The International Institute for Sustainable Development (iisd) presents
20 May to 20 June, 2003
Welcome to the fourth issue of WATER-L News ©, compiled by
Funding for the production of WATER-L (part of the IISD Reporting Services annual program) has been provided by the US Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Canada (through CIDA, DFAIT and Environment Canada), the Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL), the United Kingdom (through the Department for International Development - DFID and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs - DEFRA), the European Commission (DG-ENV), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Government of Germany (through the 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 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 Ministry of Foreign Affairs 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.
6) INTERNATIONAL NETWORK PROPOSES ALTERNATIVES FOR ACCESS TO SAFE DRINKING WATER IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, PAHO, June 3, 2003
9) WORLD BANK PROVIDES US $250 MILLION TO FIGHT POVERTY, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, May 30, 2003
14) LACK OF CLEAN WATER LEADS TO INCREASE IN TYPHOID, DIARRHOEA, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, May 26, 2003
52) SUMMIT FLOATS ON SEA OF WEALTH WHILE AFRICA GOES THIRSTY by Cahal Milmo, The Independent (UK), May 31, 2003
IUCN: WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT? WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
2003: 'WATER: TWO BILLION PEOPLE ARE DYING FOR IT'
WASHINGTON, DC, June 11, 2003 (ENS) - Many Americans take the safety of their tap water for granted, but that faith could be misguided. In a report released today, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that aging infrastructure, source water pollution and outdated treatment technology are combining to increase the potential health risks from public drinking water for many residents in 19 of the nation's largest cities. NRDC's review of tap water quality in 19 municipalities rated three problem areas - water quality and compliance, source water protection, and right-to-know compliance. The report "What's on Tap? Grading Drinking Water in U.S. Cities" finds that although drinking water purity has improved slightly during the past 15 years in most cities, overall tap water quality varies widely from city to city and many cities are failing to take long term steps needed to ensure the safety of their water supplies.
"Clean drinking water has been one of the major public health triumphs of the past 100 years," said Dr. David Ozonoff, a professor at Boston University's School of Public Health. "We have figured out how to build very efficient water delivery systems," Ozonoff explained. "But these systems can either provide safe drinking water, or deliver poisons and harmful organisms into every home, school and workplace. One misstep can lead to disaster, so we must vigorously protect our watersheds and use the best technology to purify our tap water." The report calls for increased investment in infrastructure to upgrade deteriorating water systems and modernize treatment techniques, and for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen and enforce existing health standards and develop new standards for contaminants that remain unregulated.
In addition, it recommends that state and municipal authorities adopt standards, and purchase land or easements that restrict land use to safeguard water as well as protect watersheds and areas above aquifers draining into water supplies. It details that healthy city water supplies in the United States resemble each other in three distinct ways - they have good source water protection, treatment, and maintenance and operation of the system. For example, of the 19 cities reviewed by the report, only Chicago's water quality was rated "excellent" in 2001. Five cities rated good, eight rated fair and five rated poor. None failed, but the citizens within the five cities rated poor - Alburquerque, Boston, Fresno, Phoenix and San Francisco - are drinking tap water is sufficiently contaminated so as to pose potential health risks. In particular, pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems face health risks from tap water in these cities, according to the report.
The report found an increase in the frequency of periodic spikes in contamination in many cities, an indication that aging equipment and infrastructure may be inadequate to handle today's contaminant loads or spills. The upgrades and repairs needed to ensure the safety of drinking water nationwide would be costly, the report says, but they are necessary. NRDC estimates the nationwide cost could be as high as $500 billion. Although it documented only a small number of cities that were in outright violation of national standards, the organization says this does not imply low contaminant levels but rather low standards.
It cites the new EPA standard for arsenic, which decreased the legal level of 50 parts per billion (ppb) - set in 1942 - to 10 ppb, starting in 2006. But the new standard, which has been the source of much controversy, is a level that the National Academy of Sciences says presents a lifetime fatal cancer risk of about 1 in 333.
This risk, NRDC says, is 30 times greater than what the EPA generally considers acceptable and more than three times the 3 ppb standard the agency determined was feasible. "The mere fact that a city may meet the federal standard for arsenic - or other high-risk contaminants with weak standards - does not necessarily mean the water is safe," according to the report. NRDC says the EPA should issue new standards for perchlorate, radon, distribution systems and groundwater microbes. Existing standards for arsenic, atrazine/total trizenes, chromium, cryptosporidium and other pathogens, fluoride, haloacetic acids, lead and total trihalomethandes should be strengthened, the report finds. Protecting lakes, streams and groundwater that serve as key drinking water sources is a critical component of a safe water supply. There is a wide range of possible contaminants that can plague source waters, including municipal sewage, stormwater runoff, pesticides and fertilizer runoff, as well as industrial pollution.
NRDC's evaluations of the 19 cities found only Seattle rated excellent for protecting source water. Four cities received a rating of good, four received a fair rating, and seven rated poor. The city of Fresno, California, which relies on wells, received a failing grade. The report found these wells have become seriously contaminated by agricultural and industrial pollution. None of the surveyed cities received an excellent rating for mandated right-to-know reports, which are designed to inform residents about water system problems. NRDC rated eight good, six fair, three poor, and two - Newark, New Jersey, and Phoenix, Arizona, - failed. These reports are required under the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which forces water suppliers to notify the public of dangers in tap water and inform people about the overall health of their watershed. But the report details that "in many cases, right-to-know reports have become propaganda for water suppliers, and the enormous promise of right-to-know reports has not been achieved."
The report warns that actions by the Bush administration could further threaten the purity of the nation's tap water. It notes an administration proposal to limit the scope of the Clean Water Act and notes that the Bush administration has declined to strengthen tap water standards or issue new ones for contaminants and has cut funding for water quality protection programs.
In addition, NRDC criticizes the administration for its refusal to reinstate a Superfund law provision that forces corporations to pay into a fund to clean up hazardous waste sites, which can affect important drinking water sources. "The Bush administration is more concerned about protecting corporate polluters than protecting public health," said Erik Olson, the report's principal author and a senior attorney with NRDC's Public Health Program. "Proposals to end Clean Water Act protection for most streams, creeks and wetlands will jeopardize city efforts to provide pure drinking water for its residents."
The full report can be found at NRDC's site.
