will increase its penetration of the European market which, it says, offers real growth potential. The business of delivering water to homes and offices is a fast-growing one and Nestlé predicts that the sector will grow by 15 to 20 per cent this year alone.
The group’s Nestlé Waters unit, which is based in Paris, had sales of €5 billion (SFr7.3 billion) in 2001, accounting for almost nine per cent of the group’s total sales. Despite being the world market leader – the United States’s Coca Cola and Pepsico control around four per cent - the head of Nestlé Waters, Frits van Dijk, said that the spending spree is set to continue.
The Namibian (Windhoek)
THE value of international summits and forums and the high costs of organising such events were questioned by many participants at the end of the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, last week.
Critics say the expected outcome and activity plans of such international events do not justify the huge amount of money pumped into organising them. They argue the money would be much better used in achieving the Millennium and World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) targets set in Johannesburg last year.
Agnes van Ardenne, Minister for Development Co-operation of the Netherlands, said at a press conference at the Forum on Friday: "We must stop producing more papers and start implementing action plans. We do not need another forum, we need sustainable action". She said such forums cost too much money.
The WSSD cost more than N$400 million to organise. No figure had been given for the cost of the Forum in Japan.
While Ronnie Kasrils, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry in South Africa, was positive that the targets could be met despite the U$20 billion a year needed to meet water requirements on the continent, Van Ardenne was less optimistic. In response to a question from The Namibian on how the Iraq war would affect the attainment of the targets on water and sanitation, Van Ardenne said she was not certain whether the targets could be met "with or without the war". She said she could not really predict how it would affect the targets, but added that the war would cost massive amounts of money and cause a lot of damage in Iraq.
"We need to do a lot more than fighting a war. War is terrible. I can only hope it will end soon".
Another hurdle hampering development in the water sector is corruption. "There is too much corruption in water management, which affects the poor the most," Van Ardenne said.
She said the problem was particularly acute in Africa. "Africa has to change its governance at national, regional and local level". She said the decentralisation policy of many African governments over the past 10 years has led to chaos: "Local authorities have become responsible for water supply, health and education, but they have no money and no capacity. They have their hands in the air". She said one way to address the problem would be for civil society to be more assertive and alert in Africa. "This could move governments to change their attitudes towards the poor".
Van Ardenne also had words of criticism for European countries, saying the protection of European markets was a matter of injustice. "An amount of US$50 billion per year is given to poverty reduction by these countries, but at the same time US$300 billion per year is spent on protecting our markets". She said this meant African countries had no access to European markets and lost out on income. " We must reduce these barriers," she said. The Minister said it was also vital to combine poverty reduction with water. "The two are inter-related. If you provide access to water and forget the poverty side, you would not have solved your problems".
Daily Times (Pakistan)
ALAHORE: The root cause of current global water crisis, especially in the third world countries, is population and there is a serious need to meet this crisis with modern techniques of water management. This was the crux of the speech of Dr Ashfaq Ahmad, special advisor to the prime minister and former chairman of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), while addressing a seminar ‘Sustainable Use of Water Resources’ and the launching ceremony of his book ‘Water And New Techniques’ held at the Bukhari Auditorium of the Government College University (GCU).
“In the age of population explosion, more water is required for irrigation and we need t o develop a sound planning to utilize water resources,” he said. He said the secretary general of the United Nations had emphasized the importance of water, energy, health, agriculture and biotechnology in abbreviated form ‘WEHAB’, adding 2003 had been declared the year of fresh water. He said his book would help introduce new technologies. “The book has chapters on application of information technology tilted ‘water informatics’. It provides useful data on rainfall, rivers, water table, water quality and other useful sources of information.” Satellite Remote Sensing, he added, could supply useful data about the snow cover on mountains and the state of health of glaciers, flow of rivers and reservoirs of water.
“Satellites Imagery is useful for dam sighting and reconnaissance f costal areas,” he added. Dr Hameed Ahmad Khan, executive director of Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) Pakistan, said water management was a burning issue and had special significance in a drought-like situation. “Water scarcity has become a greater concern at present as more than 1.2 billion people were facing shortage of water,” he added. Dr Asad Qureshi of International Water Management Institute (IWMI) highlighted the need for gross root level approach to deal with water crisis. He said water and poverty issues were interrelated Dr Qureshi, Dr Richard Garstrang of World Wide Foundation (WWF), Dr Javed Afzal of Leads and Dr AU Khan read their papers on water issues.
UN Integrated Regional
WAJA, ETHIOPIA, 27 March (IRIN) - Twice a day Abinish Dawto used to lug a heavy 20-litre jug - filled to the brim with brownish, dirty water - for one kilometre, so that her family could wash and drink.
Her backbreaking work - performed by millions of girls in Africa each day - often made her younger brothers and sisters sick, despite first sieving the water through their clothes. But today Abinish holds a clay pot under a new hand water pump just a few hundred yards from her parents' straw hut in Waja village in
Guraghe, a once-fertile area in Ethiopia's Southern Nations and Nationalities People's Region (SNNPR).
Clean water overflows from the brim and runs around her bare feet. "I used to pick the worms out of the water before we drank it," she told IRIN. "Now it is clean and safe." Abinish, 15, has been collecting water for her six siblings and her parents since she was seven. She never went to school, too busy with domestic chores, she says.
CRISIS OF MANAGEMENT
Her plight, says the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), is part of the "silent water crisis" that affects millions of people around the globe. The scale of the crisis is enormous but there is a global commitment to tackling it.
In Ethiopia, less than a third of the 67 million population have access to clean water. The UN has underscored the importance of safe, clean water by calling for the number of people without clean water to be halved by 2015 - a Millennium Development Goal. Yet in Ethiopia the water crisis is not one of resources - rather it is a crisis of management. Abundant supplies can be found in many parts of the country. Ethiopia is often referred to as the water tower of Africa - yet recurrent droughts blight the lives of millions.
Underdevelopment of Ethiopia's water resources is demonstrated the lack of irrigable land - just 4.8 percent has been developed. Almost the entire country relies on rain-fed agriculture. And just a tiny fraction of its hydropower potential has been tapped - evident in the increasing power cuts hitting cities as water levels drop due to the drought. Experts argue that a massive increase in investment - some 70 percent - is needed to improve water and sanitation supplies in Ethiopia.
TAPPING WATER RESOURCES
Officials from the ministry of water resources say that a 15-year plan aims to utilise the potential within the impoverished country. The scheme, which requires some US $7.6 billion, will harness rivers and aquifers in the country. It will also promote water-harvesting schemes for domestic use. Yet officials within the ministry acknowledge that they haven't secured the funding and that is the major hurdle they face.
Aid agencies are playing a role in developing water points in Ethiopia for rural communities. In just 47 days UNICEF, working alongside the Ethiopian government, drilled 22 new ground water wells in Guraghe - which, it says, is a record. Tens of thousands have benefited from the scheme.
UNICEF water and environment head Hans Spruijt says the solution to the water crisis in Ethiopia is readily available. Effective water management is the first step of development, he points out. "We are putting in wells because you cannot take water from rivers, given the distance and the quality, so you would have to treat it at tremendous cost," he told IRIN. "For me there is no doubt that there are tremendous benefits. We are talking about a silent crisis because people do not have water for all the essentials of life." Spruijt said that Ethiopia lags some 15 to 20 years behind many other countries in the world in tapping its water reserves.
"Rural Ethiopia today is about a lack of water but you do not have to look far as ground water is a solution and it needs to be made available," he said. "Ground water is deep and safe and clean," he added. This makes a vast difference to people's lives. People are often walking two hours to get the water and so children do not get to school." In Waja, some 800 families pay less than US $0.02 a month for unlimited supplies of water. The well itself, drilled by UNICEF and which drops to a depth of about 50 metres, cost just under US $2,000. The entire project totalled US $37,000. The villagers of Waja say the pump - which can produce half a litre a second - has revolutionised their lives.
The Japan Times
"In my community," says Roy Laifungbam of the Meitei people in northern India, "water is part of our daily ritual worship, as well as our annual spring festival. And this relationship is totally disregarded when you talk about water as a commodity." Laifungbam is part of the Caucus of Indigenous People, who attended the recent World Water Forum in Kansai to offer a spiritual perspective many members felt was absent from the discussions. "We're being treated like we're invisible," complains Santos Norato, a Mayan from Guatemala. "Everybody's more interested in modernity and how to take advantage of nature rather than how to care for it. We think that money takes priority over nature here . . . "
According to UNEP (United Nations Environmental Protection), more than 80 percent of the world's remaining biodiversity, and 90 percent of human cultural diversity, are found in indigenous territories. This highlights their role in caring for the world's last wild areas. Caucus members came with a wide variety of stories -- of coal-mining that is degrading springs in Arizona, desertification affecting Saharan nomads, rising sea levels threatening South Pacific islanders, rivers being dammed in native territories of India, and tourist resorts impacting communities in the Philippines -- but what they shared was a traditional reverence for this basic element. "The water, the trees, and the forests are all sacred to [the Mayans]," explains Norato. "We are part of nature. So we also have water committees who plant the trees and take care of the areas near the sources for water. These services are unpaid, but we believe that it's a useful natural resource that we all have to care for . . ."
Richard Deertrack, a Pueblo from New Mexico, fears that modern life has threatened the intimate relationship many indigenous people have with water. "I come from a people whose only source of water was a stream, some springs, and hand-dug wells. When I first came into contact with a shower, I thought it was never-ending. So we're probably using 100 times more water than before we had all the infrastructure. If you turn on your water, somehow you lose reverence for it." But modernity has also inspired many communities to revitalize old customs. "Marine life has diminished in our lagoon," says Te Tika Mataiapo, of the Koutu Nui of the Cook Islands. "A lot of it has to do with irresponsible fishing. We have brought back a traditional method called raui, which we haven't practiced for over 50 years. And it's amazing. We've witnessed the growth of marine life, in fact, we're seeing species we haven't seen for a while. And not only have the fish returned, it has brought back a new consciousness of environmental protection and respect."
For the caucus, their challenge is simply to be heard. "At the first Earth Summit in Rio, after a lot of lobbying and protest, we were finally recognized [in the concluding declaration] as a major group that had an important stake in the discussion," says Maifungbam. "But in Johannesburg [at the second Earth Summit, last summer], this was dropped completely from the declaration. So we had to fight again, right from scratch, to get indigenous peoples back on the agenda. We are still being marginalized even though we still play a very central role in the world's water resources." Although Maifungbam remains upbeat, pointing to the media attention they received, he stresses that much remains to be done. "I think that for indigenous peoples, everything is in the future. We have so much to do, and our struggle will still be long."
Indigenous Peoples Kyoto Water Declaration, Third World Water Forum, Kyoto, Japan, March 2003; Internet: http://www.indigenouswater.org/IndigenousDeclarationonWater.html
African Standard (Kenya)
The Government will not commercialise water services, the Minister for Water Resources Martha Karua has said. Karua said while certain countries had commercialised this service, Kenya cannot afford to do the same due to water scarcity. Karua said commercialising water will deny many Kenyans access to this precious commodity. The Minister said the Government would support privatization of water services. She noted that there is a difference between privatisation and Commercialisation. Commercialising water, Karua said, will force Kenyans to pay more for the commodity, while privatisation will only improve provision of water while the cost to consumer remains nominal. However, she urged stakeholders and the public to continue debating on the merits and demerits of commercialising water services.
Karua was speaking at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) upon return from the Kyoto, Japan where she attended the Third World Water Summit. The Minister said the Government was committed to providing clean water to all Kenyans. Karua said her trip to Japan was an eye-opener on issues related to water and forests. She said provision of water has a close co-relation with forests. The water Minister said she was embarrassed to tell the forum that Kenyan has a forest cover of 1.5 per cent, way below the requisite 10 per cent.
The Namibian (Windhoek)
NAMIBIA has made great strides in its efforts to provide water to all its people, says the Counsellor for the Development Co-operation at the German Embassy in Windhoek. Volker Oel said indicators show that Namibia has provided water to more than 95 per cent of people in urban areas and 75 per cent in rural areas.
He said the Government aims to improve these rates and to manage water resources according to principles of equity and sustainability in its National Development Plan 2 (NDP 2). Oel made these remarks yesterday at the 9th Meeting of the German Technical Corporation (GTZ) Sector on Water and Waste in Africa South of the Sahara being held in the capital.
However, Oel said there are still a number of issues to be addressed, such as water wastage, full cost recovery and affordability. He added that the effective management of water resources can only be achieved if a country has a clear picture of its resource base and water conditions. It is against this background that the German government, through its Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, has supported the Namibian Government in exploring and mapping its groundwater resources. This was carried out by the application of airborne geophysical methods to identify aquifers and salt water intrusions or to delineate contaminations of groundwater.
Oel said Germany has also been helping Namibia undertake a Water Resources Management Review with the aim of coming up with recommendations on how to achieve equitable access to and the sustainable development of freshwater resources by all sections of the population. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, Samuel //Goagoseb, said despite financial constraints, Government will continue with its effort to provide potable water to the people.
Daily Times (Pakistan)
KYOTO: Despite severe opposition by India, Pakistan on Sunday managed to incorporate para-11 in the Kyoto Ministerial Declaration on Water Issues adopted here, which mounts pressure on India to respect the Indus Basin Treaty. Para-11 in the draft, which was, adopted here states that riparian states on trans-boundary and boundary watercourses should cooperate with each other and contribute to sustainable water management. India opposed the inclusion of para-11 during the proceedings of the last day of the conference, saying it does not agree with the draft.
“Pakistan with the consent of all the regional countries including Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri-Lanka managed to forward Para 11, which was ultimately adopted,” Pakistan’s Minister of Water and Power Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao told Daily Times. He said that India in the sub-group meeting did not oppose the para (recommendation), which Pakistan floated, but when the Japanese deputy foreign minister announced to adopt the final draft, India opposed it. Pakistan’s Minister of Water and Power Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and Secretary Water and Power Riaz A Khan said that India stands nowhere as the draft has been adopted. However, Mr Khan said that he also registered Pakistan’s concern over the unjustified opposition by India.
Mr Aftab Sherpao told Daily Times, “We have submitted our reaction to the India’s opposition which states that Pakistan endorses the declaration in its eternity, we appreciate the inclusion of para-11, which is also instrumental in ensuring world peace and harmony, we would rather suggest this forum to express its firm resolve and commitment to honour various bilateral and multilateral treaties.” He said that with the inclusion of para-11 in the Ministerial Draft finalized here on Sunday, there would be a tremendous pressure on India to honour the Indus Basin Treaty, which India is violating by constructing 450 MW Baglihar project on Chenab River and depriving Pakistan from its due right of water.
The minister said that if India is adamant to opposing para-11, then it means that it has refused to cooperate with the international community to resolve the water related issues which is tantamount to the negation of the spirit of the Third World Water Forum. Mr Sherpao further said that Pakistan has, however, decide in principle to move neutral expert against India for not complying with the Indus Basin Treaty, which was inked, by Pakistan and India in 1960. The World Bank had brokered the treaty.
He said although it is a bilateral issue between the two countries, but it may a cause of tension in the region, so in order to create peace and harmony, the ministers and heads of various countries have agreed to incorporate para-11. After the closing ceremony of the Third World Water forum, Pakistan’s minister of water and power said he also met the Vice President of World Bank Mr Johnson and appreciated the major shift in the policy of the Bank and IMF with regard to extending the funds for developing the water infrastructure including dams in Pakistan.
Mr Riaz A Khan said that Pakistan would negotiate with the World Bank and IMF for funding the Mangla Raising Project and Basha Dam. It is pertinent to mention here that earlier both the IMF and World Bank had stopped the funding for big hydropower projects and dams and now in the wake of new strategy chalked out during the Third World Water Forum donor agencies have decide to double their funding for dams and other water development schemes.
FLORENCE, Italy, March 24, 2003 (ENS) - The Iraq conflict is partly about future control of Iraq's huge water resources, an Italian Catholic missionary told an alternative world water forum in Florence, endorsing the meeting's closing call for a new world water deal based on public sector control and a legal right to water for all by 2020. Fr. Alex Zanoletti's angry attacks on U.S. "imperialism," its huge arms buildup, and its leadership role in what he saw as a global "war on the world's poor," drew strong applause from 1,400 mainly European civil society activists attending the First People's World Water Forum here on Friday and Saturday.
Convened as a followup to January's Porto Alegre World Social Forum and an alternative response to last week's Third World Water Forum in Japan, the conference began and ended with recordings from Iraq war newscasts of sirens and falling bombs. Its final session was shortened to enable participants to join the large anti-war march in Florence on Saturday afternoon. Lead organizers were the Italian nongovernmental organization CIPSI, which is a network for international solidarity groups, the World Coalition against Water Privatization, and the Committee for a World Water Contract, chaired by former Portuguese President Mario Soares.
Most of the forum's proceedings were in fact dominated by Riccardo Petrella, the Contract Committee's Italian initiator and secretary. A university lecturer and former senior European Commission official who is still an advisor, Petrella has become one of the father figures of Europe's burgeoning anti-globalization movement. The First People's World Water Forum was co-sponsored by several hundred pacifist, environmental and anti-poverty nongovernmental organizations, including Greenpeace, and WWF, the conservation organization. The alternative water agenda contained in the Forum's final declaration mirrored many points of the civil society declaration issued Saturday in Kyoto.
Water for all by 2020 as a legally enforceable human right could be achieved, the declaration claims, if global water resources were managed as a "common good" by a World Water Parliament, anchored to democratic water management bodies at regional, national and local levels. This would mean removing water from the ongoing negotiations through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and reversal of the present water privatization trend. Public-public partnerships financed by innovative taxes and levies should run water supplies, ensuring that both quality standards and "ecosystem needs" are met, the Forum declared.
The Forum advises that water resources could be stretched enormously by retooling present production processes in agriculture, industry and transport to eliminate water waste; by extensive recycling and reuse; and by rehabilitating existing equipment instead of investing huge sums into new mega-infrastructures as suggested in Kyoto at the 3rd World Water Forum. Participants pledged to carry forward this agenda through campaigning work and lobbying of governments and international negotiating processes.
One target mentioned was to convert the 4th World Water Forum, set for 2006 in Montreal, into the inaugural session of the World Water Parliament, while promoting similar bodies at other levels.
During Peoples' Forum working sessions here in Florence, the European Commission came under bitter attack for allegedly supporting a global water grab by the nine European water multinationals.
Under the World Trade Organization's General Agreement on Trade and Services negotiations, the European Union earlier this year tabled secret requests to 109 WTO members on services liberalization, asking 72 developing countries to open up their water sectors to private investment. The recently leaked requests, now featured on websites of nongovernmental organizations such as the Polaris Institute at: have raised a storm in Europe - not least among parliamentarians who have been refused access to the documents by their governments, or the European Union. European parliamentarians here at the People's World Water Forum debated ways to recover legislators' "sovereignty" over the WTO trade talks, and vowed to set up a parliamentarians' action network focused on water related issues being negotiated under the WTO General Agreement on Trade and Services.
Trade campaigning groups promised an escalation of their "take services out of the WTO" campaign before and after the September 2003 WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico. A number of speakers claimed that the European Union's water law is opening the way for the massive privatization of the European water sector which is now mostly publicly owned. The EU water law, known as a directive, involves the separation of ownership and management of water supplies, and mandates stringent technical and quality regulations which many local authorities could not finance.
Italian parliamentarians and NGOs slammed the Italian government's "pro-privatization" stance and the endorsement by Italy's Chamber of Deputies of article 35 in the recent budget law. This measure, which they claimed gives a restrictive interpretation to the EU water directive, would force privatization of municipal water services throughout Italy. It is being challenged by five Italian regions in the Constitutional Court.
French local authorities, which have concluded some 20,000 management contracts with private sector companies - mainly France's Suez and Lyonnaise des Eaux - would be urged by a new campaigning network to refuse to extend these pacts, Jacques Perreux of the French Val de Marne regional Council announced. French authorities would also be urged by campaigners to take legal steps to "remunicipalize" water, Perreux said.
KYOTO: The third World Water Forum ended on Sunday with a commitment to curb escalating water problems all across the globe. About 24,000 representatives from 182 countries participated in the event, which was held in the Japanese cities of Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka from March 16 to 23. The issues that came under discussion revolved around balancing increased human requirements of water for health, sanitation, energy and environmental purposes. All representatives agreed that community level public participation was fundamental to achieving the goals set out by the forum.
A press release said the Japanese Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport had supported the establishment of an International Flood Network (IFNet). IFNet will initiate a global flood warning system project with the capacity to create precipitation maps for the world every 3 hours, resulting in vastly improved flood warnings. The project will benefit 4.8 billion people. The press release also said UN-HABITAT signed a memorandum of understanding with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to create a programme to augment the capacity of Asian cities to secure and manage pro-poor investments. And to help the region meet the millennium development goals of reducing by half the number of people without safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. The programme will receive US $10 million in grants from the ADB and UN-HABITAT in the first two phases and US $500 million in ADB loans for water and sanitation projects for cities across Asia in the next five years.
UNESCO and World Water Council also agreed to promote, develop and support the establishment and operation of an independent body that can help solve trans-boundary water disputes by providing on request access to experienced technical advisors, tool training sessions and mediators. The press release also said that Australia promised AUD $80 million in aid for water projects in the Asian-pacific region.
KYOTO, Japan, March 24, 2003 (ENS) - Water demand is increasing three times as fast as the world's population growth rate, and poverty is the single most important factor related to meeting that demand, said officials at the 3rd World Water Forum, which wound up eight days of meetings on Sunday. More than 100 new commitments towards bringing safe water and sanitation to the entire world were made by delegates to the Forum. Some 24,000 participants from 182 countries, more than triple the number of participants expected, attended the sessions. The Forum was held in the three neighboring Japanese cities of Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka from March 16 through 23.
Key issues revolved around balancing increasing human requirements for adequate water supplies and better health and sanitation with food production, transportation, energy and environmental needs. In all, 351 separate sessions were held on 38 interlocking themes dealing with water including more effective governance, improved capacity and adequate financing. A speaker told Forum delegates that the world spends 40 times more for petroleum each year than it invests in water and sanitation infrastructure and maintenance.
French delegate Olivier Bommelaer of the Seine-Normandy River Basin Organization said that "globally $25 billion, or 0.08 percent of global gross domestic product, is invested in water supply and sanitation infrastructure each year. With operation and maintenance, "the total budget of water supply and sanitation is around $165 billion. Just compare this to world oil budget - $ 7 trillion." This estimate was based on a world petroleum price of $25 per barrel, which has now jumped to $35. The delegates agreed that community level public participation is fundamental to turning the new commitments into realities, and that the "common basic requirement for water is an opportunity for cooperation and peace." "I have talked with hundreds of participants in sessions and in the corridors," said William Cosgrove, vice president of the World Water Council, one of the main conveners of the World Water Forums, which are held every three years in a different host country.
"Without exception, they reported that they consider that the Forum exceeded their expectations," Cosgrove said. "It was a unique opportunity to form partnerships, join networks and learn from the experience of others." Opening the ministerial portion of the Forum on Saturday, World Water Day, Japanese Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Chikage Oogi identified population growth as one of the most serious challenges in securing water and food supplies. Noting that 2003 is the the United Nations International Year of Freshwater, she urged the delegates to move, "from promise to practice, from commitment to concrete projects, and from intent to implementation."
Oogi presented the Portfolio of Water Actions, a list of some 400 voluntary actions offered by governments to deal with and resolve issues of water scarcity, purity, and sanitation. Ryutaro Hashimoto, who chaired the National Steering Committee of the Forum, emphasized that the Ministerial Declaration should address the reconstruction of water infrastructure in Iraq and the water and sanitation needs of internally displaced people impacted by the military action.
Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, who is currently president of Green Cross International, told the delegates that the war in Iraq "undermines international law and democracy," and said the Forum’s work is important in ensuring water for peace. Gorbachev urged enshrinement of the right to water in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Several delegates, including the International Development Research Centre, a public corporation created by the Canadian government, stated that water is not a commodity, but a human right. Some 1.2 billion people lack a safe water supply and 2.4 billion live without secure sanitation, according to Water Forum official figures. At least five million people die yearly from water related diseases, including 2.2 million children under the age of five.
An estimated one half of people in developing countries are suffering from diseases caused either directly by infection through the consumption of contaminated water or food, or indirectly by disease carrying organisms, such as mosquitoes, that breed in water. To solve these immense problems and meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of halving, by 2015, the proportion of people without safe drinking water and basic sanitation, urgent action as well as words is needed, delegates agreed. "The 3rd World Water Forum has become a truly action oriented conference," said Kenzo Hiroki, vice secretary general of the Forum. "It is well established that investments in water resources management and the delivery of water services are central to poverty reduction. We believe that concrete actions plans will come out of the Forum that when put into effect will make a real difference in the lives of the poor."
The Forum's Organizing Committee issued a final statement, in which the Committee agreed that they will be "solemnly committed to facing the global water challenges and to meeting the goals set forth at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in New York, 2000," Cosgrove said. To achieve those goals, countries right now should be connecting nearly 300,000 new people per day to water services and nearly 400,000 people to new sanitation services per day, but far fewer are actually being connected. A net population growth of more than a billion people over the next 15 years is expected, which will add to the difficulty of meeting the Millennium goals.
In its statement, the Committee pointed out that though increasing water use efficiency through developments in science and technology and improved demand management are essential, these measures alone may not be sufficient to meet the growing demand for water in most developing regions and particularly in cities. "All options to augment the available water supply, including increased storage through the use of groundwater recharge and dams, need to be considered, ensuring that all those who will be affected will also benefit," the final statement said. "The recommendations from the World Commission on Dams (2002) can be used as a reference. A wider adoption of good practice is required in order to avoid the environmental and social costs and risks of the past."
Agreements reached at the 3rd World Water Forum include:
· A broad consortium of organizations, including United Nations agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Water Counci, the World Meteorological Organization, the UN Environment Programme, UNESCO, the UN Development Programme, and the World Bank, which supported the International Dialogue on Water and Climate, are committed to continue building bridges between the climate and water sector, and develop activities to better cope with climate impacts. These organizations will form an International Water and Climate Alliance. The relationship of climate to water supply accounted for more than 20 commitments made at the Forum.
· The United Nations Development Programme has committed to creating a Community Water Initiative, aimed at building on the power of local communities to solve their own water and sanitation challenges. The initiative will provide innovative communities with small grants to expand and improve their solutions. The Community Water Initiative has an estimated target budget of $50 million for 2003-2008.
· Through the Indigenous Peoples Kyoto Water Declaration, the indigenous participants of the 3rd World Water Forum commit themselves to forming a network on water issues that will strengthen the voice of indigenous people generally, and help empower local communities struggling to protect their water rights.
· The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of Japan has supported the establishment of the International Flood Network, launched during the Third World Water Forum for flood mitigation. The network's Global Flood Warning System project offers the capacity to create the precipitation maps all over the world every three hours. As a result, flood warnings in the world will be vastly improved, benefiting up to 4.8 billion people.
· Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, executive director of UN-Habitat and Asian Development Bank President Tadao Chino signed a memo of understanding on the Asian Cities Partnership (Photo courtesy IISD)
· A Water and Poverty Initiative, led by Asian Development Bank, is being developed with collaborating partner organizations for the 3rd World Water Forum. The bank on Wednesday signed an agreement with UN Habitat on Water for Asian Cities Program, which will provide $500 million in loans over five years. The bank signed a parallel agreement with the Cities Alliance Program, which will provide an initial $500,000 in grants for urban poor water supply and sanitation improvements, leveraged against community commitments. Additional funding for Water for Asian Cities has also been made available to UN-HABITAT by the government of Netherlands.
· A program to precisely identify the benefits brought by sound water management and provide governments with appropriate tools and analysis to be considered in priority setting, planning, development, management, and budgeting for the water sector is one commitment made by the World Water Council. The program will be developed with a consortium of International financial institutions, UN agencies, international non-governmental organizations, and research institutions.
· UNESCO and the World Water Council committed themselves to promote, develop and support the establishment and operation of an independent, easily accessible facility that can help solve problems related to trans-boundary waters by providing on request access to experienced technical advisers, tools, training sessions and mediators.
· Several international organizations and research institutes are committed to financing and continuing to develop Virtual Water, a website that simulates an actual conference environment. It provides a discussion platform involving people around the world beyond time, region and language barriers, using the latest computer technology and the Internet. It aims to provide governments with information and tools to utilize virtual water trade as an integral part of any government's national and regional water, food and environmental policies.
· The Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank committed itself to funding national capacity building projects for monitoring the achievement of Millenium Development Goals. Candidate countries are welcome to apply.
· PricewaterhouseCoopers, UN Water and Care International commit to a Global Water Initiative, to bring a substantial contribution to the Millenium Development Goals. It will start soon with a pilot project in Africa supported by the French Government, with results by the end of the year 2003.
· Australia commits over A$80 million in the current financial year for water activities, primarily in countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
· Caribbean and Pacific organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement the Joint Program for Action among 37 member states, providing for cooperation on enhancing the freshwater environment, capacity building, data and information management, applied research, and sharing of expertise.
· The Netherlands will concentrate its support to Africa and assist 10 countries in the development of their national water and sanitation plans. Further, it is committed to support the African Water Facility.
· The European Commission is committed through EUREAU to include benchmarking into the EU Water Initiative.
· The Mekong River Commission, with the governments of Cambodia, Laos PDR, Thailand and Vietnam, will prepare a navigation strategy and program by the end of 2003 to develop sustainable, effective and safe navigation on the Mekong, and to increase the international trade opportunities for the mutual benefit of the Commission's member countries.
Many countries face a governance crisis, rather than a water crisis, the Forum's final statement said. "Good water governance requires effective and accountable socio-political and administrative systems adopting an integrated water resources management approach with transparent and participatory processes that address ecological and human needs." The need for capacity building, education and access to information for better water management is unquestioned, the Forum said in its final statement. But these critical elements of the water development process are often given short shrift.
Participation of many sectors of the population is also given little attention, and the Forum participants stressed the need for a closer examination of participation based on race, ethnicity, economic status, age, and religion to ensure inclusiveness. Large segments of society, especially women and the poor, are not given a voice in shaping water policy. Major groups including CEOs, unions, indigenous people, water journalists, parliamentarians, youth and children, the Forum acknowledged, all have a point of view and deserve the right to be heard. World Water Council president Cosgrove presented the three winners of the Water Action Contest each with a $15,000 prize. The winners are: Gansu Research Institute for Water Conservancy, China; Technology Transfer Division, Bombas de Mecate, Nicaragua; and Voluntary Action for Development, Uganda.
The Japan Times
KYOTO -- For eight days, and at a considerable cost to local taxpayers, the World Water Forum brought together international corporations in the water supply business, World Bank officials and a large number of Japanese construction and design firms, as well as senior government officials and thousands of members of nongovernmental organizations. But in the end, a lack of political will due to ongoing controversies over the privatization of water supplies and the war in Iraq left many participants doubting whether the conference produced anything of value.
The war began on the fifth day of the conference and prompted several delegates from the Arab world to leave. "It's not that the issues being addressed were not serious. It's that there was no reason to come all the way to Japan for eight days to simply make speeches and vague promises about dealing with the problems," complained one government official from Europe. The agenda for the talks was made up of a host of water and sanitation issues for both developing and industrialized countries. They ranged from providing safe drinking water to the construction of large dams.
Many of the delegates were individuals and organizations that belong to or support the World Water Council, the forum's sponsor. Formed in 1996, the council's main role is to lobby governments around the world to address water supply and sanitation needs. Nearly 200 Japanese companies, including general construction firms, road-building companies and trading companies supported the forum, which took place in Kyoto, Osaka, and Shiga prefectures. Official delegates gathered to approve 422 specific action plans to deal with water and sanitation issues, building new dams, sharing new technologies and forming cooperative agreements between various regions to exchange information.
One of the main purposes of the forum was to help participants prepare for the Group of Eight Summit in June. French President Jacques Chirac has declared water issues a priority for discussions, and the participants wanted to use the meeting to coordinate efforts to lobby the G-8 governments. Given the start of the war on Iraq, however, even former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, the forum's steering committee chairman, was pessimistic that water would still be high on the G-8 agenda. From the first day to the last, the underlying message -- that a worldwide water shortage will lead to conflicts among nations in the 21st century -- was simply but forcefully put.
To prevent conflict, massive investment in water and sanitation infrastructures is needed in order to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people without clean water by 2015. Most controversially, official delegates argued that the only way such investment will materialize is if cash-strapped governments look favorably upon the idea of private-sector control of their water supply and sanitation needs. They argued that the private sector has more money and management ability than governments do. But in their seminars extolling privatization, they ignored examples of the failure of water privatization in countries like Argentina, Bolivia, South Africa, and the Philippines.
In Manila, for example, after two private firms won concessions for the city's public water works in 1997, water prices tripled over the next five years. By December 2002, one of the firms announced it would pull out. This firm was an affiliate of the French conglomerate Suez, which is a major supporter of the World Water Forum. The announcement meant that the project, which was serving 6.5 million people in the western part of metro Manila, would be abandoned, according to reports by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington. "You learn as much from your mistakes as your failures, and we need to study water-privatization failures as well," said Koos Richelle, from the European Commission.
For NGOs that opposed the privatization of water services, the conference started off hopefully. Members of several groups reported that, unlike in the previous World Water Forum, held in The Netherlands three years ago, the various sessions were open to them. But their hopes faded toward the end. Most groups issued declarations of their own Sunday, saying, in effect, that the ministerial declaration clearly demonstrates the way in which big water corporations and international lending agencies are heading -- toward the privatization of water and sanitation services through public-private partnerships. "The World Water Council tried to present themselves as caring for the poor and the environment. But the real agenda (of privatization) didn't change a bit," said Maude Barlow, chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, an Ottawa-based NGO.