LAGOS - From five o'clock in the morning to six in the evening, Sale Ibrahim walks through the streets of Lagos, selling drinkable water by the bucket to local residents from two large containers he lugs around with him. Ibrahim, an 18-year-old immigrant from Niger, manages to earn his meagre living of 500 naira ($3.60) a day because of the failure of the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) to provide clean water to most of the city's 12 million-plus residents. The difficulty huge cities like Lagos face in providing clean water was at the heart of the United Nations World Environment Day meeting in Beirut on Thursday. World leaders say they aim to halve the number of people, now 1.1 billion, who lack access to safe drinking water. The corruption and mismanagement that have dogged Nigeria since independence in 1960 have taken their toll on its public utilities. Now, the World Bank is encouraging the Lagos state government to bring in the private sector to manage its water, and has earmarked $260 million in loans for the purpose. Experience shows this will not be easy. An attempt to bring in private sector operators stalled in 2001, after a shortlist of four European firms had been drawn up.
WATER BOARD CRIPPLED
Hassan Kida, a water expert at the World Bank in Nigeria, said Bank-sponsored projects aim to pave the way for private investment. "If you go and visit treatment works, most of the machines and equipment have overstayed their lifespan and need to be replaced," he said. Kida said that although the water is perfectly clean after treatment, problems emerge further down the line. Water is rationed in most areas served by the water board. When it stops flowing, sewage leaks into the pipes, spreading diarrhoea and cholera. Pipes are broken into by people desperate for drinking water, making matters worse.
A World Bank report from 2001 showed the Lagos water board was earning only a tiny fraction of its potential revenue. The report said the LSWC was producing only 56 percent of its 680 million litres per day capacity - due partly to an erratic power supply. Only 10 percent of the water produced by the company earned any revenue at all, with the rest not paid for, not charged for, or simply unaccounted for. "The Lagos water corporation should get the private sector involved," said Georges Garbi, a consultant advising the LSWC. "This is the only way that the needed investment could be brought in to satisfy the present and future demand." Although the Lagos state government and local authorities in Nigeria say they are ready to privatise, environmental groups fear such a policy would not benefit the poor. "Access to water and sanitation...should not be regulated by the invisible hands of the free market and the interests of water multinationals," Helene Ballande of Friends of the Earth told Reuters during a G8 forum on water earlier this month. But until some solution is found, Lagos residents will have to cope in their usual way, with the poor buying water by the bucket and private operators serving the wealthy.
3) LESOTHO: NO MORE FREE WATER, PAY OR GO THIRSTY, SAYS WASA
The second option would be whereby the community adopts a Shared Water Point, where the community through the elected committee controls public standpipes. The committee registers families and individuals that draw water, set time when water should be drawn, and collect the money for the payment of the water charges on monthly basis. He noted that the last option offered by WASA is the Prepaid Meters (water cards), where individuals buy own water cards in advance and draws water as per their requirements. The system has already been tested with some communities, but WASA appreciates there is need to work on the securities for the card system. The issue of free public water is not only a concern in Lesotho, but the whole world, whereby arguments and lobbying for access to clean and safe water for household use becomes a basic human right. However, especially in Lesotho, public standpipes have not been properly managed resulting in heavy bills for the municipality and the local government.
UNICEF said yesterday that the number of children in Iraq suffering from diarrhea has reached 73 percent, double the number of cases this time last year. Agency spokesman Geoffrey Keele said that although diarrhea "may sound trivial, in Iraq it kills," adding that prior to the war, 70 percent of child deaths were the result of diarrhea or respiratory infections. Other diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and cholera are also on the rise, all spread through contaminated water supplies. In the southern city of Basra, there have been 66 confirmed cases of cholera. Keele pointed to more than 500 breaks in Baghdad's water system, which lead to contamination by sewage, as a reason for the increase. "Before the war, more than 500,000 tons of sewage was dumped in Baghdad's fresh water reserves," said Keele, adding, "I don't think this has changed." The U.S.-led administration in Iraq has said that restoring water supplies in the country is a top priority, but it will take time given the state of the infrastructure.
Government has raised Shs 100bn to support water and sanitation projects in at least 200 new towns.
The Minister of Water Lands and Environment Col. Kahinda Otafiire (pictured right) said last Friday that the initiative is part of government's campaign to eradicate poverty. He said this in a speech read for him by the Director of Water Development Patrick Kahangire at the groundbreaking ceremony of the gravity flow water project in Ibanda, Mbarara district last week. "I thank Ankole Diocese for initiating Kamukuli waterscheme that has served the Ibanda community since 1982 and for agreeing to work with government to improve the water system," Mr Otafiire said. Ibanda Mayor Francis Bamya apologised to the Bishop of East Ankole for the disagreements that came up over the management of water project and pledged new co-operation. Mr Kahangire said the Shs 750m water project will benefit 300 homes.
On Wednesday, June 4, the second meeting for the Establishment of a Network to Promote Safe Household Water Treatment and Storage will be launched at the Pan American Health Organization. Its objectives include analyzing changes in the current situation, in which some 1.1 billion people —primarily the world’s poorest populations— lack access to these vital services. This situation affects 130 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Progress in coverage of drinking water supply and sanitation in LAC has failed to overcome important limitations in coverage, quality, and equity in the delivery of these services. The proportion of the population without access to potable water and sanitation services is five times higher in rural areas than in cities. Although disaggregated regional information is not always available, there is also a recognized disproportionate deficit of access in urban fringe settlements and indigenous communities. This situation reduces the chances for inhabitants to live long and healthy lives.
The lack of household services and inappropriate environments contribute to an estimated 3.4 million deaths, primarily of children, from water-related diseases. The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals include that of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by the year 2015. They also include halving the percentage of people who lack access to potable water and sanitation. Access to potable water and sanitation, together with good hygienic practices, contributes to health and productivity for sustainable development. The network will help, in the short term, to accelerate the health benefits of clean water and sanitation through the adequate management and use of water in the home, particularly in populations with limited household access to these services. One of the objectives of the network is to empower the estimated 1.1 billion people without improved water sources to take charge of their own drinking water safety by providing them with access to affordable and appropriate solutions and with the capacity to use and maintain solutions for long-term sustainability.
The United Nations recognizes the need for alliances among agencies and constructive relations with civil society and the private sector to advance in the fulfillment of its missions. This Network represents a special opportunity to respond to these needs. The meeting for the establishment of the network was organized by the World Health Organization, in coordination with the Pan American Health Organization. Participating institutions include the U.S. Agency for International Development, multilateral agencies, the World Bank, representatives of the public and private sector, universities, research centers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the International Council of Nurses, international professional associations and the International Water Association.
PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest ongoing health organization. PAHO works with all the countries of the Americas to improve health and improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.