World Bank official David Grey claimed at one forum session that the bank does not have an "ideology" regarding privatization. But the rapid growth of water privatization was possible because the World Bank has often made privatization of the water sector a condition for loan guarantees. NGOs did not just complain. They also presented successful examples of alternatives to the kind of privatization that they said the forum was pushing. For example, the Departamento Municipal do Agua e Esgoto, a water company in Porto Alegre, the capital of the Rio Grande do Sul province of Brazil, is publicly owned but financially independent from the state. It is fully financed with the water bills paid by the city's 1.4 million residents. DMAE has been in operation for 14 years and allows public participation and control over its operations and investments.
Republic of Botswana
President Festus Mogae arrived Friday from Japan where he attended the Third World Water Forum.
When briefing participants at the forum about Botswana’s programme of major investments designed to increase water supply sources for her growing population, Mogae said the cost of developing water sources in developing countries was high.
He said while the country managed to raise substantial funds for projects, Botswana had benefited from international lenders such as the European Investment Bank, the Nordic Investment Bank, and the Japanese Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund. Among others, Mogae delivered a speech at the United Nations University in Tokyo, launched the Botswana/Japanese Parliamentary League, and invited the Japanese business community to invest in Botswana. He was accompanied by First Lady Barbara Mogae, foreign affairs and international co-operation minister Mompati Merafhe, minerals, energy and water affairs minister Boometswe Mokgothu, deputy speaker of the National Assembly Bahiti Temane and North East MP Chapson Butale.
Daily Times (Pakistan)
Lack of clean water in households causes millions of children in the developing world to suffer needlessly from disease. According to UNICEF, millions of girls are deterred from getting an education because of a dearth of sanitation facilities in schools. A lack of access to clean water causes waterborne illnesses that kill more than 1.6 million young children each year. Lack of separate and decent sanitation facilities at schools often forces girls to drop out of primary school. Of the 120-million school-age children not in school, the majority are girls.
“This lack of education early in life often consigns girls to poverty or dependence later in life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. March 22 is World Water Day. Millions of children suffer intestinal infections caused by parasites. Each year 19.5 million people are infected with roundworm and whipworm alone, with the highest rate of infection among school-age children. Also, each year, an estimated 118.9 million children under 15 suffer from schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic flatworms. Parasites consume nutrients, aggravate malnutrition, retard children’s physical development and result in poor school attendance and performance.
“The money it takes to provide water and sanitation services is so small when compared to the payoffs,” Bellamy declared, urging governments to invest more in clean water and in the protection of scarce water sources. UNICEF said that studies show that for every $1 invested in children - including money to improve access to clean water and sanitation - $7 will be saved in the cost of long-term public services. “By providing clean water and sanitation to the poorest people on the planet, we can reduce poverty and suffering and ensure education for all children,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy will attend the Third World Water Forum, which will bring leaders, technical experts and children together for a series of conferences in Japan from March 16 through 23. During the conference, UNICEF will work to ensure that children have a voice in solving these problems. Approximately 100 children from developing and industrialized nations will discuss their role as driving force for change on water and sanitation issues. Representatives from this forum will present their findings to decision-makers attending the Ministerial Conference on March 22 and 23. The Netherlands and the Japanese NGO Network are funding the Children’s World Water Forum.
The Third World Water Forum is also a step towards accomplishing the goals. World leaders outlined at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD), to halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015. ‘We all know that fresh water is a scarce resource in many places, often a highly politicized commodity,” Bellamy observed. “That’s why its crucial that we think of these resources in terms of our children - not only for our own children’s health, but for future generations.” —UNICEF.
UN Integrated Regional
Two teenagers spelt out the scale of the water crisis in drought-stricken Ethiopia at an international conference in Japan marking world water day on Saturday. Tireza Satheesh and Zerihun Mammo told how they witnessed first hand the suffering of communities in Ethiopia who have almost no access to water.
Their plea at the third World Water Forum in Kyoto came as the UN's Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Ethiopia's ministry of water resources joined forces to launch a 15-year water plan for the country.
Tireza, 16, from Addis Ababa, said she was able to see with her own eyes how a lack of water can devastate a community. Children were not able to go to school, she said. Many of them had to walk three to four hours from their home to collect water for their families. By the time they returned, they were too late for their classes.
Even when they did get water, she said, the children told her it was unsanitary and they often suffered from diarrhoea. Currently some 2.1 million people are in critical need of water because of the severe drought currently gripping the country. On Saturday, the Ethiopian government said that effective use of the country's water resources was "indispensable" in preventing future food crises. "The task of reversing the recurrent drought-induced problems by ensuring sustainable food security and agricultural development requires a major transformation in water resource utilisation," the information ministry stated.
Ethiopia is currently in high-level talks with Egypt about effective use of the Blue Nile which runs through the country before joining the White Nile in Sudan. Despite recurrent droughts, Ethiopia has the second largest water resource in Africa - but the size of the population and access have always posed major problems. "Ethiopia has numerous lakes and rivers, but the population is always depending on rain," Tireza told IRIN before leaving for Japan. "We should not be only dependent on rainwater but should be able to use the water resources that we have effectively."
AFP via Terra Wire
Recycling wastewater, practising deficit irrigation and planting genetically-modified seeds that need less water are among ideas to help desert agriculture proposed at the Third World Water Forum. How to make the desert bloom is a problem most pressing on arid countries in north Africa, central Asia and the Middle East, where agriculture consumes 90 percent of available water yet contributes just 10 percent of the region's gross domestic product. "There is a need to change perspective and stop thinking about yield in terms of tonnage per hectare but in terms of kilogram for cubic meter of water," said Ismael Serageldin, a top World Bank official for agriculture research.
Supplemental techniques such as drip irrigation can increase productivity of a crop to 2.2 kilograms per cubic meter -- compared to the 0.8 kilograms per cubic meter produced using traditional methods of irrigation, he said. Crops that depend on rainwater, by contrast, produce only 0.3 kilograms per cubic meter of water. To prepare a crop for supplemental irrigation, the planting season can be extended by one month, moved for example from November to October, to ensure that crops are well watered before the first frosts.
"Applying a little bit of water at the right time can make a huge difference," said Theib Oweis, a researcher with the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, or ICARDA, a leading innovator in the Middle East.
Oweis also supported the use of deficit irrigation, or using less water than a plant needs, in the Middle East. While the yield might be less, the productivity of a crop based on its use of water makes it more efficient, he explained. ICARDA researchers were also working on intraspecies hybrids known as germplasms to, for example, grow chickpeas that can resist the winter, "because according to our studies, if we plant them only in winter and not in spring their yields double," he said. "We have to look more at water-efficient germplasms," agreed Serageldin. "A lot of work needs to be done in that direction," as well as in helping to rid crops of parasites.
Controversy over the use of genetically-modified organisms has hampered agricultural research, Serageldin said, pointing to the debate that has kept "golden rice," a GM crop invented by Swiss researcher Ingo Potrykus, off the market. The betacarotene-rich product aims to help populations deficient in iodine and Vitamin A -- some 200 million people, he said, including 14 million children who are blind.
According to the International Rice Research Institute, Asian countries are in 2003 to be provided with the rice seeds for experimental field evaluation, but it will take up to four years before the product reaches farmers or is made available in local markets.
More attention should also be paid to wastewater recycling for agriculture, a practice used in Israel, Australia and the Canary Islands, suggested Israeli researcher Avner Adin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Water reuse has a lot of advantages" once heavy metals are filtered out, he said. "Not only do you purify wastewater for agriculture purposes but you also prevent groundwater pollution." With the slow but inexorable creeping of desertification, now is the time for arid regions to change not only agricultural but cultural habits, other researchers noted. In central Asia, for example, livestock is set loose to graze on seedlings, eroding the soil and removing young plants that could eventually feed humans.
AFP via Terra Wire
Non-governmental groups from China and Uganda are to share a 50,000-dollar prize with a Nicaraguan engineering firm after winning the Water Action Contest at the Third World Water Forum Sunday.
The three groups were honored Sunday for their work in helping the poor gain access to safe water.
The Gansu Research Institute for Water Conservancy was commended for helping households in northwestern China recycle rainwater, said Forum official Masato Toyama.
Voluntary Action for Development in Uganda was hailed for its highly successful hygiene-awareness campaign in the east African nation. Inexpensive water pumps developed by Bombas de Mecate of Nicaragua have enabled many poor people to access water in the impoverished Central American country.
"Their projects are unique and effective in their respective countries," Toyama said. The three were chosen from 870 organizations from all corners of the world that conduct projects promoting sustainable water management on a local level.
KYOTO, Japan (AFP) - A declaration from the ministerial meeting ending the Third World Water Forum prioritized water issues as an "urgent global requirement" but failed to suggest concrete action to end the global water and sanitation crisis. Reference to water as a basic human right, a characterization approved last November by the United Nations, was also omitted Sunday from the consensus declaration of 101 ministers representing 96 countries and delegates representing another 69 nations.
Also omitted was a follow-up on a call by French President Jacques Chirac, and echoed by former IMF chief Michel Camdessus, for a global watchdog to monitor progress made towards achieving the UN Millennium Goals of more than halving to one billion the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015. "Prioritizing water issues is an urgent global requirement," the declaration said, calling water a "driving force for sustaintable development" and a tool to fight poverty. The declaration urged better cooperation among nations sharing water resources and sought to spur the United Nations into taking a leading role in mediating, leading and cooperating with other organizations involved in the water sector.
"It is a good opportunity that, during such a conflicting time, representatives from 165 countries could come together and discuss these issues," said Belgium's minister of territory management, Michel Foret.
The United States was "pleased" by the declaration that came from ministerial consensus, said Susan Povenmire, a member of the US delegation. "The United States looks forward to the G8 Summit in Evian (France) as an important next step to build consensus and develop coalitions that will create concrete and compelling infrastructure for bringing water to the world's poor," she said.
But criticism of the declaration came at both the ministerial and non-governmental level, deriding the document as too soft and lacking in reference to controversial issues including the construction of large-scale dams. The nature conservation group WWF regretted that the declaration failed to prioritize conservation of freshwater ecosystems. "The ministerial declaration could have been a blueprint for averting further human suffering caused by inadequate water supply and sanitation, instead it is marked by reticence to put protection of ecosystems first," said the group's living waters program director, Jamie Pittock.
Other ministers complained that the language of the declaration did not express true commitment to action to ensure water and sanitation for the world's 2.4 billion without it.
"I think we should not be apologetic. We should be very clear," said Monyane Moeleki, the minister of natural resources for the southern African nation of Lesotho. "We are ministers gathered here. We sound very half-hearted and unsure." Absence of the characterization of water as a human right was also regretted by NGOs. "Without direct references to the rights issue, I am not sure how we can ensure that governments will make water issues and serving the poor their priorities," said Rosemary Rop, a member of Kenya's Maji na Ufanisi, or Water for Everyone.
The declaration omitted reference to the rights issue due to international disagreements over development and other rights to water, explained Seiji Morimoto, a Japanese foreign ministry official. Undaunted, forum organizers hailed both the ministerial declaration and the week-long forum gathering 12,000 participants a success, insisting such criticisms reflected the meeting's wish to include a wide scope of opinions.
"NGOs made this meeting vibrant," said Ryutaro Hashimoto, the former Japanese premier and the chair of the forum's steering committee. "I hope they will continue to participate in passionate discussions about water."
IPS via Manila Times
KYOTO, Japan—Ministers from over 100 countries will mark World Water Day Saturday by meeting here to endorse over the weekend a contentious report that lays down the road map for poor countries in solving a range of the planet’s water-related problems. The report, “Financing Water For All,” which was distributed on the eve of World Water Day, March 22 (today), at the international water conference under way here, has already been shot down from three different quarters. “The report was disappointing. It is not balanced,” Agnes Van Ardenne-Van der Hoeven, the Dutch minister for development cooperation, told journalists at the Third World Water Forum (twwf), being held here from March 16 to 23. “The report is not concrete. The focus is on large-scale infrastructure.” “We need to look at small- and medium-scale infrastructure,” she added.
Likewise, “I fear the report at this critical conference is a missed opportunity and misses direction of focus,” says Sir Richard Jolly, chairman of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (wsscc). The council is an international group lobbying to secure safe water and adequate sanitation for the world’s poor.
“There is too little on what is needed to reach the poor and the poorest of the poor,” says Jolly. “There is little that comes out in the report to address issues that matter to women, who make up a large number among the poor.” Some of the government delegates already here for the weekend’s special ministerial meeting also got a taste of where nongovernment organizations (NGOs) stand on the “Camdessus report,” so named after the man who chaired a 20-member panel that prepared the report—Michel Camdessus, former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Activists staged an impromptu walkout, accompanied by chants of “Water for life not for war” and banners held up with the message “No profits from water,” when the Camdessus report was released during a session on the “World Panel on Financing Water Infrastructure.” “These ‘solutions’ will not help the majority of the world’s people without access to water—they will only worsen the problems and prevent the adoption of real solutions such as rainwater harvesting and renewable energies,” says Joan Carling of the Philippines-based Cordillera People’s Alliance.
The NGOs call for the “rejection of the Camdessus report,” she adds, since “no public financing should be given for large water infrastructure projects unless they meet World Commission on Dams guidelines.”
But Camdessus is defiant about the 54-page report, which was initially launched in Paris on March 5. After being endorsed by the ministers and other participants at the Third World Water Forum, the report will head for approval at the Group of Eight meeting of industrialized countries in France in June. “We believe this is the way to provide water for all, but we will not tell the ministers to take it or leave it,” Camdessus said at a press conference. “There is no alternative to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.” “The urgency is not to change ownership of water services but to improve the service,” he added. “We would like this to be endorsed by governments and the international community.”
Under the Millennium Development Goals, world leaders have endorsed an ambitious program for dramatic change in developing countries, including halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation by 2015. Currently, some 1.1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.4 billion people have no proper sanitation, which results in 2.2 million people in the developing world, mostly children, dying every year. Earlier this week, a new World Bank report estimated that the world needs annual investments to rise from $75 billion to $180 billion over the next 20 years to lift the poor out of an environment deprived of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
According to the Camdessus report, global financial flows into the water sector “have recently fallen to a very low point,” after a slight increase in the 1990s. It says that developing countries need to attract the private sector to reverse this trend, but also need to produce new national strategies to strengthen the water sector. It also calls on contracts for private sector participation to be standardized and promoted, “whereby sun-sovereigns [like municipalities] can employ private companies under incentive-driven contracts to raise efficiency and performance.” On building dams, the report states that “the reaction to dams [following criticisms] appears to have been excessive and counter-productive.” It supports the funding of both small and large dams to meet the “future needs for water storage, flood control, and irrigation development.”
To fund dam building, the report wants governments, international lending institutions like the World Bank and commercial banks to push for “the development of local capital markets in which projects can obtain part or all of their funding.”
Camdessus admits that developing countries turning to private sector involvement in their water sector can make them vulnerable due to the volatile financial markets. “I don’t like to expose developing countries to volatile financial markets, and we have mentioned in the report ways developing countries can be sheltered from the fluctuations in the international financial system,” he says. Developed countries, he adds, should take the lead to help build a stable international financial market to avoid a “calamity.”
Voice of America
Close to a hundred countries attending the third annual World Water Forum have endorsed urgent global priorities for easing clean water scarcity. But some delegates are criticizing the final declaration as short on specific action. More than a billion people lack access to safe water. An estimated five to seven million people die every year from water-borne diseases, including more than two million children under the age of five. After a week of meetings in Kyoto, Japan, ministerial delegates to the World Water Forum adopted a declaration on tackling the growing crisis of water scarcity.
The document outlines ways to use regional financing and management to improve sanitation and address water concerns for several billion people around the world U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky praised the outcome, saying an integrated management plan will be developed by 2005 to protect water, which is essential to sustainable development and to ease poverty and hunger. World Water Council Vice-President William Cosgrove says the forum addressed the problem in a more comprehensive manner. "The single most pressing issue, in my mind, is that, while there are some aspects to this problem that are global, it must be dealt with by every government in each country. Up until now, in most countries, leaders have, even though they say that they understand the importance of the issue, have not responded by putting [it] into their development plan and their poverty reduction plans. When one thing that we certainly know, by now, is that, without government commitment, that we don't make any progress," he says.
But some European and Latin American representatives say the ministerial declaration lacks specific commitment to action, and the language is weak. The declaration does not designate water as a basic human right, something the United Nations endorsed last year. It also does not back the creation of an international watch-dog agency to monitor progress on water-related goals. Some non-governmental organizations walked out of the Friday session to protest a panel report proposing to raise an additional $100 billion a year in non-government funding to improve water sanitation and infrastructure. While the report was not adopted in the final declaration Sunday, critics say elements of the plan would amount to the privatization of water, something that would make conditions even tougher for the poor.
Vandana Shiva of India, who heads a Himalayan-based environmental research organization, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, is one of those critics. "The protests were amazing, colorful ones, wonderful, full of joy, but with a very clear message. Our water is not for sale, and we are not going to let public money be used to hand over our water resources and our water supply systems to big giants," he says. The Third World Water Forum brought together 12,000 participants to tackle water shortage.