Channel News Asia
Washing your hands more often does not mean you will end up with higher water bills. This was a concern raised to Environment Minister Lim Swee Say. He assured Singaporeans that good hygiene can go hand-in-hand with careful water use. By the end of June, the Public Utilities Board would have distributed 230,000 water saving devices to households. Mr Lim said: "According to PUB, everyday in terms of handwashing the consumption will account only about 2 percent of our total water consumption. So in other words, if they were to double the number of times they wash their hands, the water consumption from handwashing will only account for 4 percent of our water use."And yet if we were to make use of the water saving devices, we should be able to save, reduce water consumption by 5 to 8 percent."
Centrally planned public tube-well programs in India have failed to improve the livelihoods of India's poor, new research by the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program has demonstrated. Only the use of market mechanisms to manage pump subsidy and loan programs can help reduce rural poverty and vulnerability to drought. "Eastern India's poverty can be reduced by putting pumps in the hands of the small farmer. But the sheer numbers of people is such that a market push is needed to speed the process of transforming groundwater irrigation potential into wealth and welfare for the poor." - Dr. Tushaar Shah, Leader of the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program - an initiative to introduce research knowledge into the policy planning process.
In much of eastern India, the development of groundwater for irrigation is confirmed as the key to improving the lives of poor people on a vast scale. Examples abound of how the introduction of small pumps have energized agrarian economies by allowing people to grow food and cash crops, creating new income streams for millions of households. Public tube well programs - though well intentioned - have undermined this potential. Strangled by bureaucracy and the local political dynamic these programs have failed to address the needs of the current market and society they serve. Government subsidies have also kept pump prices inflated by more than 35-45 per cent compared to neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In Uttar Pradesh and north Bihar, however, where pump subsidy and loan programs have been released from the stranglehold of the local bureaucracy, the results of tube-well programs have been encouraging - estimates show 800, 000 small diesel-pump-operated tube wells have been installed in eastern Uttar Pradesh since 1985, irrigating around 2.4 to 3.2 million hectares. Here, market mechanisms have been used to manage pump subsidy and loan programs for the poor. Private dealers have proliferated in towns, who as a result of intense competition, have begun to offer farmers a range of useful services that were never offered previously - including the organization of bank loans, the issuing of pipes and pumps, and the drilling of boreholes. Elsewhere dealers extract heavy 'service charges.' But, in the Uttar Pradesh region intense competition has reduced dealer margins to 7-10 percent from 15-18 percent in other regions.
"The governments role is to support this market-oriented approach by encouraging the creation of these types of public-private partnerships," argues Dr. Shah. He adds: "The government's key role is to set market rules that allow suppliers to deliver fast service and pump equipment adapted to local farmers needs." IWMI-Tata researchers have analyzed factors that have influenced the success and failure of groundwater development schemes throughout India.
Based on these studies, five points are recommended for policy action:
For more information on the research see 'Bringing Pumps to People,' issue 2 of the Water Policy Briefing series (http://www.iwmi.org/waterpolicybriefing)
Integrated Regional Information Networks
The World Bank announced on Thursday that it would provide US $250 million to support efforts by the Tanzanian government to reduce poverty in the country through three main operations: a Poverty Reduction Support Credit, a water supply and sanitation project for Dar es Salaam, and an agricultural development project. "The programmes approved today represent concrete evidence of the World Bank and other development partners, under government leadership, working together in mutual trust towards the common goal of poverty reduction," said Judy O'Connor, World Bank country director for Tanzania.
The First Poverty Reduction Support Credit, supported by a $100 million credit and a $32 million grant, will be integrated into the government's budget to implement key strategies aimed at reducing poverty throughout the country by improving the management of government services and developing the private sector, "laying the foundation for attacking income poverty more effectively", the World Bank stated.
The Dar es Salaam Water Supply and Sanitation Project, supported by a $61.5 million credit, will aim to improve water supply and sanitation in Dar es Salaam and part of the coast region. The Participatory Agricultural Development and Empowerment Project, supported by a $56.6 million credit, will fund efforts to raise agricultural productivity in rural areas "by empowering communities to make important decisions, sharing the costs of production, increasing their purchasing power, promoting improved farming practices, and assisting in the maintenance of infrastructure to improve access to the market place", the World Bank said.
Tanzania has remained one of the poorest countries in the world and is heavily dependent on agriculture, which accounts for 50 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, "the country has continued to improve its growth and poverty focus over the past several years as evidenced by its GDP growth that reached an estimated 5.9 percent in real terms in 2002", the World Bank reported. The World Bank also said it would soon present to its board of directors for approval a programme to help Tanzania in its fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Business Times (Dar es Salaam)
About 2,000 households in the districts of Hanang, Singida Rural, Manyoni and Igunga have bid their water scarcity problems goodbye, following the completion of a major rural water supply project in their respective areas. Supported by the Government of Japan to the tune of JY-785 million (about Tsh6.6 billion), the project will provide clean and safe water to the villagers, thereby reducing the prevalence of water-borne diseases in those areas.
The Charge d'Affaires a.i at the Japanese embassy in Tanzania, Takamichi Okabe, said the project would bear a positive impact on the social lives of women and children who had to spend so much time walking long distances in search of water for domestic use. Okabe was speaking at the handing/taking-over ceremony of the project in Hanang last week, which was also attended by the Tanzanian vice-president, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein. "Attempts to improve the living conditions of women and children will certainly enhance the morale of the community, the Wananchi, who are the true protagonists in the fight against poverty, and who are truly responsible for building the future of the this nation," Okabe said.
The envoy said his country recognises the water problem as one of the most serious challenges currently facing the contemporary world. As such, it needs a comprehensive approach in accordance with local conditions, which include the provision of drinking water and sanitation, as well as water pollution control.
In view of this, so he said, Japan has prioritised assistance in the water sector by providing worldwide direct assistance. This amounted to more than JY-650 billion (about Tsh5.7 trillion) between 1999 and 2001.
In March this year, Japan hosted the 3rd World Water Forum, which resulted in the establishment by that country of a Water Resource Grant Aid. According to Okabe, about JY-16 billion is to be earmarked in this year's budget of the Japanese Government for the scheme. The purpose of the scheme is to provide drinking water and sanitation to people suffering from the shortage across the globe.
The German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development has given a sum of 50,000 Euro for providing additional services in areas devastated by floods, states a German Technical Cooperation press release. This is in addition to goods and services worth 400,000 Euro which was immediately provided last week by the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon the request of the German Embassy in Colombo. The German aid package saw the arrival in Sri Lanka of 15 experts from the German Agency for Technical Support (THW), who were accompanied by a plane load of equipment, which included state-of-the-art water purification machinery and special vehicles to access unreachable areas.
The machinery, which is capable of converting muddy water into pure drinking quality water at the rate of 4,000 litres per hour, has been installed in the Galle and Matara districts. The leader of the German team, together with German charge d'affaires Heinz Kopp, has already met with Minister of Power and Energy Karu Jayasuriya to discuss logistics of the relief operation. According to Dr. Roland Steurer, Country Director for the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in Sri Lanka, the 50,000 Euro provided by the Ministry of Economic Cooperation & Development will be used primarily for the purpose of distributing the drinking water. "It would, to some extent ensure that the water reaches the people who need it, rather than people having to travel to get the water," said Dr. Steurer.
GTZ experts, working in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Social Welfare, Divisional Secretaries and the Seva Lanka Foundation, will set up 40 water tanks in the affected areas and distribute water to the tanks using bowsers. Further, GTZ is looking at providing additional assistance to the flood-ravaged areas, once the waters have subsided, said Eberhard Halbach, a GTZ senior advisor. According to Mr. Halbach, GTZ will supply material needed for the reconstruction of schools and other social infrastructure that have been damaged or destroyed by the floods. The organization would also launch a programme to clean as many wells as possible, from amongst 80,000 wells in the region that have been polluted. "We will have to train local staff to clean wells using our equipment," he said, adding that the German assisted relief measures in the affected areas could continue for about six months if funding can be obtained.
Stakeholders of the second phase of the Accra Sewerage Improvement Study have discussed how to facilitate the implementation of the donor-driven project that included detail designs, cost estimates and environmental management plan for Accra. The participants comprising clients, consultants, government agencies and user groups spent about three hours deliberating on the sustainability and management of various aspects of the study being undertaken by the government and the African Development Bank as part of a five-year major rehabilitation of Accra Central Sewerage System and procurement of operational equipment.
Speaking during an interactive session, Dr Charles Yeboah, Deputy Minister of Works and Housing, urged the consultants to explain the project concept thoroughly to the beneficiaries to elicit their suggestions.
"I will also urge all participants not to be passive to what is happening but actively participate in the discussions, bringing out all their concerns and aspirations." Mr. Kofi Brew, Chief Manager for Planning and Development at the Ghana Water Company Limited, said the study would help the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to live up to the task of managing sewerage in the capital. Some participants suggested the need for cost effective technologies that would ensure sustainable management and also check the offensive odour associated with solid and liquid waste.
Those from low-income areas in the city asked for a package that would make it easy for households with pan-latrines to either connect to the sewerage system or switch to affordable and modern toilet facilities.
The second phase of the study, spanning May 2003 to next January is essentially an update of the first sewerage improvement study completed in 1996 by Sogreah Ingenierie, a French consultant in association with Comptran Engineering and Planning Associates of Ghana. The Study recommended the improvement of sanitation sites in Accra for a 30 year-period using least cost option and environmentally sound collection of sewerage. Lahmeyer International of Germany and Watertech Limited of Ghana are undertaking the second phase that involves an oceanographic study and design of two sea outfalls at Burma Camp and Korle-Gonno to ensure the intake of treated sewer for discharge into the sea and the siting of a number of improved public toilet facilities at vantage points within the Metropolis.
The N11.6 billion African Development Bank (ADB) assisted urban water scheme meant to supply pipe-borne water to Calabar and its environs and some towns in Cross River State would soon be commissioned by the state governor, Mr Donald Duke. When commissioned, the project would alleviate the sufferings of the masses, who have been without public taps since the past 10 years. Already, a test run of the water scheme have began in Calabar with water being pumped into public pipes, while the chairman, board of directors of the Cross River Water Board Limited, Mr Gershom Bassey, and the General Manager, Mr Nte Bassey-Ekarum, presented the first pipe-borne water from the test run to the governor.
Inspecting the water project, Duke congratulated all those who were involved in the process of making the dream a reality. He expressed delight that the people would have the opportunity of drinking good water again once the project was commissioned. He described the development as a monumental investment while stating that the project when commissioned would restore hope to the people, especially residents of the state capital, Calabar who were currently depending on private and commercial borehole operators for their water needs. The governor explained that the water scheme was one projecthe had put all his efforts into especially in ensuring that it kicked off in earnest.
Speaking later, the General Manager, Engr. Bassey-Ekanem, had explained that the project was conceived in the 1980s, but abandoned until 1998 due to lack of funds. He disclosed further that the Duke administration on assumption of office took serious interest in the project, which prompted the state to pay its share of the counterpart sum of N700 million of the total sum of N11.6b of the project cost. The General Manager warned members of the public not to make use of the water now until the test run which will last for about two weeks was over.
Integrated Regional Information Networks
Cases of typhoid and diarrhoea among children in the northern town of Bambari in the Central African Republic (CAR) have increased due to lack of safe drinking water, government-run Radio Centrafrique reported on Saturday. The radio said health facilities in Bambari, 385 km northeast of the capital, Bangui, had recorded an increase in waterborne diseases since November 2002 when the state water utility, Societe des Eaux de Centrafrique, stopped supplying water to the town after it ran out of fuel for its equipment.
The radio quoted Richard Kpale, chief doctor in the Bambari region, as urging the local population to take care of existing wells and other water sources, and to boil drinking water or disinfect it with bleach.
Located in Ouaka province, Bambari was not directly affected by the October 2002-March 2003 fighting between rebel and government troops but, like other eastern regions, the town was cut off from its supply routes, resulting in an acute shortage of basic commodities and drugs in health institutions. The fighting ended when Francois Bozize, a former army chief of staff, ousted President Ange-Felix Patasse in a coup on 15 March.
Since mid-May, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has been distributing drugs to six eastern provinces, including Ouaka. Kpale said that UNICEF and a religious humanitarian NGO, the Association des Oeuvres Medicales pour la Sante en Centrafrique, would support a six-month health project against malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, measles and other diseases, beginning 1 June. He said the project would also deal with pre-natal consultations. Under the project, Kpale said, a child seeking treatment at a health centre would pay 500 francs CFA (US $0.83) for consultation and drugs while adults would pay 1,000 francs CFA ($1.66) for similar services.
KIEV, Ukraine — The World Bank singled out polluted water on Tuesday as Ukraine's most pressing environmental problem and said air and solid waste pollution also pose serious threats to public health.
Bank officials highlighted polluted surface and groundwater in outlining their environmental lending priorities in Ukraine ahead of a 55-nation conference on European environmental issues to start Wednesday.