22 March – Marking World Water Day 2003, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for a “blue revolution” of improved water management and sharing so that instead of igniting armed conflict, water scarcity and crises united the people of the world. “It is often said that water crises and scarcities will at some point lead to armed conflict,” Mr. Annan said in a message delivered by Klaus Toepfer, Executive-Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to the Third World Water Forum currently underway in Kyoto, Japan. “But this need not be the case. Water problems have also been a catalyst for cooperation among peoples and nations.”
In his message, Mr. Annan noted that while poor countries overwhelmingly suffer the most – from a lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation – but countries with expertise in “drip irrigation” or the management of watersheds are beginning to share that knowledge and technology. “Scientists, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, private businesses and international organizations are pooling their efforts in the hopes of bringing about a much needed 'blue revolution' and to improve management of this vital resource,” the Secretary-General said. “Whatever else divides the human community, whether we live upstream or downstream, in cities or in rural areas, water issues – the global water cycle itself – should link us in a common effort to protect and share it equitably, sustainably and peacefully.”
Warning that under present trends two out of every three people on Earth will suffer moderate to severe water shortages in little more than two decades, Mr. Annan said: “This year, the International Year of Freshwater, we must move from promises to practice, from commitments to concrete projects, from intent to implementation.”
Of ‘Caring, Sparing And Sharing’ Must Be Promoted To Ensure Clean Water For
All, Says General Assembly President On World Water Day, message of General
Assembly President Jan Kavan (Czech Republic) on World Water Day
21 March – A range of United Nations agencies is set to join forces with world leaders and experts gathered in Japan to generate creative and responsible strategies to avert a future water crisis caused by population growth, pollution and climate change. The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today told ministers meeting in Kyoto for a key conference on water that improving the sustainable development and management of water for agriculture is essential to enhance food security and alleviate poverty.
Speaking during the high-level segment of the Third World Water Forum, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said investment in small-scale irrigation, rural infrastructure and market access will be vital for any success in the fight against hunger and poverty. "The international community and the countries concerned need to make improved agricultural water management a political and financial priority," he said. In many developing countries, water is already scarce and the competition from industrial and domestic users is intensifying. FAO estimates that by 2030, one in five developing countries will be suffering actual or impending water scarcity. Mr. Diouf stressed that without support for low-cost, small-scale irrigation and drainage in poor rural communities in the developing world, "we will annually be pouring, as this year, hundreds of millions of dollars in food aid to avoid starvation."
The ministers at the Kyoto Forum are expected to make recommendations that will be included in the meeting's final declaration. In particular, the ministers will call for improved governance of agricultural water use through efficient water resource management, increased research and development, including traditional knowledge, and broad cooperation and public-private partnerships in agricultural water management.
Meanwhile, on the eve of World Water Day 2003 - an event planned to inspire political and local-level action to promote responsible water use and conservation - the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced a joint initiative with the World Water Council which will help prevent and resolve possible "water wars" in the future. Based at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, the new facility will react to crises and assist or intervene in disputes at parties' requests. It will provide a range of services, including technical and legal advice and training in water negotiations.
For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to launch a new journal on water and health, in conjunction with the International Water Association (IWA). The publication is designed to bring up-to-date information to government officials and professionals whose work affects people's access to water and sanitation. It will deal with diseases associated with microbial and chemical hazards and insect vectors, and will span aspects of science, policy and practice.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meanwhile, stressed that World Water Day 2003 is scheduled as the highlight of the UN International Year of Freshwater. The theme for this year's event is "Water for the Future" - calling on everyone to observe sustainable approaches to water use for the benefit of future generations - and the agency said that in a refugee context, water is very often the key to life or death. UNHCR has launched a global survey on water supply for refugees to identify the major gaps in providing safe water to some 20 million refugees and displaced persons around the world. When the survey is completed, UNHCR said it would be able to better shape and direct its water projects.
Water And Sanitation In The World’s Cities: Local Action For Global Goals
Reproductive Health Can Reduce Water Insecurity, Says UNFPA Report
Friday, 21 March 2003: UNDP today launched a new Community Water Initiative that will provide small grants to help local communities meet water and sanitation challenges. Unveiled by Alvaro Umana, leader of UNDP's Energy and Environment practice, at the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, the initiative will initially benefit 10 to 15 countries. Global water usage increased six-fold in the last century, more than twice the rate at which the world's population grew. An estimated 1.2 billion people have no access to safe drinking water and more than 2.4 billion lack proper sanitation.
UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Misako Konno, Japanese actress, author and television star, joined in the lively launch that also included music by Massukos, a band from Mozambique known for supporting civic campaigns. "I have visited Cambodia, the Palestinian territories and many other places as Goodwill Ambassador for UNDP," said Ms. Konno. "I have heard the voices of many poor people who do not have clean drinking water, and I think those people would very much like their voices to be heard." Mr. Umana said that if the world is going to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, which include the target halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015, "it will happen one community at a time."
The initiative reflects the concept that community action is essential for solving water and sanitation challenges, he emphasized, noting that "many global problems are both created and solved by action at the local level." He pointed out that experience has shown that "major improvements can be made with modest external support" through small grants, relevant advice and appropriate building of local capacity.
Bunker Roy of the Barefoot College in India also took part in the launch, along with Nazir Wattoo of the Pakistani organization Anjuman Samaji Behbood and Kate Mhlanga, who runs the UNDP Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme in Zimbabwe. The initiative will provide small grants to expand and improve innovative local solutions to water and sanitation crises. With initial funding of $500,000, the target budget is $50 million for 2003 - 2008, as the initiative expands from the pilot phase to include many more countries.
The initiative will provide funds for basic construction materials and help mobilize human and financial resources to support locally-led activities. Eventually, more than 1,000 communities will benefit, and the goal is to multiply the impact by making strategies for capacity development and knowledge-sharing widely available. The initiative will also work to ensure that local success stories have a broader influence on water policies. "We believe that policy makers at the national and international levels must learn from the valuable models for a sustainable future that are developed at the community level," said Mr. Umana.
Water Forum Statement by Mark Malloch Brown, UNDP Administrator
OSAKA, Japan - Despite reaping criticisms for their involvement in water privatization, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) announced they would continue pouring in money for projects that would ensure enough water for the world. Arthur Macintosh, an ADB consultant, said here Tuesday that the privatization of water utilities is only one of the options available, but it is not the only sole option offered to countries that would avail themselves of ADB assistance. Richard Uku, a senior communication specialist of the World Bank, agreed, stressing that they would listen to all sectors before making any decision. He added that privatization has been picked over the other choices after a careful study where it has been found that it is the best solution.
Macintosh, on the other hand, emphasized that the real issue is the tariffs imposed by the governments and not the private sector. And to let people understand the real score on privatization, he disclosed that ADB would conduct more consultations with all sectors involved. He admitted that “we have to spend time talking to people.” Their institutions would talk to unions, nongovernmental organizations and other sectors to ensure that these people understand what the bank is up to.
Ed Haugh, ADB’s social sector director for South Asia, pointed to “social issues” as being one of the top challenges they have to go through all these years in the implementation of water-related as well as other development projects. He told Today that there is a need for consultation with stakeholders for them to understand what the key issues are. For example, he said, the people don’t realize that those who have no access to water spend two to three times more than those who have access. He also said that they face a challenge on the sustainability of the systems. “Often, investments are made but the utilities are unsound, poorly managed, not sustainable. Utilities are not staffed with correct people. Some don’t even have audit systems.”
The ADB and the UN-Habitat program inked a memorandum of understanding Tuesday which aims to build the capacity of Asian cities to secure and manage propoor investments and to help the region meet the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) of slicing to half the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Some P540 million in grants from the two institutions would be made available for the first two phases of the program while another P27 billion in loans would be extended for water and sanitation projects in the cities all over Asia over the next five years.
ADB has poured in some P243 billion to the water supply and sanitation sector, most of which were for the construction of water supply facilities since its establishment in 1966. The amount is close to 5 percent of its total lending. It has also provided technical assistance totaling about P4.5 billion to prepare projects and strengthen local water service agencies. But despite this strong support, it said that there are still an estimated 750 million people in Asia’s rural areas and 100 million people in its urban areas who have no access to safe drinking water. The World Bank, meanwhile, renewed its call on developed and developing countries to work together to increase investments in water in poor nations and achieve better results on the ground because water is a key driver of growth.
In its report titled, “Water A Priority for Responsible Growth and Poverty Reduction: An Agenda for Investment and Policy Change,” the World Bank said investments in water in developing countries will need to increase from the current level of about $75 billion a year to $180 billion a year. It said that in water and sanitation sector alone, the existing amount of investments of $15 million a year will need to be doubled in order to achieve the MDG of halving the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation by 2015. The investments, however, should go hand-in-hand with appropriate reforms and apply to all areas of water, including irrigation, water and sanitation, water resources management, hydropower and environmental services, the World Bank said in a statement.
Ian Johnson, World Bank vice president for sustainable development, said that the 3rd World Water Forum “can be a milestone in launching a new approach combining sorely needed investment with improved governance to harness the potential of water as a driver of responsible growth and of a better life for billions of poor people.” In a press conference in Kyoto, Johnson said, “let’s be pragmatic.” There is a need to “take action that suits the circumstances of each country. The time has come to move beyond the ideological frontier and look at mixed solutions involving all key stakeholders: governments, civil-society organizations, communities, private sector and development institutions. There is no universal prescription.” Estimates peg at two billion the number of people who will be added to the world’s population over the next 30 years. That’s on top of another billion in the following 20 years, most of whom will be in developing countries. In these same countries, 2.5 billion to 3 billion people now live on less than $2 (roughly P100) a day.
The report suggests an action-oriented agenda focused on increased investments in water resources and services linked to poverty reduction and the achievement of the MDG and reform, which includes sound management policies, laws, regulations and efficient institutions. However, the Council on Canadians, a citizens group present here for the weeklong forum, has denounced privatization. It said that “water is a public trust, thus it belongs to everyone. No one should have the right to appropriate it or profit from it at someone else’s expense. Yet that’s what corporations and investors want to do.” If we put profit first, people come second,” said Maude Barlow of the Council of the Canadians in a forum on public and private partnerships on water. Her argument was that if freshwater becomes a commodity, water will go to those who can afford it and not to those who need it.
Water management will be an increasingly challenging task in Asia and the Pacific because of the growth in both water demand and population. The region accounts for about 36 percent of global runoff, water scarcity and pollution. Of the available freshwater resources in the region, agriculture consumes 86 percent while industry eats up eight percent and domestic use, six percent. Today, one in three Asians does not have access to a safe drinking water source within 200 meters from home. One in two Asians does not have adequate sanitation facilities. Ninety percent of people deprived of immediate access to water or sanitation are in the rural areas and are threatened by drought, pollution and flooding.
The Guardian (Tanzania)
As the world marks the World Water Day and the International Year of Freshwater today, governments, institutions and the civil society must reflect not only on the importance of water to poverty reduction and sustainable development but also on the failures and mistakes that have led to the poor situation faced by over three billion people in developing countries today.
In his message on the World Water Day delivered at a press conference here yesterday, the Chairman of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Sir Richard Jolly, said it was particularly appropriate that during the International Year of Freshwater, the international community should think of how to achieve the goal of halving the proportion of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015. “We have reached this critical situation because the top-down, supply- driven approach to provide water and sanitation services have not worked. Promises and expectations of free water have failed to deliver and in most cases, free services has meant no service at all,” explained Sir Jolly. He said if water is treated as a free good to be delivered, and then good water management including cost recovery, and water conservation techniques is likely to be weakened.
For a number of years many people have been giving priority to water supply over sanitation and sanitation over hygiene. He argued that this emphasis has not been effective because it neglects hygiene, which is a major cause of infection and diseases resulting into some 6,000 deaths of children everyday. According to the WASCO Chair, another mistake committed over the years is that of splitting water, sanitation and hygiene into separate priorities and activities. He said that the three components of public health are equally important and should be tackled simultaneously. On the other hand, communities have not done enough to solve the problems of water, health and sanitation and have often turned to shortage of water, lack of funds or rapid population growth and urbanization as excuses. This has only led to more confusion among policy makers and planners. “Actually there is little or no correlation between any of these factors and the severity of water, sanitation and hygiene problems,” he stressed.
Highlighting what should be done to help solve the crisis, Sir Jolly suggested that the share of national and international resources channelled to slums, urban shanty towns and rural areas must be raised. This would generally mean doubling the level of investments in water supply, sanitation and health. Particular emphasis, however, should be directed on hygiene which has hitherto been given a low profile. To this end a special campaign for hygiene (WASH in Schools) was launched during the Forum. The campaign which is run by UNICEF and WSSCC seeks to make schools and public health centres learning and demonstration centres to promote hygiene. It focuses on the promotion of hygiene education and safe water and sanitation facilities in primary schools, with emphasis on separate toilets for girls and boys.
“On this World Water Day, all of us can think of new and imaginative ways to alleviate poverty and improve the health and well-being of the less fortunate among us,” he stressed. He challenged the international community to see how integrated water resources management can contribute to people-centred household technologies that can help meet their water and sanitation needs. The integrated water resources management should also serve the needs of agriculture and industry while combating poverty, improving health and productivity and preventing further degradation of the environment.
Developed nations must allocate greater financial resources to the battle against the global water and sanitation crisis, ministers and delegates at the Third World Water Forum said. About 100 ministers from 96 nations attended the forum's closing two-day ministerial meeting, which was on Sunday to issue a declaration expected to outline ways to achieve the UN Millennium Goals of halving to one billion the number of people without adequate access to water and sanitation. "This year, the International Year of Freshwater, we must move from promises to practice, from commitments to concrete projects, from intent to implementation," said a statement from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan read by UN Environment Programme chief Klaus Toepfer. "This is a social, economical, environmental and political crisis that should be among the world community's highest priorities.
"The investments, policies and technologies required to rise to this challenge are within our means," he said.
Developed nations must increase their financial assistance for poor nations, said UNESCO director Koichiro Matsuura. "Lack of political will, and inertia at the leadership level" were failing to meet the expectations of the poor, he said. Empowering municipalities and financing the projects best-suited to their needs was the only way to ensure that the world's 2.4 billion without access to water and sanitation were served, said Michel Camdessus, a former head of the International Monetary Fund. Camdessus led a 20-member panel of businessmen, international lenders and NGO representatives that presented recommendations to finance water and sanitation infrastructure and suggested an additional 100 billion dollars was needed annually to achieve the UN goals.
The report, "Water Financing for All," said international loans, public investment and official development aid needed to double to achieve the estimated 400,000 water and sewage connections needed daily for the next 12 years to provide adequate access to water and sanitation. Current global spending on water projects, agriculture, environment and sanitation hovers around 80 billion dollars. "Decentralisation is key. Financing of projects should be done at the local level," he said. "There is no other way to achieve (the UN) goals."
The report was criticised by NGOs as too bound to corporate interests with not enough focus on the needs of the poor. They rejected it as the product of "an unaccountable unrepresentative, inaccessible process no longer suitable for this day and age," Hilda Grace Coelho, the president of India's Center for Rural Studies and Development, said in an NGO response at the opening of the ministers' meeting. "Despite ample and credible evidence of the value of local actions within river basins, (the poor) continue to be marginalised and trivialized." Many NGOs oppose the construction of large dams, the privatisation of water services and the inclusion of water resources in international trade debates -- among topics debated at the week-long forum gathering 12,000 participants. The US-led war in Iraq led to cancellations from a number of ministers and delegations to the ministerial conference, including Jordan, Iraq and Israel.
As US troops and tanks roll north from Kuwait across the oil fields at Umm Qasr and Iraq (news - web sites)'a second city Basra, they will pass through the once-lush Mesopotamian marshes, now a desolate indication of the extensive environmental damage in Iraq. Rehabilitating the marshes, considered the biblical-era Garden of Eden, should be among the top environmental priorities of Iraqi reconstruction efforts, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) director Klaus Toepfer said Saturday on the margins of the Third World Water Forum.
"As we mark World Water Day 2003, we are reminded of the dramatic destruction of the Mesopotamian marshlands in southern Iraq over the past decade, a major environmental catastrophe underscoring the great pressures facing freshwater ecosystems across the globe," Toepfer said. "We have already lost half of the world's wetlands in the last 100 years, and the recent loss of one of the world's most outstanding wetlands in Mesopotamia confirms that more decisive and concrete action needs to be taken for their protection and restoration."
UNEP has since 1976 monitored the shrinking Mesopotamian marshlands, which once covered up to 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles) in the Tigris-Euphrates Delta. According to satellite imagery collected by UNEP in 2002, the wetlands straddling the Iran-Iraq border had shrunk to just one thousand square kilometers. Unconfirmed reports after the 1991 Gulf War suggest that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein purposely drained the marshes to go after the wetlands' Marsh Arabs, Muslims whose Shiite practices contradicted his own Sunni faith.
Recent satellite data from the marshes, also home to endangered species of Sacred Ibis and African darter waterfowl, found that a further 325 square kilometers, some 30 percent, of the wetlands had disappeared.
Not all of the damage to the marshlands can be attributed to war, Toepfer stressed, and further environmental assessment of the area to determine just what damage has been caused by daily human pressure and what by the havoc war is planned.
A grant from the Swiss government is to help UNEP perform environmental surveys of both the marshlands and other ecologically-ravaged areas immediately after the current conflict is over, Toepfer said.
The United States has also offered "concrete signals" of its interest in environmental reconstruction.
Toepfer said the need for environmental rehabilitation after conflict was not confined to Iraq and noted an assessment of ecosystem rebuilding needs in Afghanistan, ravaged by 23 years of war, was enthusiastically welcomed by the new government of the central Asian nation. "Taking an ecosystem approach to rehabilitation after conflict is a way to ensure the sustainability of a region -- not just for environmental reasons but economic and humanitarian as well," Toepfer said. "We have a firm conviction that everybody should be aware that the environmental situation is not a luxury topic but a humanitarian necessity to ensure that water is available to ensure human and basic needs."
NAIROBI, 21 Mar 2003 (IRIN) - With a growing world population, unacceptably high levels of pollution and anticipated global climate change, water scarcity is predicted to reach unprecedented levels around the world in the coming decades unless firm action is taken, and taken soon. "Of all the social and natural crises we humans face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet Earth," UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said recently in introducing the World Water Development Report, an overview of the state of the resource.
With water consumption almost doubling in the last 50 years, and per capita water supplies decreasing by a third between 1970 and 1990, "the future of many parts of the world looks bleak", warns the report. The international community has, as one of the Millennium Development Goals, pledged to halve the proportion of people living without access to safe drinking water by 2015. To achieve these targets, an additional 1.5 billion people around the world will require improved access to water supply, which translates to providing water services to an additional 274,000 people each day until 2015, according to UN figures.
"Water supplies are falling while the demand is dramatically growing at an unsustainable rate. Over the next 20 years, the average supply of water world-wide per person is expected to drop by a third," says Matsuura.In recognition of the growing problem, 2003 has been named the International Year of Freshwater, and the Third World Water Forum is taking place in Kyoto, Japan, during March. To mark these efforts and raise awaerness of March 22nd has been denoted as World Water Day.
CRISIS IN AFRICA
On the African continent, figures from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for the year 2000 show that water stress (defined as less than 1,700 metres cubed per capita per year) or water scarcity (less than 1,000 metres cubed per capita per year) has already been observed in 14 of the 53 African countries. Problems with water availability in Africa are further complicated by highly variable levels of rainfall, with some evidence that the frequency of drought and floods have increased over the last 30 years, according to UNEP's Africa Environment Outlook (AE0).
Increased frequency of drought and flooding has the potential to stress water systems further than they are already stressed by population growth and pollution and, according to the AEO, 25 African countries are expected to experience water scarcity or water stress over the next 20–30 years. "Lack of availability and inadequate quality of freshwater are the two most limiting factors for development in Africa, constraining food production and industrial activities", the AEO says. In many developing countries, there has also been a partial trade-off between the pressure to increase energy production and develop industries, and the desire to preserve aquatic ecosystems, thus posing problems for institutions trying to make the best use of their natural resources.
According to the AEO, there are more than 1,200 dams in Africa. Although only a few were built primarily for power generation, hydroelectric power accounts for over half the electric power generated in 25 African countries, making some of these countries power output vulnerable to rainfall variations, and water shortages. Besides providing much needed energy for economic growth, however, some dams have caused the displacement of local people, and have altered patterns of erosion and flooding, says the AEO.
COOPERATION THE KEY
Since all Africa's major rivers cross several international boundaries and, with the exception of Lake Tana in Ethiopia, all African lakes are shared across international borders, international cooperation is vital if the continent's freshwater resources are to be used equitably, dams built to provide power, and conflict between riparian states avoided. That conflicts and disputes over water resources will inevitably occur as population grows and global warming takes hold has become a commonly held point of view among water experts.
In contrast to many observers, however, the World Water Development Report says that cooperation between states is much more likely than conflict in shared river basins. According to the report, over the last 50 years, there have been 1,200 cooperative interactions in shared basins, compared with 500 conflictual ones, with no formal wars over the issue. Even in the absence of conflict, however, water quality can be put at great risk in shared water systems, often increasing tension between nations, or affecting a nation's internal stability, the report adds. Declining water quality, often as a result of pollution, compounds the existing problems of water availability in the developing world. According to calculations in the report there is an estimated 12,000 square km of polluted water worldwide, which is equivalent to more than the total amount contained in the world's ten largest river basins at any given moment.
"The poor continue to be the worst affected by pollution, with half the populations of developing countries exposed to polluted water sources," says the report. Giving the poor better access to better managed water can make a big contribution to poverty eradication, the report asserts. With high demand for water driving unsustainable practices, and competition for water resources between sectors, communities and nations, the key to making the best use of the water available lies in the better management of water resources, according to the World Water Development Report. Despite strong evidence of the water crisis, political commitment to tackle it has been lacking. Although several targets to improve water management have been set over the years, "hardly any" have been met says the report. "This crisis is one of water governance, essentially caused by the ways in which we mismanage water," says the report. "Globally, the challenge lies in raising the political will to implement water-related commitments," it adds.
AFP via Terra Wire
The war in Iraq is a clear example of the need for a special provision of the Geneva Convention to ensure water supplies to civilian populations in wartime, a top official of the World Water Council said Friday.
The council, hosting the Third World Water Forum underway in this ancient Japanese capital, is to submit a formal request through UNESCO for the United Nations to "clean up" the specific provision in the Convention that relates to water, said Loic Fauchon. "The conventions are 50 years old and even if they have been amended many times, they still contain ambiguities as to what is condemnable in terms of destruction," he said on the margins of the Forum, which has gathered 12,000 participants from 165 countries to address a sanitation and water crisis affecting 2.4 billion people.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, laws governing international conflicts prohibit the destruction of services indispensable to the needs of civilians. Fauchon criticized the destruction of a number of water installations in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, "including, curiously, water purification stations that were easily visible by satellite." He said several of the sites leveled in the 1991 war have yet to be rebuilt and that "the country's capacity, in terms of purification and delivery of water, has not been restored." He also referred to a declaration released Thursday by the council that appealed to all combatants to refrain from damaging water and sanitation facilities in the current conflict. The appeal launched Thursday also proposed a swift deployment of a Force for Water, with a UN mandate, to ensure the continued provision of water services while Iraq is under siege.
The European Union is conducting year-long African river basin surveys ahead of planned increases in its development aid to water-stressed countries on the continent, an official said at the Third World Water Forum. "We are not making any financial pledges at this forum," said Koos Richelle, the director general for development cooperation of the European Commission. European nations were "committed" to increasing their water-related official development assistance from the current 1.4 billion euros per year, Richelle said.
The 10-million euro survey project will enable "action plans to better manage water in the continent," said Richelle. "We need good projects, good governance. The surveys will help list our priorities to achieve good governance. "Africa is the priority area for us because we see the continent's water shortage as being most severe."
In addition to the survey project, Europe was also considering how to encourage private investment in water projects that would assist efforts to aid poor nations. "We are confident that EU companies are able to provide high-quality services at competitive prices and with full awareness to their wider social responsibilities," he said. The announcement came at this forum, which has attracted more than 12,000 participants from 165 countries to discuss actions to achieve the UN Millennium goal of halving to one billion the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015.
RTE Interactive News
Participants at the World Water Forum in Kyoto have called for an extra $100bn a year funding for water sanitation and infrastructure. A panel of 20 bankers, businessmen and NGO representatives released a report entitled 'Water Financing for All' today. It suggests donor nations and private and public sector agencies must at least double their investment in the water sector if a UN goal is to be met. The UN Millennium Goal on water aims to halve the number of people without water and sanitation to one billion by 2015.
Official development aide to the water sector currently accounts for 10% of expenditure in the sector annually. Between 3% and 5% of populations in the poorest countries are served by operators that are fully or partially private. The report states that, to be eligible for official development assistance for water, governments must produce water policies that make specific commitments to Earth Summit targets.
Official development donors should be accountable for their commitments to increase aid to the sector. Increases should be at least 100% of current levels. International lending institutions should also substantially increase their engagement in the water sector and reconsider decisions to not tender loans on the sub-sovereign level, based on normal lending criteria. Private sector investment in water projects should be considered on grounds of efficiency, cost and effectiveness through open and transparent competition.
Future water wars could be resolved by scientific mediators, who will rule on who is entitled to what. The Mesopotamian marshes of Iraq could be among the first to benefit. The mediation body will rule on disputes over dams, pollution or the sharing of underground water, said Andras Szollosi-Nagy of the UN science agency UNESCO. He announced the formation of the body at the World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan on Friday. The Mesopotamian marshes, Iraq's ecological treasure, have largely dried up in the past decade. Iraqi drainage projects are to blames, along with Turkish dams in the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which feed the marshes.
The US and UK forces currently invading Iraq will travel through the desiccated marshes en route to Baghdad in the coming days. But the environmental group WWF called here for any post-war settlement to include a deal between the new government of Iraq, Turkey and Syria on sharing the two rivers and saving the marshes. "We want them to agree on a restoration plan for the marshes," said WWF's Jamie Pittock.
NINE NATION RIVERS
Almost half the world's population lives in 263 international river basins. The Danube, Rhine, Congo, Nile, Niger and Zambezi rivers all pass through nine or more nations. But two-thirds of these basins have no treaties to share the water. With world water use expected to triple in the next 50 years, "real wars" over water are increasingly likely, said former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who is in Kyoto representing an international environmental group called Green Cross International.
Besides rivers, the mediators could rule on international underground water reserves. Many aquifers once thought of as isolated, turn out to be part of giant cross-border reservoirs, said World Bank hydrogeologist Stephen Foster. The two largest of these mega-aquifers are both under threat from over-exploitation and could become the subject of disputes, he said. One is the Nubian aquifer beneath the Sahara. It is being drained by Libya, to the anger of Egypt, Sudan and Chad, which it also underlies. The other is the Guarani aquifer beneath parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. These countries are all drawing from what is effectively the same well, said Foster.
But will nations submit themselves to water mediators? The early signs are not good. Szollosi-Nagy says a group of upstream nations, including Turkey, are trying to remove a call for more treaties on international rivers from the forum's closing ministerial statement. "Upstream countries are not willing to share. It's very disappointing after all the fine words at the start of the conference," he says.
Former USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev has told the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto that a failure to reverse the global water crisis could lead to "real conflicts" in the future. It is estimated that by 2025, two thirds of the world's people will be living in areas of acute water stress. "If current trends continue, we could be faced with a very grave situation," Mr Gorbachev warned. It is feared conflicts could arise in areas where rivers and river basins cross state borders. If a country near a river's source begins using more water, this lowers the amount that reaches countries further downstream. For example, there is currently concern about what effect a proposed scheme in India to divert the Ganges to currently dry areas might have on the water supply downstream in Bangladesh.
Mr Gorbachev said all countries in river basins would have to co-operate to prevent tensions.
"Water management can only be effective based on the basin approach," he said. "All countries - the entire basin has to be considered together. Otherwise, the dominant countries could control [the water]."
And he stressed that there must be an improvement on the current situation. "A great majority of countries have not reaffirmed their commitment to co-operate on water resources. We are facing some real conflicts."
Many multi-governmental committees in river basins already exist, but countries are often reluctant to share information.
This has often been the case in South East Asia with China and the Mekong basin, for example.
China only attends meetings of the Mekong basin countries as an observer, and even that development has occurred only recently. Mr Gorbachev said legal powers must be made tougher to forestall any potential flashpoints. "International law should become a more effective instrument," he stated. "Any infringement of water resources is inadmissible."
KYOTO, Japan, March 20, 2003 (ENS) - International organizations should take the role of "marriage guidance counselors" for trans-boundary water issues before they turn into water conflicts between countries, the United Nation's top environmental official said today. Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) made this suggestion at the launch of a study released at the 3rd World Water Forum today to mark World Water Day, observed every year on March 22.
Some 150 river basins, upon which millions of people the world over depend for drinking water, irrigation or energy, could be the triggers for future conflict unless urgent action is taken, the UN study concludes, and the action should be taken in the emerging field of hydro-diplomacy.
"Hydro-diplomacy," said Toepfer, a former German environment minister, means, "amicably resolving differences between countries and communities who may be straying apart, or act as go-between for those who are flirting with cooperation but are too coy, too unsure, maybe even too distrustful about how to proceed." The Atlas lists 263 rivers that either cross or mark international political boundaries - 69 in Europe, 57 in Asia, 59 in Africa, 40 in North and Central American and 38 in South America.
These international basins are distributed over 145 countries that contain 50 percent of the earth's land surface, 60 percent of its freshwater and 40 percent of global population.
The study details the history of water agreements and treaties back to 2,500 BC. Published as the Atlas of International Freshwater Agreements, it was a joint project of UNEP, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Aaron T. Wolf of Oregon State University. The first recorded water treaty was 4,500 years ago when the two Sumerian city-states of Lagash and Umma brokered an agreement to end a water dispute along the Tigris River, according to the maps, statistics and historical documents analyzed for the Atlas.
Over the 4,500 years and 3,600 signed agreements studied for the project, cooperation between countries and sharing of resources has been the historical norm, UNEP said. Professor Wolf said, "We have found that cooperation between countries over the past 50 years has outnumbered conflicts by more than two-to-one. Things can go wrong. But since 1948, only 37 incidents of acute conflicts, such as those involving violence, have occurred. Thirty of these were between Israel and one or another of its neighbors."
Ashbindu Singh, co-author of the Atlas, said the study shows that both existing water sharing agreements and new ones need to be strengthened to address issues of water quality, monitoring, public participation, effective conflict resolution and more flexible methods of allocation that take into account events such as droughts. There is a need for "vigilance, scientific rigor and diplomatic vigor" to preserve and extend a cooperative climate, in view of the number of potential conflict zones, said Toepfer. "
Although over 3,000 treaties and agreements covering over 100 international river basins have been signed over the centuries, 158 of the world's international river basins lack any type of cooperative agreements," he said. Many of these river basins are in Asia, Latin America and Africa where tensions over water for drinking supplies, irrigation, fisheries and hydropower may be aggravated by rising populations and existing political, social and environmental upheavals, UNEP warned today. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, said, "Water treaties, agreements and conventions abound, but knowledge of them, and the relevant records, used to be scattered and not always easily accessible. This Atlas is a welcome step in the consolidation and dissemination of information about shared water treaties."
"The potential conflict over shared water resources is real," said Halifa Drammeh, Deputy Director, UNEP Division of Policy Development and Law. "The issues requiring negotiation and agreement among States have grown more complex, but the practice of seeking a negotiated, agreed solution has remained. This Atlas will be of value above all to those who negotiate such agreements in future." The Atlas dovetails with the UN World Water Development Report (WWDR), a joint undertaking by 23 UN agencies. The Report was released on March 5 and will be formally launched in Japan on March 22, World Water Day.
The main highlight of World Water Day 2003 is the 3rd World Water Forum now meeting with venues in Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka, Japan. The key event during the UN International Year of Freshwater, the Forum is on from March 16-23, with a high-level segment during the last two days.
The goal for World Water Day 2003 is to inspire political and community action and encourage greater global understanding of the need for more responsible water use and conservation. The website www.waterday2003.org has been created on behalf of the UN system by UNEP, the lead agency for World Water Day 2003, to help governments, key partners such as education ministries and schools, civil society organizations, communities and individuals worldwide to plan events that will result in cleaner, more abundant water supplies.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The 3rd World Water Forum, held in Kyoto from March 16 to 23, was billed as the largest-ever international conference on water and featured discussions on a broad range of water-related issues. What direction did the forum provide for solving water problems, which are linked to issues of public sanitation, health and eliminating poverty? Also, what future challenges to Japan were raised by the forum?
Registered participants in the eight-day convention totaled 24,000, three times more than expected. The number of participants is one measure of a conference's success. However, the number of participants is not necessarily a cause for celebration. The fact that as many as 6,000 people from more than 180 countries attended the meeting while the war in Iraq was going on indicated that water shortages or fears of flooding in participants' homelands could pose more serious threats than those from the ongoing war and that countries were seeking international support for their water problems. Developing countries were particularly desperate because for many, water crises are a matter of life or death.
The forum discussed 38 topics, including improving sanitation, food production, energy, the environment, and women's rights. In the discussions on the controversial issue of privatizing water-supply services, those favoring privatization and those against met for the first time in what was regarded as an epic dialogue.
However, the World Water Council, which sponsored the forum, and nongovernmental organizations remained at odds, with the former calling for the acceleration of privatization efforts and the latter criticizing water privatization as an undertaking that prioritizes economic development and ignores poor people.
Behind the scenes, however, both sides searched for a compromise ahead of the next general meeting of the World Trade Organization in autumn.
Participants remained fiercely at odds over the pros and cons of dam construction. When NGO representatives spoke out against dam construction, which in their view threatens the lives of local people and destroys the environment, a representative from India said a ministerial declaration by the forum should refer to the importance of the construction of dams, which are needed for irrigation and to supply water to cities. The Kyoto water forum was significant in that a large number of NGO representatives participated in open discussions, as the forum invited opinions from anyone who was interested. This is because it was necessary for local people's voices to be heard to address issues of poverty, water shortages and sanitation.
In this regard, the Kyoto forum stood in stark contrast with the 2nd World Water Forum, held in The Hague in March 2000, which focused on discussions between specialists while shutting out NGO representatives.