A study by the bank showed that while air pollution remains a problem in cities and heavily industrialized areas, it has fallen substantially since Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union. "The environment ... has gotten better mostly because the collapse of many industries brought pollution down," said Kristalina Georgieva, an environmental specialist at the Bank. However, the bank criticized Ukrainian authorities for below-market resource pricing policies and failing to create adequate incentives to induce compliance with air and water pollution limits. Politically influential companies are often exempted from existing emission limits to preserve jobs or to avoid conflicts. Johannes Linn, regional vice president of the bank, is expected to stress improving integration of environmental issues into Ukraine's economic and social policies in meetings with top government officials this week. The bank has committed some US$1.4 billion so far to environmental issues in the region.
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
THE PRESIDENT of Friends Of River and Water Bodies, Nana Dwomuh Sarpong has urged the government to create water ministry in the country. He said the Works and Housing ministry has failed for the past years in terms of tackling water problems. According to him, about 70 per cent of water is used by man, as well as other living things on earth, thus making it essential to life. He asserted that the other ministries would not have existed if there was no water in the country because most of them rely on water for their projects. During an interview with the Chronicle, just after the launch of International Fresh Water Day, Nana Sarpong said rainwater should be preserved for drinking, instead of being allowed to flood and go waste. He advised that houses should create a provision for storing rainwater.
He said the Friends of River and Water Bodies would ensure that the laws governing water are enforced to protect water bodies in the country. According to him, "Act 4C of land policy says a minimum of 100m of high water should be declared as protected area." He therefore called on women to fight against the misuse of water, adding "they suffer most when water is not available." When asked whether there is the need to privatize water, he answered that government should not talk of privatization, if water cannot be treated well. Nana Sarpong contended that when water sector is privatised, water would be sold at such an expensive rate that people cannot afford to buy. He called on the government to concentrate on the water sector since it is vital in national development.
Integrated Regional Information Networks
The European Commission (EC) has made US $8.6 million available for sustained integrated planning and management of water resources in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Water resources in the SADC region were unevenly distributed both seasonally and geographically, and "the sharing of major river basins could be a source of conflict and political instability", an EC statement noted. "Flooding, as a result of torrential rains, has taken its toll on the population while causing extensive damage to property and livestock. The year 2000 was particularly devastating along the downstream areas of the major trans-boundary rivers, especially in Mozambique," the EC added.
"In view of the importance of the role that water plays in ensuring the livelihood of people in the SADC region", water management constituted an "excellent vehicle for regional integration" and conflict prevention. "The current project is planned for four years and will be managed by the SADC Secretariat. The project includes institutional and organisational support, creation of a Water Sector Coordinating Unit to implement a Regional Strategic Action Plan, support and resource studies for the Orange-Sengu River Commission and the Maputo Basin, and expansion of SADC's 'Hydrological Cycle Observing System' (HYCOS)," the EC said. EC Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson, signed the financing agreement with South Africa to support the Water Sector in SADC.
18) LESOTHO JUDGE CONVICTS GERMAN ENGINEERING FIRM OF
The Lesotho High Court yesterday convicted Lahmeyer
International, a German engineering consulting firm, of paying approximately
US$550,000 in bribes to the former chief executive of the multi-billion
dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project in exchange for favorable contract
decisions, according to South African press reports. Lesotho Justice Gabriel
Mofolo found Lahmeyer guilty of 7 of the 13 counts for which they were
charged.This is the second company to be convicted in the lengthy trial,
which began in 1999. The Canadian engineering company, Acres International,
was found guilty last year, but has appealed the decision. The water
project's former chief executive, Masupha Sole, was also convicted of
corruption, and is now serving a 15 year prison sentence.
See Also: African conduit guilty in Lesotho bribe trial; The Guardian; June 13, 2003; Internet: http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,976338,00.html
Lusaka – The National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) says government is the main defaulter with regards to unpaid water bills, and the development has negatively affected operations of most water Utility Companies (U.C) in Zambia. Speaking during the Urban Water Sector Report for 2001 and 2002, NWASCO Director Osward Chanda said defaulters owe U.Cs in the country over K 100 billion in unpaid water bills. " 25 percent of this amount is owed by government in unpaid water bills," said Mr. Chanda. The NWASCO director said this has greatly affected the operations of U.Cs saying most of the water companies are unable to rehabilitate their worn water systems properly.
"The situation is pathetic in the sewerage systems as in the past two decades we have seen damaged sewer systems that have polluted underground water," he said. He however, said that government through Parliament has given NWASCO K 300 million for water development through the organization’s Devolution Fund. He further said the German and Irish governments have through their respective donor agencies, THE German Technical service – Zambia (GTZ) and Ireland Aid, given NWASCO 108 Euros and 3200 Euros, respectively. And NWASCO Public Relations Officer Ngabo Muleba said the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Report has noted that nearly every water provider in the country does not account for half or more of its produced water. Mrs. Muleba said this was because water delivery was not only metered but also obliviously underestimated.
She said Chipata District was the only area with 100 percent metered water delivery in the country with unaccounted for water standing at 25 percent which could be regarded mostly as technical water losses.
The NWASCO spokesperson said every water provider was in serious financial difficulties and could only survive because government was delivering water treatment chemicals free of charge. " Both chemicals and electricity for pumping water make up for a considerable part of the cost of operation," she said.
Mrs. Muleba suggested that the way forward was for a decrease to unaccounted for water and improvement of operations of the U.C..
U.N. Environment Program Executive Director Klaus Toepfer told the Beirut Daily Star that private companies should restrict their participation in the water sector to advising governments and investing in programs. Toepfer, who was in Beirut, Lebanon, for World Environment Day on Thursday, reportedly told the Lebanese newspaper that "the water sector should never be privatized, but private investors should be encouraged to advise the government on water projects." As an example of how private companies can work with the water sector, Toepfer mentioned a sewage treatment plan in Lebanon that would require investment in a water recycling system and the private sector's expertise in distributing water.
Toepfer also said political instability was to blame for the fact that few private companies in the region were investing in water management projects. "Only peaceful developments will encourage private investments," he said. Regional conflict could also worsen cross-border disputes over shared rivers, lakes and aquifers, Toepfer said, adding that a forthcoming UNEP atlas showing 200 water catchment areas would hopefully help solve transboundary water issues (Nada Raad, Beirut Daily Star, June 6).
Government of India
Shri Kashiram Rana, Minister of Rural Development emphasized upon water conservation and rain water harvesting measures to meet competing rural drinking water demands from various sectors. Such rainwater harvesting schemes will not only be helpful in making sources sustainable and save systems from becoming defunct, but stored rainwater can be used to meet supplementary domestic requirement. While holding a review meeting on rural drinking water and sanitation here today, the Minister said that a massive awareness programme on matters related to sanitation and water borne diseases is the need of the hour. Expressing concern over water quality problems in rural areas, the Minister urged upon State Governments to complete the Sub Mission Programmes within a definite time frame.
In order to solve the drinking water problem in the areas affected by drought and other natural calamities, it has been decided that with effect from 1-4-2002, 5% of the funds under ARWSP will be earmarked every year for mitigating contingency arising due to natural calamities and emergent situation during Tenth Plan.
Shri P. Mohan Das, Secretary Rural Drinking Water Supply informed that during the year 2003-04, Rs.111.75 crore has been earmarked for natural calamities. Out of this amount, Rs.15.54 crore has been released to Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan while drought mitigation proposals from Gujarat, Karnataka and Rajasthan are under process. He said under Swajaldhara Programme, 4986 projects have been approved for 15 states/1 union territory. The total approved project cost is Rs.298 crore. Under Total Sanitation Campaign, 288 projects have been sanctioned. Regarding physical achievements of the sanitation campaign, the Secretary highlighted that 25.12 lakh individual house holds toilets, 32231 school toilets, 1050 women complexes and 3887 Anganwadi toilets have been constructed so far. Out of total number of 14.23 lakh rural habitations in the country, 13.10 lakh habitations are fully covered and 99000are partially covered and only 12000 rural habitations are not covered with rural drinking water. Shri Kashiram Rana said that in order to provide incentive to Panchayati Raj Institutions, individuals and organisations for full sanitation coverage, a proposal for introduction of Nirmal Gram Puraskar for achieving sanitation coverage is on the anvil.
East African Standard (Nairobi)
The Government will not backtrack on its course to undertake radical reforms in the water sector, minister Martha Karua has said. The minister said the restructuring of the sector has been misinterpreted by certain people who do not understand key issues inherent in the reforms. She disclosed that the main aim of the reforms is to provide water services efficiently to all people in the country. "Reforms are not the same as privatisation and retrenchment as some of you might think," she said. Karua disclosed that the reforms will also help protect natural resources which she said was a sign of commitment on the part of the Government to use the resources in a sustainable manner.
The remarks were contained in a speech read on her behalf by her assistant minister, John Munyes during a strategic planning workshop in Kisumu. She said the reforms will also involve re-deployment and retraining of staff to make them more productive. Karua said all provincial and district heads of department will undergo a management development course to upgrade their management skills in a bid to improve their performance. She said the courses will be organised by Human resources Development Division (HRD).
Karua urged those charged with the responsibility of undertaking the reforms in the sector to carry out their duties in a transparent and efficient manner to ensure its success. "I also expect them to communicate their activities to all segments of the Kenyan people as the reforms affect everyone" she said. She called upon all employees in the sector to carry out their duties and strive to meet the expectations of their clients. Karua said the ministry was also working towards acquiring modern tools to effectively manage water resources in the country.
NEW DELHI, India — Hostile neighbors India and Pakistan began discussing on Wednesday a dispute over construction of a dam in the Indian portion of Kashmir that Pakistan fears will deprive its farmers of much-needed water, a news report said. Pakistan objects to the design of the Baglihar Hydroelectric Plant being built on the Chenab River, which originates in Indian-controlled Kashmir and runs into Pakistan's Punjab state, where it is used for irrigation. The Chenab is one of five rivers which form the Indus River system. Under a 1960 Indus Water Treaty, Indian and Pakistani officials meet once a year to monitor sharing of Indus River water between the two countries.
Despite two wars and a hostile relationship, India and Pakistan have honored the treaty, which was negotiated by the World Bank. At their last meeting in Islamabad in February, Pakistan suggested a neutral expert should resolve the problem. India rejects any outside mediation. "We don't want any third-party intervention in the discussions between India and Pakistan on the Indus Water Treaty," Indian Water Resources Minister Arjun Charan Sethi was quoted as saying Wednesday by the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. "We will speak about it after the meeting," Pakistani Indus Commissioner Jamiat Ali Shah told PTI. The three-day meeting is to end Friday.
India offered to modify the dam's design, but Pakistan was not satisfied with the proposal and rejected it at the Islamabad meeting. The dam, located near the village of Baglihar, 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Jammu in Indian-controlled Kashmir, is due to be completed by 2004. The glaciers of the Himalayan region feed numerous important rivers flowing into Pakistan and India.
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 26 - More than 100 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world have issued an "Evian Water Challenge" to leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) major industrial nations that will meet next week in Evian, France, demanding that they stop pressuring developing countries to privatize their water resources. The statement, coordinated by Amsterdam-based Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), is directed primarily at the European members of the G8--especially France, Germany, and Britain--which together dominate the global water market, a growth industry in many developing countries that have been urged by the World Bank and financial agencies to sell off rights to their water resources in order to replenish depleted treasuries and improve service.
But the NGOs, which hail from Europe, North America, Indonesia, Ghana, and Bolivia, insist that water privatization has proved a bad deal for many countries and consumers. "The record of water liberalization and privatization around the world has been a disaster," according to Clare Joy of the London-based World Development Movement (WMD). "Many developing countries and impoverished communities have rejected the idea of providing water for profit, yet the European members of the G8 are pushing them into a trade agreement, lobbied for by business and negotiated in secret, that will lock in liberalization regardless of the cost to the poor and vulnerable." She was referring to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) that is the subject of ongoing negotiations under the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation (WTO). Launched in 2000, the accord would require countries to drop all barriers to private investment in a range of public services and utilities, from water systems to hospitals.
Such a provision would greatly benefit six major multinational companies, which between them account for virtually all private investment in water utilities in developing countries. They include the two largest, France's Suez and Vivendi Environment corporations; followed by Thames Water, owned by Germany's RWE AG; Saur, another French company; United Utilities of Britain, and Bechtel. Altogether private companies control about five percent of the global water sector. Active in the water sector of only 12 countries in 1990, the six companies now operate in 56 countries and two territories. A World Bank report released at the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto in March predicted that global investment in water will have to double over the next 20 years to keep pace with demand, particularly if global targets for providing safe water supplies and sanitation to the two billion people living on less than US$2 a day are to achieved.
The European Union (EU) has been especially aggressive. They are demanding that 72 countries open their water sectors to foreign private investment in the GATS negotiations. The NGOs want the EU to withdraw those demands at the Evian summit, June 1-3.