A senior member of a leading NGO from Canada praised the secretariat of the Kyoto forum for allowing NGOs to participate. "Kyoto was completely different from The Hague," he said.
Even so, it is difficult to see how such heated discussions were reflected in the ministerial declaration adopted on the final day of the forum. The declaration gave the impression that it was seeking to divert public attention from important points with an equivocal expression. This is because the Japanese government, which served as the coordinator of the ministerial declaration, had no basic water policy or water strategy. As a follow-up to the Kyoto forum, the government will be required to formulate a basic water law, upon which its water policy will be based. Why does Japan need a basic law on water?
For one thing, there are more than 80 water-related laws in the nation, which involve the jurisdiction of five ministries--the Construction and Transport Ministry, Environment Ministry, Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. Because of this administrative structure, the ill effects of bureaucratic sectionalism on water management have become apparent. In one instance, dirty water was to have been used as a source for city water after an outlet for a final water- treatment facility was built on a river upstream of the city.
Also, there are many rivers with reduced volumes of water flowing in them because much of the water is used upstream for electric power generation or irrigation. It remains unclear which government ministry is responsible for the preservation of ground water. At the same time, a confused agricultural policy has devastated forests that normally retain water, while reductions of rice paddies and marshes endanger ecosystems and aggravate the damage caused by floods. Japan's dependence on other countries for 60 percent of its food supply is also harmful, as it puts great stress on the water resources of those countries. This is an important issue that may affect national security in terms of food supply. Yet another reason is that Japan's sizable official development assistance may destroy people's lives and the natural environment in recipient countries. ODA extended to water-related projects in developing countries over the past three years totaled about 650 billion yen.
Some NGO representatives are not thankful for this assistance, and at the Kyoto forum representatives from developing countries criticized the way the nation's ODA is extended. The nation must take responsibility for troubles occurring in recipient countries. Now is the time for the nation to consider both the positive and negative effects of ODA for recipient countries. The Kyoto prefectural government, which hosted the 3rd World Water Forum, was one of many entities calling for the enactment of a basic water law. Water resources are necessary for all forms of life, including humans. As public interest in water is growing, now is the best time for Japan to discuss the enactment of a basic law on water. To dispel the ill effects of bureaucratic sectionalism on water management, the government must come up with a unified water policy, including the establishment of a water strategy council, so that it can exercise strong leadership in water management. Water use is a broad and profound issue. The 3rd World Water Forum taught us that it is essential to have a broad-based, strategic vision when dealing with it.
KABUL, 8 Apr 2003 (IRIN) - In Afghanistan, more then 85 percent of the population of 25 million depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. With hundreds of thousands of people returning to the country seeking work, the revival of such a key sector in this drought-plagued nation depends on the rehabilitation of irrigation systems - both traditional and modern - which were destroyed by years of fighting and neglect. That is by itself a formidable task, but the new Afghan minister for irrigation and environment, Yusuf Nuristani, also faces ecological challenges such as diminishing wetlands, forests and wildlife. Here is what Nuristani had to say on these issues during a recent interview with IRIN.
QUESTION: What are your main priorities?
ANSWER: I think the drought which has affected this country has had a negative impact on other countries in the region. There are six priorities at a national level, and irrigation is included in that. Also capacity building in terms of training, equipment and rehabilitation of the buildings, bringing electricity, having Internet so we can contact other organisations who are interested in supporting us. So this is our number-one priority and we hope to be able to implement it in the field.
Q: What sort of response have you had from the international community in terms of your needs?
A: There has been a good response, and many countries have come forward and are interested in supporting us with water issues to alleviate these problems.
Q: What state is the irrigation system in Afghanistan in following decades of conflict?
A: Afghanistan is an agrarian society, 80 percent of the economy belongs to agriculture and up to 85 percent of people are living in rural areas, so 80 percent of our irrigation system or fields are being irrigated by our traditional canal system, and only 12 percent by modern canals/reservoirs. During the war, most of these traditional irrigation systems were destroyed, and people left the country, abandoning [their] land. The irrigation systems have fallen [victim] to erosion, there has been lack of maintenance and upkeep, so we need complete rehabilitation. Last year, we had 1.5 million Afghan refugees returning from neighbouring countries back to their land. We need to get these systems up and running again so that farmers can start business.
Q: What sort of a burden will these returnees place on the water system?
A: It will be a burden not only on the water system in the urban areas. Some people are unable to return to their land because there are mines there. We are working on this too. But once they return, they need to have systems which are working, and rehabilitation is urgently needed in order to ease the burden on water resources. We have over 150 projects in the pipeline to reconstruct systems to accommodate everyone.
Q: How many Afghans currently have access to safe drinking water?
A: When it comes to statistics in Afghanistan, we have to be careful and take them cautiously. Based on these statistics, 20 percent of Afghan people across the country have access to safe drinking water in cities and villages. The plan is to provide potable water to the people, and we will continue the digging of deep wells - after proper exploration so that we don't deprive groups of their resource. Afghanistan has suffered from war and drought for the past two decades, and would appreciate the continued inputs and financial, technical contributions to overcome these environmental problems, and restore this country to its former glory.
Q: There is concern that returnees will not go back to their land, but opt to stay in cities for job opportunities. What is your response to this?
A: We do realise that it is very difficult for them to go back to their land, because they have to build from scratch and, in some cases, complete devastation, but in the long term we urge them to go back to their land if it is safe, and we will do all we can to help them rehabilitate their land to make them self-sufficient.
Q: Are you dealing with property rights for farmers who've returned to find that their land has been occupied?
A: The ministry of agriculture is dealing with this, and we will support them on this issue. This is a problem, but we hope that it can be resolved.
Q: A recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicated serious concerns over degradation of water tables, wetlands, forests and wildlife in Afghanistan following decades of war. How is the ministry responding to this?
A: The environment has been damaged to a great extent. The UNEP completed this environmental assessment of Afghanistan, with Afghan experts showing that there were adverse effects. The problem was compounded by droughts. The most recent one has severely devastated land, particularly in the south, in Nimruz, Farah, and provinces in the north. Some 40 percent of the forests have been cut down. Desertification is another problem. Pollution of underground water is another one.
Q: Some people may argue that it is too early to start pointing fingers at people for destroying the environment, for life-saving reasons, in a country where people may be forced to chop down a tree to ensure that they keep warm over the winter.
A: Yes, this is true. The environmental damage has been caused by the Afghan people due to poverty, because they have no other alternative. But that is not as severe, because most of the degradation of forests has been caused by the timber mafias and not by the average poor Afghan. Our plan is to work with UNEP on projects to prevent increased environmental disaster in years to come.
The Manila Bulletin
THE ongoing war in Iraq has brought into focus a critical concern – that of access to clean water. During Day 18, after the start of intensive fighting, the TV networks were finally able to give us what we’ve been missing in previous coverage – the faces of the innocent victims of war – injured children and women in hospital beds, and communities suffering from lack of food and water. For example, there was that village in an isolated desert in Iraq which did not have access to water for almost two weeks. Its water supply supposed to be delivered via railroad had been cut down. This lack of the most basic resource as well as medicines and hospital care, which will certainly affect the lives of millions of the Iraqi population long after the conflict is over, is perhaps the most serious collateral damage of war.
During the Third World Water Forum held in Kyoto last month which brought together 8,500 experts, government ministers, NGOs, donors and multilateral agencies from all over the world, discussions focused on the search for collective strategies in solving the crisis. This includes an FVR strategy on how water can be used to help mediate people in conflict. Former President Fidel V. Ramos, now chair of the Ramos Peace and Development Foundation (RPDEV), upon the invitation of former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto keynoted this timely forum which came out with an action program based on experiences and best practices which were shared by the participants.
An innovative proposal of FVR which was submitted as early as the 2nd summit in the Hague in 2000 was the formation of a Corps of Mediators on Water. The latter would serve to reduce tension and enhance the flow of solutions on even the most contentious problems in the water crisis - transboundary conflicts on surface water. It is interesting to note that there are more than 200 rivers that cross national boundaries and these create conflict in the apportioning of the water resources. As&nb ; FVR noted, we now have a road map which would help us discover common grounds for agreement among countries in conflict. What we need now, he says, is the creation of institutions and the development of a corps of conflict resolution practitioners that will allow conflicting groups to find solutions. The task of these conflict resolution practitioners is to listen to all sides and facilitate discussions which would enable the parties in conflict to solve their problems in a non-adversarial manner.
For Southeast Asia and the country, the vision of ensuring sustainability of water resources becomes more challenging because of rapid population growth and rapid economic development which had increased the pressure on the limited water resources This is where incentives, regulatory controls and public education and information would be necessary in achieving economic efficiency while at the same time ensuring water conservation and environmental protection. The RPDEV which is committed to the goals of sustainable growth undertakes policy research in various areas of development. Among the studies of best practices in the field of water resources management include the "Social Aspects of the San Roque Multipurpose Project in Agno River, Luzon, Philippines" by Raymond E. Cunningham; "Creating Economic Benefit Through Community-Owned and Managed Rural Water Systems" by Guido Delgado; "Revitalizing the Agno River Basin" by Benjamin de Leon; and "Constructing San Roque in the Philippines: A Lesson in Efficiency and Creativity."
In addition to these case studies, there are other innovations such as the breakthrough in controlling pollution in the Laguna lake basin, the expansion of the Angat River dam in order to sustain the water needs of Metro Manila during the El Niño drought in 1997-98, and finally, the plans for sustainable funding of watershed rehabilitation in the forestlands. At present the Laguna Lake Development Authority has been partially restored so that it can become an alternative source of supply for the freshwater needs of Metro Manila. It is now able to finance an "environmental army" of community-based workers to clean up and maintain all the rivers that drain into the lake. A share in the collection of pollution charges and rentals of fishpens (user's charge) reinforced support to local government units. In the plan to rehabilitate the watershed, former DENR Secretary Victor Ramos suggests the establishment of an authority to charge a certain percentage of every peso paid by households for their water. The funds will be used for reforestation (more than five million hectares of country's forestlands are denuded, reducing the capacity of the ecosystem to sustain the flow of water to the river systems from which lowland users draw their water supply). Extra money will be given for every improvement introduced by the upland dwellers themselves. In all these initiatives, the key development concepts are participation and control by the people themselves, respect of indigenous people's rights, continuing consultation and dialogue specifically in conflict areas and comprehensive development that is based on the social and cultural needs of the people.
ACCORDING to UN estimates, each person should have at his/her disposal 50 liters of water per day. In the United States, the average person uses between 250-300 liters per day whilst in Somalia the figure barely reaches nine liters. The current situation of water resources is extremely serious. Some 1,200 million people have difficulty in gaining access to drinking water. It is estimated that by 2025, some 2,700 million people will be victims of water shortages. Every eight seconds a child dies from drinking contaminated water. Polluted water is the third largest cause of death in the developing countries.
During the Johannesburg Summit, world leaders agreed to reduce the number of people without access to drinking water and adequate sanitation by 50% by the year 2015. But this objective seems unfeasible given current world conditions. Neoliberal policies have transformed water into a commercial product and it features as such in the commercial trade agreements between the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Canadian Maude Barlow, author of "Blue Gold", condemned the shady management of transnational water companies during the 3rd World Water Forum that took place in Kyoto, Japan recently.
WATER IS NOT A COMMERCIAL PRODUCT
The best-selling writer warned that water could not be subjected to market rules. NGOs represented at the forum maintained that they will fight against the continued privatization of this resource and announced the start of a blue revolution in the distribution of world water resources. Of the 1.4 million cubic kilometers of water on the planet, only 2.6% are fresh water; three quarters of which is frozen in the polar icecaps. The volume of water available for human consumption is only 0.001%.
The World Bank estimates that in order to supply drinking water to those who currently lack this service, an investment of $50,000 million USD per year is required; five times greater than current investments but less than the amount spent on wars, such as the one currently being waged against the people of Iraq by the United States and Britain. If today’s military conflicts are based on the desire to control world oil reserves in the Persian Gulf, experts from several international organizations predict that future wars will be based on the control of water resources.
Former managing director of the IMF and now president of the World Panel on Water Infrastructure Financing, Michel Camdessus, affirmed that financial flow would need to double in order to achieve the targets for 2025. NGOs attending the Kyoto meeting fiercely criticized Camdessus’ report for opening the doors to private companies and allowing their participation in the management of fresh water.
However, civil activists commented to the Italian IPS agency that privatization "only aggravates the problem and hinders real solutions, such as rainwater collection and the adoption of renewable energy sources," said Joan Carling of the Popular Alliance of the Philippines. Camdessus’ report will be scrutinized at next June’s G8 meeting in France. French President Jacques Chirac announced in a recorded message that his country would support "a plan of aggressive action" in order to help those in need of fresh water because "access to water is recognized as a basic human right".
SHORTAGE AND WASTAGE
Whilst it is predicted that by 2020 more than 40 nations will suffer from major water shortages, wastage still continues in consumer societies. According to a report from a British scientific institution recently published by the BBC, the United States - the country that uses more water than any other in the world – uses enormous quantities to water golf courses, a form of entertainment par excellence for some in the United States
The Ogaliala (the biggest aquifer in the United States) is losing a rate of 12,000 million cubic meters of water every year. It provides the water for one fifth of the country’s irrigated land. The sources are drying up due to Texan prairie farmers pumping water faster than it can be replenished by rainwater supplies.
Other research points out that supplies to the poorest sectors could be doubled with just a 10% improvement of irrigation supplies. Artificial agricultural irrigation uses 70% of available water resources on the planet and it is estimated that 60% of water used in this area was being wasted.
But agriculturists have now moved from furrow or sprinkler irrigation systems to more efficient trickle or drip methods, reducing water consumption by 30-60% and increasing the performance per hectare.
The transformation from these high level systems started in Cuba before 1990. Today, the majority of these irrigation techniques are based on low water and fuel usage. A program to modernize all irrigation technology and deactivate high-consumption machines is in place. As the eastern region of the island suffers the greatest water shortages, investments and international project funds are prioritized for this area, in which more than 25% of the Cuban population is located.
On the island, 72.3% of Cuban inhabitants (more than 11 million people) receive drinking water directly in their homes, whilst public access to water is around 97.7%. Among the programs that have not been paralyzed by the economic crisis still being experienced by the island are those related to investments in water. The capacity for rainwater storage amounts to more than 9,000 million cubic meters distributed throughout 241 reservoirs. Cuba has at its disposal a water infrastructure with the capability to utilize almost 60% of water resources from rainfall. During the Kyoto meeting, ecologists championed an increase in artificial rainwater warehouses rather than damming rivers because of the environmental damage this practice causes.
AFRICA AND ASIA: THE DRYEST CONTINENTS
Today Africa has only a third of the amount of water at its disposal compared to levels in 1960. This continent, together with Asia, is the worst affected by water scarcity on a worldwide scale.
In 2000, the five Mediterranean countries in North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) all suffered water shortages as well as the sub-Saharan nations of Mauritania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Botswana, Malawi, Sudan and Somalia. Research into the condition of the world’s water basins indicates that when the water level of Western Africa’s great rivers began to fall, the economies of the entire region felt the effects.
Mali - one of the poorest countries on the planet - is dependent on the Niger River, but this tributary presents many risks of pollution. In Nigeria, half the population does not have access to drinking water and, as in many areas of the continent, women have to walk several hours a day to be able to reach a supply.
A United Nations reports predicts that access to water could be one of the principal causes of conflict and war in Africa during the next 25 years. Agricultural experts warn that a 15-20% water increase is needed to maintain food supplies, reduce hunger and prevent an increase in world poverty. On the other hand, environmentalists maintain that water usage must decrease by 10% to protect the rivers, lakes and moist soil which millions of people rely on for survival. Meanwhile, fresh water supplies continue to diminish. For many the "blue revolution" is of the utmost urgency.
IT has become an almost unchallenged assumption that the 21st century faces water wars as communities and countries become increasingly thirsty, and desperate for the world’s most fundamental natural resource. Alarming statistics and forecasts of the impending calamity are disturbing. A third of the world lives in water stressed areas, where consumption outstrips supply. By 2025, two thirds of people will be trapped in this appalling plight, if current trends continue unchecked. A fifth of the world’s population are without access to safe water supplies; 6,000 people, mainly children and mainly in developing countries, die everyday as a result of dirty, contaminated water. Annually, it is the equivalent of the entire population of Central Paris being wiped out.
Sewage pollution of rivers and seas has precipitated a health crisis of massive proportions. The eating of contaminated shellfish is causing an estimated 2.5 million cases of infectious hepatitis annually, resulting in 25,000 deaths and a further 25,000 people suffering long term disability due to liver-damage. Around half of the world’s rivers are seriously depleted and polluted. Some of the globe’s most important wetlands and inland waters, including the Aral Sea and the Marshlands of Mesopotamia, have shrunk, triggering environmental calamities for people and wildlife and the fisheries upon which they mutually depend.
Two billion people, around one-third of the world’s population, depend on groundwater supplies. In some countries, such as parts of India, China, West Asia, including the Arabian Peninsula, the former Soviet Union and the Western United States, groundwater levels are falling. Groundwater in Western Europe and the United States is also becoming increasingly polluted by chemicals used in agriculture. Small wonder that few could be forgiven for concluding that the Earth’s glass is half empty, rather than half full. That inter-communal and international, conflict and disputes over water resources will inevitably occur as the population climbs by two billion to over eight billion by 2050. And the spectre of global warming that will hold in the form of more extreme weather events including droughts.
But, if history is our guide, then we have quiet optimism for hope that we can steer the world’s water policy away from the rocks. Research, to be presented at the Third World Water Forum taking place in Kyoto, Japan, this month, and to coincide with World Water Day, has analysed the history of freshwater agreements stretching back 4,500 years. It indicates that cooperation rather than conflict has been the norm over recent centuries in terms of managing rivers and their catchment areas. Indeed the work shows that, when push comes to shove, nations and communities more often than not take the path of peace and share rather than hoard water resources, whether it be for drinking water supplies, wildlife protection or more recently hydro-power.
There are other signs of hope. Up till the middle of the last century, many of the rivers on continents like North America and Europe and especially those running through big industrial areas were so polluted they were classed as “dead.” Some were so polluted that the water could be used as ink, and noxious gases, bubbling up from their depths, could be ignited by a match. Today, after billions of dollars of investment in water treatment works and agreements with industry on effluents, fish are again spawning and migrating to their upper reaches through these now relatively clean estuaries and tributaries.
The Thames in Britain was officially declared a dead river half a century ago, save for a few mud worms. Today, some 120 species including migrating salmon can be found in it. Improvements are also being seen in the developing world, contrary to popular belief. In the South Asian region for example access to improved sanitation systems between 1990 and 2000 has benefitted some 220 million people. Unfortunately this progress has been overwhelmed by population growth, meaning that over 800 million still do not have the safe and healthy systems they deserve.
But this shows that, given political will, diplomacy and investment, real changes can be made, real hope can replace helplessness. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg has given the world the blueprint for how sustainable development, that lasts, development that respects people and the planet, can be achieved. We do not need any more declarations. What is needed now is action to implement WSSD’s plan and the myriad of voluntary partnerships, between industry, non-governmental organisations, governments and the United Nations.
Many of these concern water and the goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015, a target that is closely linked to improving the living conditions of the poor who are without adequate shelter or basic services in slums and squatter settlements. World Water Day is a focus for this action and the forum a pump for turning the texts of Johannesburg from a trickle into a torrent of activity. 2003 is also the International Year of Freshwater. It must play its part in maintaining momentum.
A great deal of goodwill, imagination and resolve is needed. We do not want the forecasts of disaster, the prophets of doom, to be proved right. So we also need funds to build up the infrastructure needed for cleaner, healthier and more abundant supplies of water. So the pledges and promises made in Monterrey, Mexico, last year at the Finance for Development conference to reverse the decline in overseas aid, must be met.
Too much water is being wasted. That over 50 per cent of water in some African cities is lost in leaky, decrepit, pipes is a disgrace. Agriculture, where 70 per cent of freshwater is used, is wasteful. Drip technologies or underground pipes are cheap and simple. Let’s make them more widely available. We must give water value, both spiritual and economic. This cannot, however, be at the expense of the urban poor who already pay a high price for this resource. History may teach us that cooperation over freshwater resources, such as rivers, is the norm. It also teaches us that complacency is not an option. There are over 150 river basins where there are inadequate cooperative agreements. Many of these could become potential flash points.
So another urgent need is for international organisations to apply the lessons of the past, for the benefit of the present and future parties. To act as the water equivalent of marriage guidance counselors, amicably resolving differences between countries and communities who may be straying apart, or acting as go-between for those who are flirting with cooperation but are too coy, too unsure, about how to proceed.
We have, at the beginning of the new century, all the intellectual, financial and technological resources we need to overcome the current and future water crises. Like the water we all prize so much, let’s not waste it.
The writer is Norway's minister for environment.
OSLO The world faces an unprecedented water crisis. March 22 is World Water Day. This year is the UN International Year of Freshwater. Decision-makers must ensure that it makes a difference. Access to safe drinking water is essential to development and poverty eradication, but today more than 1 billion people have to go without. According to a UN report this month, the average supply of water worldwide per person is expected to drop by a third over the next 20 years. In two decades, two out of every three people on earth will suffer moderate to severe water shortages - if we fail to take action.
The water cycle and inherent ecosystems are the life support of the planet, but human activities have caused serious damage to these ecosystems, threatening the health and livelihood of people who depend on them. Freshwater is the single most essential good for our well-being, but global water withdrawals have increased sevenfold and wastewater production has multiplied by 20 in the past century. Pollution and depletion will continue and the poor will suffer most - if we fail to take action.
At the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year, it was agreed to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services by 2015. That is a commitment to deliver safe water for another 274,000 people and basic sanitation for another 342,000 people every day for the next 12 years. Decision-makers must now make up for the political inertia of the past and take concrete steps forward to reach these ambitious goals. The UN must take a leading role and the international community must mobilize political will and financial resources. National governments must recognize that participation, transparency and eliminating corruption is the only way to ensure access to clean water for all. It is important that privatization of water services be regulated by governments to the benefit of the poorest households.
Norway is prepared to contribute to reach the Johannesburg targets. Our goal is that by 2005, $2 billion, 1 percent of our gross national income, will be allocated to development assistance. There is a strong linkage between the state of freshwater resources in a country and its capacity for poverty eradication and development. Conserving freshwater habitats such as lakes and rivers, is one of the most efficient and cost-effective means of guaranteeing the supply of safe drinking water. If these ecosystems are not looked after, further social and economic development will be retarded.
We don't realize the value of water until the well is dry, Benjamin Franklin said. Those of us who are abundantly endowed with freshwater must now realize the value of safe drinking water for those who are unfortunate to go without. They need a clear political message that the UN International Year of Freshwater will make a real difference for them.
The Times of Zambia
SINCE the year 1993, March 22 has been celebrated as World Water Day to highlight the importance of water to life. This was after the United Nations General Assembly recommended that governments around the world had the duty of reminding their peoples on the importance of the commodity. It was unanimously agreed that water was indispensable to the development of man and his environment. The name "water" itself rings no bell in some minds because apparently we have too much of it in Zambia to worry, or do we really? The privileged few in our society enjoy the bubble bath occasionally while the majority who can not afford settle for a dam splash if not the common shower.
But the question is: Should we continue abusing water or should we jealously guard it as a limited resource?
The theme of this year's World Water Day reads "Water for the future" befitting the fact that future generations are likely to suffer due to the current water abuse. The last century saw a massive birth of thirsty industries that swallowed vast volumes of natural fresh water while spitting contaminated water.
Subsequently, the used water became unfit for human consumption, toxic to plants and aquatic life.
The end result is that it lost value, contrary to the purposes intended by the Creator.
According to the UN resolution, governments ought to protect the rights of people and their environment where water is concerned. "The people's rights are a major boost in efforts to achieve the millennium development goals of halving the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015 - two pre-requisites for health," according to World Health Organisation director-general Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland. As the adage goes, we can not escape this reality, we may not know how the earth was created but one thing is for sure, that what we do to it; we do to ourselves. The biggest worry in the world now is that even the most pure of water contained in the aquifer or ground water reserves is now being contaminated.
The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) reports: "Ground water: the invisible and endangered resource records that half the water used for domestic and irrigation purposes comes from the aquifer." Over the centuries, pollutants have continued to penetrate to the aquifer creating what is being called the chemical time bomb in the scientific circles. At the moment, two of the world's major food producers, the US and India now suffer from salinisation. This means that ground water is becoming too salty for consumption and for irrigation. Chemical fertiliser, human waste and industrial chemicals are the major causes of this problem.
Closer to home, Lusaka has had a number of reports of groundwater contamination. The industrial area in the capital has had a number of boreholes abandoned because of contamination from petroleum products according to the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ). On the Copperbelt, Kabwe and other mining towns we cannot do away with this problem because of the nature of business in these towns. Commercial farming areas are also areas that have to be looked at. There is also an issue of damp sites that have been placed in high water table areas.
Concerns must be raised because water contamination is actually taking place. "Zambia must institute efforts that will tackle this growing problem," WWF country co-ordinator Monica Chundama said, adding that there was need to consider river basin management. " Water should be managed sustainably for various activities like power generation, processing in industries and for domestic purposes. "It is for this reason that stakeholders should join hands in ensuring that they strike a balance in water management and quality," she said. At a global level, contamination denies some 3.3 billion people access to clean water, and 2.5 billion people have no water sanitation services. In developing countries an estimated 90 per cent of waste water is discharged without treatment into rivers and streams.
This results into over 250 million cases of water related illnesses, and some 5-10 million deaths each year.
Diseases such as malaria, cholera, dysentery, schistosomiasis, infectious hepatitis and diarrhoea are most common. Two UN officials Carol Bellamy and Nitin Desai once cautioned that if a child lacks water that is fit for drinking and sanitation, then every aspect of their health and development is at risk. This year's World Water Day theme has brought relief to their concerns in that the future generations who are the young ones today have been considered.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the lead UN agency for World Water Day 2003.
The goal is to inspire political and community action and encourage greater global understanding of the need for more responsible water use and conservation. World Water Day will be a highlight of the Third World Water Forum (16-23 March 2003, Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka, Japan), which is itself a key event of the UN International Year of Freshwater. Discussions at the forum in Kyoto will focus on the launch of the World Water Development report, the first-ever UN system-wide effort to monitor progress against targets in such fields as health, food, ecosystems, cities, industry, energy, risk management, water valuation, resource sharing, knowledge base construction and governance.
The French saying "L'eau est la vie" simply meaning water is life hems from the understanding that access to clean and safe water is a human right. Water is an essential element for achieving other human rights, especially the rights to adequate food and nutrition, housing and education. Inadequate water and sanitation is a major cause of poverty and the growing disparity between rich and poor. The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, safe and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses. It requires them to adopt national strategies and plans of action which will allow them to move expeditiously and effectively towards the full realisation of the right to water. "These strategies should be based on human rights law and principles. They must cover all aspects of the right to water and the corresponding obligations of countries," Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland said.
Many children, especially girls, lack safe water and toilet facilities at schools. This is impeding their education and development as the water managers of the future. To solve this problem, the Ministry of Education and Unicef are supporting a school sanitation and hygiene education (SSHE) programme funded by Ireland AID, Norad, the Dutch government, USAID, and AusAID that is currently running in seven countries. In this light, it is important that the nation takes proactive measures to reverse the current water depletion and contamination. And though curative measures can be time-consuming and costly for developing countries like Zambia, they are unavoidable. We can invest in the future by investing into the sanity and availability of fresh water. After all, water is life. Let us conserve.
The Third World Water Forum wraps up this weekend in Kyoto. Earlier this week, Peter Woicke of the World Bank’s IFC, contributed this op-ed to the Intenrational Herald Tribune
March 21, 2003—More people are likely to suffer and die this year, and this decade, from the lack of clean water than from all armed conflicts combined. This should be widely regarded as one of the great tragedies of our time—and one of the great shames. But that is not the case, despite the many grim statistics. Worldwide a child dies from a preventable waterborne illness about once every 10 seconds. More than 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Roughly 2.4 billion people—that is, roughly 1 of every 3 people on the planet—lack access to adequate sanitation. Yet these are not headline issues. They have not generated mass protest marches. The failure of the world community to address this crisis is all the more troubling because it is not grounded in conflicting ideologies or the absence of scientific know-how. This failure stems from more mundane problems, such as a lack of political will and focus.
This week, water will once again briefly take center stage as the third World Water Forum gets underway in Japan. And there is plenty of work to be done. World population has tripled in the last century. Meanwhile, water use has increased sixfold, drying up rivers and ravaging about half the world’s wetlands. nfortunately, as the problem has worsened, the debate has drifted. Many of the most vocal water advocates have focused on enshrining water as a universal human right and battling the perceived evils of privatization. However, there is a need to roughly double the rate of investment, to about $30 billion per year, for water and sanitation alone from a combination of public and private investors over the next decade. So more emphasis should be put squarely on raising awareness and increasing funding.
Access to safe water is and should be regarded as a human right. But most of the progress in addressing this challenge will be achieved through more practical and less ideological means. Investments in infrastructure for water storage are critical, especially in countries where climatic variability is high. Such investments have multiple benefits. They provide water for consumption, industrial use, flood control, irrigation, and electricity generation. Enacting policy reforms at the national and subnational level, with help from knowledge institutions like the World Bank Group and others, can help poor countries strengthen the capacity of their institutions to regulate and manage water resources. There should also be more focus on removing impediments to public and private water investment. Hybrids of public and private financing, some of which have been pioneered only recently, should be a higher priority, particularly at the regional and municipal level, where much of the responsibility for water and sanitation now resides. These local entities, however, still face limitations in raising finance and often lack professional capacity.
If water issues are not aggressively addressed, they may well wind up causing more wars in this century any other natural resource. But that need not be the case. Experience has shown that cooperative programs for development and management of water resources have played an important role in regional integration and stability in Eastern Europe (the Baltic Sea), Southeast Asia (Thailand and Laos), and South Asia (the Indus Basin), for example. African nations, whose economic development has been hobbled by conflicts and water scarcity, are a particularly compelling example. The ten countries of the Nile Basin are working together to generate and share benefits from the waters of the Nile. It should not take conflict to mobilize our efforts. Even under some of the optimistic forecasts, as many as 76 million people will die from preventable water-related illnesses between now and 2020. This rate of loss rivals the rate of battlefield casualties during World War II.
Some might choose to dismiss these figures as hyperbole or wildly improbable scenarios. Unfortunately, they are real. They are probable. And they should alarm all of us. When the world community convenes in Kyoto this week, we should all be prepared to ask whether posterity will be kind in judging the efforts of our generation should such trends continue. If our answer is no, then we should no longer let the commonplace and pervasive nature of this tragedy obscure its true dimensions.
Yolanda Kakabadse is the President of IUCN – The World Conservation Union
A desiccated floodplain in Cameroon is restored to life and again provides grains and fish to local people. An agreement in Canada has assured indigenous peoples access to water from a nearby dam. And water is now supplied to a village in Nepal, thanks to a successful partnership between users, government and a donor. There are many similarly good examples from around the world where water has been made available to the poorest and dead rivers again harbour life. They testify to the hard work by many people to integrate economic development, social equity and environmental health into water management. And they show that our efforts for sustainable water management are starting to deliver tangible results.
Despite this progress, the general trend is still unsettling. Millions have no access to clean water; lakes and rivers are the most degraded ecosystems of our planet; and many freshwater species are under threat of extinction. In Johannesburg in 2002, we had hoped that the campaign for integrated management of water would again receive a major boost, after the positive outcomes of the 2nd World Water Forum in The Hague in 2000 and the International Conference on Freshwater in Bonn in 2001. But even the Plan of Implementation that was agreed to increase water supply and sanitation, did not answer the related questions still on the table before us: where and how are we going to find that water in a world where water resources are already over-used, as well as misused? And assuming we find it, how are we going to manage it? The ultimate goals have been known for years: integrated resource management based on the widely-accepted core values of equity, efficiency, sustainability, legitimacy, accountability, subsidiarity and partnership. But how to get there is more tricky. The answer can only be found through collaborative action, when organisations from all sectors work together at the catchment and national level.
Civil society, professionals, government officials and scientists must join together in a coalition for action that supplies water, cleans rivers and protects the resource base. It is therefore encouraging to see the current convergence in the discussions on water. From the perspective of my own organisation, IUCN–The World Conservation Union, the stereotype long existed that environmental organisations only wish to save cuddly species and beautiful landscapes, even at the expense of those caught in the quagmire of poverty. Most people now realise the truth is different. Naturally, we do wish to conserve the diversity of nature because it is a source of beauty and inspiration, but mainly because nature and resource conservation are necessary to provide the security on which we all depend. Environmentalist scientists are concerned with poverty, agricultural experts are trying to protect the environment, and dam projects make progress in working with communities. The caricatures from all sides have slowly dissipated. We now have a sound basis for collaborative action in agreed policies and positive action.
Take upper watershed forests. Their protection makes sense, whether we talk of the ecosystem approach or integrated water resources management. It reduces sediment loads in rivers, regulates water flow, provides timber and non-timber products and safeguards biodiversity. Leaving enough water in the river for downstream fish, wetlands and people also makes perfect sense from both a short and a long-term perspective. Environmental flows are an important management intervention to ensure a more equitable distribution of water benefits throughout river basins. Many countries have implemented such flows that balance the needs and wishes of all users through resource sharing, negotiations and compensation.
Progress on pollution has also been made, although mostly in the developed world. Polluted waterways still affect people in many countries through illness, reduced access, and declining water availability. The poorest are least able to respond to these impacts. Capacities, technologies and resources must be shared to help them deal with this challenge, especially since growing populations and urbanisation, and agricultural and industrial development increase the need to prevent and treat pollution. Experience shows us many ways to tackle the problems we face. Differences of opinion will remain, and these need to be expressed to reflect the full scale of interests that are tied to water resource use. But they are not an obstacle for change. We can move forward with these differences by giving all stakeholders a voice to balance the different needs in an open and transparent process. Then we can take responsibility for our part of the picture, negotiate the best solutions and get to work. The 3rd World Water Forum offers us again the opportunity to move forward. It gives us another chance to turn the blueprint for sustainable development into a working model.