In February, the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity and its Consortium of Investigative Journalists released a report that concluded that privatization had cut off millions of people from safe-water supplies, resulting, for example, in South Africa's worst-ever cholera outbreak, which killed nearly 300 people and infected more than 250,000. The privatization of Bolivia's water system provoked major unrest in Cochabamba where skyrocketing rates threatened to cut off tens of thousands of people from their supply of safe water. The companies themselves and the EU claim that private companies can generally supply water and sanitation more efficiently--and thus at cheaper rates over time--to consumers, including the poor, but activists insist that the record shows otherwise. "The EU's push for water privatization in developing countries is covered in a layer of sustainable development rhetoric," according to CEO. "But the bottom line is to secure profitable markets for European water corporations."
Among the groups supporting the "Evian Challenge" are Britain's Save the Children and War on Want, Friends of the Earth Europe; the anti-globalization group Attac; Public Citizen of the U.S.; and Coordinadora de Defensa del Agua y de la Vida, a coalition which led a major campaign against a Bechtel subsidiary in Bolivia.
Great Lakes governors and premiers hope to strengthen regional control over the world’s largest source of fresh surface water in the coming year to head off any proposals to divert water to other parts of North America or the world. But the leaders of Ohio, Michigan, and six other U.S. states as well as the two Canadian provinces bordering the Great Lakes could find that the intensive legal maneuvering they began in earnest two summers ago soon will be challenged - if not downright obstructed - by industry. "There’s a great interest on industry’s part of reopening all of this," said George Kuper of the Council of Great Lakes Industries about an agreement known as Annex 2001, which attempts to limit water usage from the lakes to near-shoreline communities. The Ann Arbor-based council represents some of the region’s largest employers.
Mr. Kuper claims state and provincial leaders were steered into the agreement by "bum legal advice" they received after a small company called the Nova Group made history in 1998 by securing a permit from Ontario to ship up to 156 million gallons of Lake Superior water a year for sale to Asian markets.
That amount would have been hardly a drop in Lake Superior’s enormous bucket: The lake system loses more water than that to evaporation every 24 hours. But the Nova case triggered a precedent over water rights because it was the first time a permit had been granted for such a bulk transport or diversion. Engineering studies have been done over the years to explore the possibility of diverting Great Lakes water to the arid Southwest and other regions - only to stop dead in their tracks because of political pressure and enormous costs. Nova eventually relinquished its permit but not its right to renew its effort if such projects are ever sanctioned. The Annex 2001 agreement is a vehicle governors and premiers have chosen in hopes of keeping that scenario from being played out. Officials began working on the document in 1999 after legal experts told them the Nova case demonstrated how vulnerable the Great Lakes could be to changes in international law, especially under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The experts warned that water - like oil and timber - arguably could be viewed as a tradable commodity on global markets.
Annex 2001 would update a 1985 nonbinding charter that Great Lakes governors had signed among themselves to limit water diversions and withdrawals. The new Annex document would include the premiers of Quebec and Ontario. The 1985 charter - viewed by some experts as a "gentlemen’s agreement" - was reinforced by Congress in 1986 with passage of a law that has more teeth, the Water Resources Development Act. It requires any diversion outside the Great Lakes to be approved by each of the Great Lakes governors.
The governors and premiers held a summit on June 18, 2001, in Niagara Falls to pledge that they would move forward with the annex. They gave themselves three years to work out details. A final draft is expected to be released for three months of public comment this fall, with the final signing expected by June 18, 2004. Annex 2001 goes beyond simply putting limits on exports and withdrawals. The proposed agreement would require new users to return as much water as they take out, with the quality of what’s returned resulting in a net-effect improvement on the system. "It’s more innovative than just ‘Do no harm,’" said Cameron Davis, executive director of the Chicago-based Lake Michigan Federation environmental group.
But to Mr. Kuper, it’s also vague. Taken literally, he said, it could inhibit large water users - such as large manufacturers or power plants - from building along the Great Lakes. "If there’s a question if you’re ever going to get your water permit, you’re not going to build your plant in the Great Lakes region," Mr. Kuper said. Russ Van Herik, executive director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, a $100 million endowment that Great Lakes states established years ago to help fund research, called Mr. Kuper’s argument an industry scare tactic and said the annex will not impede new construction. He said Annex 2001 is important for national leaders in Washington and Ottawa to know that lake-water usage issues can be resolved at the regional level. Control will become more important as the Earth’s population continues to expand and the effects of global warming deplete fresh water supplies this century, officials said. Mr. Davis pointed out that water rights are especially controversial in this part of North America because the Great Lakes are used for far more than drinking water or irrigation. They are vital to the region’s manufacturing hub, as well as its tourism and the fish ecology that supports the recreation base of its economy. "The issue is not if we are going to run out of water," he said. "The issue is one of distribution - who’s got it, who doesn’t, and how it’s going to be distributed."
Frank Quinn, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hydrologist who has studied Great Lakes water levels since the early 1960s, said the idea of diverting Great Lakes water to the Southwest or even the closer, heavily-populated Northeast is not far-fetched. "The Northeast is perennially short of water. It would be relatively easy to take water out of Lake Ontario and put it in the Hudson River," he said. Whether it’s the Northeast or the Southwest, any pressure to divert water outside the region likely will come from the United States - not Canada - according to David de Launay, director of the lands and waters branch of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The country not only has vast water resources, but 9.5 million of its 11 million people live within the Great Lakes basin. Canada wants nothing to do with any effort to "re-engineer the plumbing of North America," he said.
The sharing of river water has led to tension between some states. India's ruling party has launched a campaign to gather public support for one of India's most ambitious projects - the linking of rivers across the country. The project aims to connect nearly 30 rivers in the country and is estimated to cost over $100bn.
It envisages diverting water from surplus river basins to water deficient areas. Floods and drought have become a recurring problem in India and the project is aimed at improving the situation. Last year a severe drought hit several Indian states, while floods destroyed people's harvests in many other areas. The sharing of river waters has also led to tensions among some states, the most outstanding example being Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. These two southern states have been fighting for over a century over the Cauvery river.
India's Bharatiya Janata Party-led government sees the inter-linking of rivers as a long-term solution to many of these problems. Water for laundering clothes is a perennial problem The party now plans to involve its grass-roots activists in the project. "We plan to disseminate the idea and educate the masses through our party workers," the president of the BJP's youth wing, G Kishan Reddy, told the BBC. Mr Reddy, who is heading the awareness drive, said workers of the youth wing would take the concept to state capitals from where they would spread into the districts and villages. The BJP says the river-linking project would boost the annual average income of farmers from the present $40 per acre of land to over $500. It says once the rivers are linked, India's food production will increase from about 200m tonnes a year to 500m.