IUCN: 3rd World
Water Forum Watered Down Result is Strong Convergence and Weak Ministerial
Declaration Kyoto, Japan, 23 March 2003 (IUCN)
Jamie Pittock is Director of WWF's Living Waters Programme and is attending the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan.
A spate of reports ahead of this week's World Water Forum have highlighted the world's growing water crisis — diminishing water supplies, billions of people lacking access to basic water and sanitation services, and the failing health of freshwater ecosystems. Large investments are obviously needed to address this crisis. But a worrying step backwards has emerged at the World Water Forum underway in Kyoto, Japan: the idea that the sole way to meet water needs is further investment in huge engineering projects, and dams in particular.
This idea is at odds with the huge shift in thinking on water management issues that has taken place over the last five years. In 1998 the World Bank and IUCN - The World Conservation Union helped set up the World Commission on Dams to review the world's large dam projects, in response to a growing dissatisfaction with big water infrastructure projects on financial, environmental, and social grounds. After lengthy consultation with all stakeholders, ranging from construction companies and the World Bank to representatives of displaced people, in 2000 the commission proposed tough new guidelines for dam projects. These called for investment to refocus on projects that are genuinely needed and that take social and environmental issues into consideration. A key recommendation was to identify and assess potentially better alternatives to dams to deliver power and water supplies.
However, while emphasizing water infrastructure developments, the draft ministerial declaration for the 3rd World Water Forum does not contain any commitment to implement these guidelines. Given that this forum is meant to be moving from planning to implementation, this is incongruous to say the least. And in a further step backwards, the declaration also fails to emphasize the priority for a healthy environment as the source of water — a point that was included in the declaration from the 2nd World Water Forum.
The forum is also failing to discuss lessons learnt from good water management programmes. For example, five years ago South Africa adopted new water laws based on an ecosystem approach, where priority is given to water allocations for basic human services and an environmental reserve ahead of other users. And since August 2000, the South African government has allocated US$15 million to restore wetlands to provide more reliable and cleaner supplies of water — a win for both people and the environment. Instead of highlighting these programmes, grandiose engineering projects with destructive impacts are being proposed as the only way to meet water needs. Dressed in arguments that seem to benefit the poor, the actual beneficiaries will be those who are pushing the projects.
Ministers meeting at the World Water Forum must not ignore basic questions. How can investment in environmental health be increased to ensure a reliable supply of clean water? How can existing water supplies be used more efficiently? How can countries that share water sources, such as Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, cooperatively and sustainably manage these limited supplies? How can water services be extended to the poor in the quickest and most cost-effective manner? How can the millions of people who depend on freshwater fisheries and plants for their livelihoods survive a push to dam these rivers, destroying the very resources that are the basis of their diet and economy?
Instead of looking backwards for solutions, the ministers must take a bold step forward into the future. Dams, pipes, and canals cannot provide clean water or sanitation services if water sources dry up. Instead of calling for further concrete-led developments, the ministerial declaration being finalized for 22 March — World Water Day — must provide a road map for sustainable ways to meet water needs by conserving the natural sources of water.
water experts to fix a tap? By Richard Holland, Policy Adviser Sustainable
Water Use in WWF's Living Waters Programme; March 28, 2003,
Donald J. Johnston is the Secretary-General of the OECD
The OECD might not be thought of as playing a role in water supply and management, but in fact it has a leading role, as it does in all areas of sustainable development. The task force I set up in 1996 under the joint chairmanship of Stefan Schmidheiny and Jonathan Lash concluded that the OECD was the “key” international organisation in dealing with sustainable development. Why? Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the organisation. Few issues are treated as “discrete” by the OECD because they are all interconnected, and because the OECD is uniquely placed to analyse those economic instruments which could be applied to enhance sustainability, economically, socially and environmentally.
Water is a perfect example. It is one of the four elements that the Brundtland Report of 1989 cited as minimal to sustainability, alongside the preservation of the air we breathe, the soil we till and living beings, that is, biodiversity. Indeed, all living beings are approximately 70% water by weight! The supply of clean and healthy freshwater is critical to the future of homo sapiens, and indeed to that of the biosphere itself. This is no surprise. Each time our attention turns to space exploration, of Mars for instance, we wonder whether or not water is present, because in its absence, life as we know it is impossible. Technology allows breathable oxygen to be produced from water and even barren soils can be brought to life, as southern California and Israel have demonstrated.
The sessions at the World Water Forum in Japan in March 2003 focus on water and climate; water and pollution; water and cultural diversity; water and energy; agriculture, food and water; water and the environment; water and poverty; and so on. Health is a particularly critical area since so many infectious diseases are waterborne, with staggering consequences for human mortality, especially in the developing world.
How does the OECD fit into all of this? Simple. Economic instruments will be central to the debate on water conservation, whether through appropriate pricing, taxation, trading quotas or whatever. Water will not escape the rigorous OECD analysis of the effects – economic, social and environmental – of any policies to manage this precious resource for the benefit of all humankind. Moreover, managing water is not just about economics, but extending best practices and good governance, themes that are central to the OECD’s work.
However, while in the world of nature, water is the universal solvent, in the world of politics, water is more likely to generate conundrums than solutions. Indeed, some are saying that water will be the challenge of the 21st century in the way oil has been since the 20th. I have no fixed view on that other than to note that freshwater, like oil, has very unequal global distribution. Those who are advantaged by nature with a disproportionate share of freshwater relative to the world’s population may have to rethink, in the context of global equity, some of the national hang-ups about the international trade of water in bulk. After all, is it better that vast quantities of precious freshwater migrate through major waterways into the world’s oceans, or be diverted to a rational and measured degree for the use of people and agriculture? There are no simple answers given the multifaceted social and environmental concerns that such questions raise.
Moreover, sometimes what may seem a benign interference with rivers can have unforeseen effects. Only recently have we begun to understand the full implications of the ponding created by hydroelectric dams on the environment, impacting as these reservoirs do on the climate through greenhouse gas emissions (from submerged vegetation) and eco-systems in general, not to mention the social implications for displaced people.
There are also technological questions to be explored, such as the desalination of ocean waters for human use; countering the effects of soil salinity brought about through persistent irrigation, a necessity in many parts of the world; and even the development through biotechnology of plants tolerant to minimum water supply. Again through its work in science and technology, including the Global Science Forum, the OECD will have a substantial contribution to make in answering such questions and addressing their implications.
This is the UN International Year of Freshwater. But water cannot be treated apart from broader concerns about planetary sustainable development. I sense from what I have so far seen that the expertise of the OECD members will again be central to bringing forward realistic policy options for the benefit of the entire global village, not just for some naturally privileged places.
After finalising its own water strategy, the World Bank finds itself amid a storm of controversy during a series of global meetings around the future of financing water infrastructure. Conflicting signals from the Bank over the issue of public or private management remain. Despite earlier voicing harsh criticisms of a draft (see Update 27), Bank Board members approved the largely unchanged Water Resources Sector Strategy (WRSS) in late February. The most controversial elements continue to be its stated desire to "re-engage with high-reward/high-risk hydraulic infrastructure", its emphasis on the role of the private sector and its failure to embrace the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD). Patrick McCully of International Rivers Network called the Strategy "reactionary, dishonest and cynical". "The WRSS shows that the Bank is seeking to turn back the clock on water management."
WHITE KNIGHT OR WHITE ELEPHANT?
Much is at stake in the debate as water-related lending has accounted for 16 per cent of Bank outlay over the past decade. Looking forward, the Bank estimates that investments in water in developing countries will need to increase from the current level of about $75 billion per year to $180 billion per year to reach the Millenium Development Goals for safe drinking water and sanitation. The recommendations of the Bank's new strategy find support from the World Panel on Financing Water Infrastructure, led by former IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus. The panel's report, released on 5 March, argues for international financial institutions to "resume lending for dams and other large water storage and transfer schemes", and to increase guarantees and other public subsidies for private investors in water infrastructure and supply.
NGOs working in the water sector have questioned the legitimacy of the twenty-member panel, most of whom are senior officials from the world's major development banks, private lenders and water companies. International Rivers Network has charged that "the Camdessus Panel's recommendations have nothing to do with solving the global crisis of water mismanagement - and everything to do with justifying more business for the bankers and corporate chiefs on the panel. This is pure pork-barrel self-interest."
Ravi Narayanan, Director of UK-based WaterAid, and one of only three NGO representatives to sit on the panel, questioned the report's emphasis on large-scale schemes. "There are alternative and traditional technologies used in water storage systems that are cheaper, more easily maintained, have a longer lifespan, and are less environmentally and socially destructive than many modern dams." Both the Bank's water strategy and the Camdessus panel findings have been criticised for ignoring the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams. After its initial enthusiasm for the WCD process, the Bank has turned its back on the findings (see Update 30). The unprecedented multi-year multi-stakeholder initiative is referred to only as a "significant point of reference" in an annex to the WRSS. Similarly, the Camdessus Panel urges financial institutions not to improve their policies to prevent the repetition of past dam fiascoes as suggested in the WCD, but to "remove unnecessary internal brakes on their water lending" and "resume serious lending for all major water projects."
YET ANOTHER FORUM FAILURE
The Third World Water Forum, held in Kyoto, March 16-23, ended with all participants feeling that they had failed to achieve their objectives. NGOs were unable to secure the characterisation of water as a human right in the final declaration and the Camdessus panel recommendation for a global watchdog to monitor progress towards the Millennium Goals was not adopted. Also not addressed were gender issues, the impact of climate change on sea levels and water management through poverty reduction.
"I honestly don't know why I keep coming to these things," said one World Bank official on condition of anonymity. "We keep going around and around about the need to take decisive action but at the end we are no nearer to solving the problem than we were before." The fiercest debates during the Forum were over public versus private ownership. Prior to the start of the summit, a series of studies by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists revealed a string of Bank-led water privatisation schemes in Latin America, Asia and Africa that have been plagued by contract irregularities, lack of transparency and, in some cases, an outright failure to improve services.
owever Bank representatives at the Forum attempted to distance themselves from earlier attempts to promote privatisation in the water sector. Ian Johnson, WB Vice President for Sustainable Development, protested that "we are not religious zealots when it comes to privatisation. There is an urgent need to move beyond what has become a stale and polarized debate on public or private management. The debate is not about public or private but about sustainable access to safe water supply. Only by concerted action on the part of all parties can improvements be made."
In an upcoming paper, Michael Klein, WB Vice President for Private Sector Development and infrastructure, concedes that "private participation in infrastructure is no panacea." He urges development agencies not to walk away when governments are unable to pursue sustainable projects, either public or private. Klein argues against overselling the benefits of privatisation - "the private sector can not pay in the end. It can only help finance." He recommends better focusing of subsidy schemes to extend service coverage.
This about-face has, in large part, been forced on the Bank as private sector investment in developing countries water infrastructure has dried up. After early enthusiasm, multinationals are re-assessing the risks involved in providing Southern country water contracts. According to WaterAid's Peter Sinclair, private companies were "only ever capable of filling a small percentage of the needed investment. What is needed is a renewed approach to working with the public sector." All of these debates will come to a head at the G8 summit in Evian, France in June, where the real money to address financing water infrastructure may be on the table. It remains to be seen if progress will be held up by the albatross of privatization.
Water Development Report - Water for People, Water for Life - is the most
comprehensive, up-to-date overview of the state of the resource. 23 UN
partners constitute the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), whose
secretariat is hosted by UNESCO.
United Nations Environment Programme have released an atlas of international
freshwater agreements, containing: an historical overview of international
river basin management; a detailed listing of more than 300 international
freshwater agreements; and a collection of thematic maps related to the
agreements, their content, and the river basins they represent.
World Water Day and the International Year of Freshwater, the United Nations
Environment Programme has compiled a bibliography of more than 600 water
publications, from a wide range of UN bodies and specialized agencies,
featuring material in three languages (English, French and Spanish).
The bibliography is organized thematically by subjects such as: drinking
water; freshwater resources; water and sustainable development; water and
health; marine resources; water treatment; water in agriculture; and water
in urban areas. Most of the publications listed include abstracts. The
publication also contains a directory of contacts for UN organizations
involved with water, a list of water related websites, various United
Nations Resolutions on water, as well as selected UNEP Governing Council
decisions concerning water issues.
The Watersheds of the World CD is the most comprehensive database of the world's river basins. It presents maps on twenty global issues as well as key maps, data and indicators of 154 of the world's basins and provides an analysis of the state of the world's river basins, including the environmental goods and services they provide. The Watershed of the World-CD is produced by the Water Resources eAtlas, a joint project of WRI, IUCN–The World Conservation Union, the International Water Management Institute, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Other contributing partners are BirdLife International, the IUCN Water and Nature Initiative, Wetlands International, the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science of Conservation International, the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the CGIAR Challenge Program in Water and Food, and the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture.
Press Release: New database offers comprehensive information on world’s river basins, World Resources Institute, March 18, 2003: Internet: http://newsroom.wri.org/newsrelease_text.cfm?NewsReleaseID=245
document was published by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a
contribution to the International Year of Freshwater. It outlines the role
of water as a human right; gives a general comment on the right to water;
explains who is affected and government’s responsibilities, and the
implications for other stakeholders.
March edition of The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP)
newsletter ‘Choices’ has a special focus on water and development: Feature
stories include: Communities in one of Africa's poorest nations learn to
clean up and manage their water supplies (Niger) ; New laws aim to reduce
conflict and fairly distribute and manage scarce water supplies (Yemen); New
push to reverse damage to long neglected wetlands that are now seen as vital
to protect watershed and wildlife ( Belarus); Who takes care of a well after
it is built? Communities struggle to take charge of their water (Haiti).
A position paper from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
(WSSCC) outlining how and where change is required in order to achieve the
WSSD goals. Focusing on inter alia issues of governance, financing,
monitoring, the paper challenges the community at Kyoto to bring about
change and offers practical steps of how others can get involved in
proactively changing the agenda.
WSSCC Statement to the 3rd World Water Forum: Wanted: 3 Million
People Alive, World Water Day Message by Sir Richard Jolly, Chair of the
WSSCC; March 22, 2003; Internet: http://www.wateryear2003.org/ev.php?URL_ID=3377&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201&reload=10501
FAO at the Third World Water Forum; Internet: http://www.fao.org/ag/agl/aglw/aquastat/kyoto/index.stm
Newsletter featuring: Modernizing Irrigation Management:
Water Management: Towards 2030; Internet: http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0303sp1.htm
Improving Irrigation Technology: Internet: http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0303sp3.htm
Raising Water Productivity; Internet: http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0303sp2.htm
This reports prepared by the Population and Development Branch of the United Nations Population Fund, covers the population, gender and health dimensions related to the ongoing debate on water resources.
This report by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) emphasizes the need for increased cooperation among countries to sustainably manage the planetï¿½s water ecosystems. Among its recommendations is the need for integrated management of land and water resources, as well as the protection of aquatic biodiversity for sustainable use.
News release: Global Environment Facility to Devote Another $400 Million to Address Critical Global Water Problems, March 12, 2003:
study by IUCN again demonstrates the high economic value provided by the
wetlands of our world. The Muthurajawela Wetland in Sri Lanka provides
benefits at a total value exceeding SFR 10 million, or US$ 7.5 million, per
year. The IUCN studies in Africa, Asia and Latin America have shown again
and again that wetland goods and services actually have a very high value,
and this underlines the need for their conservation and sustainable use. (4
The Essentials of Environmental Flows, IUCN, March 2003; Internet: http://www.waterandnature.org/pub/EnvFlows.pdf
Adaptation of Water Resources Management to Climate Change, IUCN, March
report released by the World Water Council (WWC) presents an inventory of
almost 3000 water actions including projects, applied research and studies,
awareness campaigns, policies and institutional and legislative reforms. In
the first part of the report the general and urgent needs in terms of water
management are dealt with. In the second part the key regions and the
changes underway are outlined and the specific needs of the Water and
sanitation WEHAB Sectors.
World Water Council, the 3rd World Water Forum and the Global Water
Partnership formed the World Panel to consider solutions to the future
global financial needs of the water sector. The Panel is chaired M. Michel
Camdessus, the former General Manager of the International Monetary Fund.
Synthesis Report, written by Eric Gutierrez, Belinda Calaguas, Joanne Green,
Virginia Roaf for WaterAid and Tearfund presents the conclusions from a two
year study project entitled ï¿½New Rules, New Roles: Does PSP benefit the
poor?ï¿½ The research probes the impact private sector participation in he
water sector on the lives of rural and urban poor communities in 10
developing countries, and highlights areas of fundamental concern that need
to be addressed if these arrangements between governments, business and
civil society are to work.
paper written by David Hall Public Services International Research Unit,
University of Greenwich addresses financing for the establishment and
delivery of quality public services, and questions to the role of
privatization and financing policies of multi-later financial institutions.
in Water Public-Public Partnerships in North-East Europe, David Hall &