But neither the party nor the government led by it offers a specific answer to concerns raised by several environmental bodies. They argue that the project would alter the basic character of many rivers and leave several hundred thousand people displaced. They are also silent about how India would gather the resources to convert the grand idea into a reality. The BJP and its leaders in the government have also ignored, for the time being, the international implications of the project. India has river treaties with several neighbouring countries which prohibit Delhi from unilaterally altering river courses. For the moment the party is backing the prime minister - who is keen on the project - in the hope that even if water does not reach dry areas, the project would win it votes in key elections this year.
MEXICO CITY - Mexico implored the United States not to cut the flow of Colorado River water in retaliation for this country's water debt in the Rio Grande region, saying such a move would harm efforts to save the environmentally sensitive upper Gulf of California. Activists worry that endangered species like the Vaquita porpoises — of which less than 600 remain — could become the latest victims of the water conflict. "Don't shoot yourself in the foot by doing something that would affect both sides, by affecting something we both are interested in saving," Environment Secretary Victor Lichtinger said at a news conference Wednesday.
Located 50 miles south of the Mexico-U.S. border, Jaques Cousteau once described the upper Gulf of California as "the world's aquarium." Earlier this month, angered by Mexico's failure to deliver agreed-on amounts of water into the Rio Grande, Texas Rep. Solomon Ortiz called on the U.S. government to withhold water deliveries to Mexico from the Colorado River. Ortiz said "the only arrow left in our quiver is to withhold water (the Mexicans) need, as they have done to the United States for over a decade."
The Colorado flows across the border and into the Gulf of California, creating a wetlands delta which — while reduced to a shadow of its former size by water overuse — is still a key breeding ground for birds and marine life. A 1944 treaty stipulates Mexico must send water into the Rio Grande for use by Texas farmers, in exchange for a much larger amount of Colorado water from the United States. Mexico has failed to deliver its full contribution over the last decade. "This shouldn't be a question of revenge or retaliation," Lichtinger said. "We should work together to conserve the Colorado River Delta."
Recent research suggests government and donor efforts to transfer water management institutions and policies from western countries to India fail to take into account the realities of the country's river basins - undermining attempts to contain the growing water crisis and reduce vulnerability to drought. "Water management solutions developed in Europe, North America and Australia cannot be expected to address the more fundamental issues that water sectors in South Asia must contend with. The items that top the water agenda here - such as providing access to water for drinking, growing food, and sustainable groundwater management - are either unresolved in the developed world or have become irrelevant due to economic development," argues Dr. Tushaar Shah of the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program - a new initiative to introduce research knowledge into the policy planning process.
Recent research, which analyzed the effectiveness of Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) models in implementing sustainable water management regimes, found that in many cases these models were not designed to handle the hydrogeology, demography, socio-economics, and organization of the water sector found in South Asia. This does not mean that India and other South Asian countries cannot learn valuable lessons from these models. Loosely structured, they can serve as coordinating mechanisms, facilitating dialogue and negotiation on resource allocation among organized stakeholders and representative bodies. But River Basin Organizations cannot by themselves address the more fundamental issues that water sectors in India must contend with.
"Its an entirely different ball game from IRBM in western countries," explains Dr. Tushaar Shah. "For reform to succeed in developing countries such as India, you have to find ways of influencing huge numbers of small-scale water users who depend on rain-fed agriculture and private or community water storage, without much mediation from public agencies or service providers." For IRBM to work in India and other countries in South Asia, models have to be properly tailored to local conditions. IWMI-Tata researchers have highlighted four areas policy makers need to consider for the successful application of IRBM.
THE CHALLENGE FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES WHEN IMPLEMENTING IRBM
Regulate the informal water sector: How do you regulate vast numbers of small-scale users who are not linked to public institutions? One possibility is to find ways of underpinning macro-level institutions with nested organizations of users at the grassroots. Improve the productivity of "Green Water": For countries such as India, where the population density is high, both upstream and downstream, increasing the productivity of water diverted from rivers is less important than being able to capture rainfall and store water effectively in the soil profile ("green water").
Manage groundwater: In South Asia, protecting groundwater from over-exploitation by millions of small unlicensed pumpers is an increasingly pressing issue. Community initiatives for groundwater recharge may offer the most immediate hope for reversing damage in areas where water tables are dropping as much as a meter each year. Water scarcity: The heart of the problem in most water-scarce countries is too many people living off a limited natural resource base. Getting more crop, cash and jobs per drop is part of the answer; the other is generating off-farm livelihoods in rural areas.
For more information on the research see 'The Challenges of Integrated River Basin Management in India,' issue 3 of the Water Policy Briefing series (http://www.iwmi.org/waterpolicybriefing).
Kafue Flats, Zambia - WWF, Zambia Electricity Supply Company Ltd (ZESCO), and Zambia's Ministry of Energy and Water Development (MEWD) have signed an agreement worth €826,441 to jointly fund and implement an Integrated Water Resource Management Programme for the Kafue Flats over the next nine months. The project will contribute towards restoration of the natural ecosystem of the flats.
The Kafue Flats are an open savannah wetland covering 6,500km2 along the Kafue River and are home to abundant birdlife and wildlife, including the unique Kafue lechwe, a semi-aquatic antelope. The natural flooding regime of the flats has been altered by two dams built in the 1970s which have reduced the area flooded and changed the timing of the flooding. This has affected wetland productivity and resulted in reduced water resources, less grazing area, negative impacts on wildlife and fish, and reduced potential for tourism.
Hosting the signing ceremony at his premises, MEWD Permanent Secretary Dr Austin Sichinga said there was an urgent need to manage water resources of the Kafue Flats, which would improve wildlife and fish resources. He said MEWD would facilitate activities to extend similar programmes to other important water resources such as the Chambeshi–Luapula Rivers. ZESCO Managing Director Mr Rodney Sisala said his company recognises the need to manage the water resources in the Kafue Flats for the benefit of all stakeholders. Mr Sisala said that his company appreciates the need to support the unique ecosystem of the flats, as evidenced by ZESCO’s participation in the tripartite agreement.
WWF Program Coordinator Ms Monica Chundama said WWF was very excited that the three organizations had embarked on this programme. Ms Chundama said the importance of water resources worldwide is illustrated by the United Nations World Environment Day theme for this year “Water – Two billion people are dying for it”. She said WWF would continue contributing to improving management and utilization of Kafue Flats resources for the benefit of all. The signing ceremony marked the beginning of Phase Two of the Integrated Water Resource Management Programme. This phase will implement some of the management strategies identified in the first phase to jump-start restoration of the Kafue Flats. Phase one of this project, which was completed last year, developed a management strategy and the KAFRIBA model. The strategy identified many ways to improve management of water resources in the Kafue flats while the KAFRIBA model is able to portray various flooding regimes in the flats.
WASHINGTON, DC, June 10, 2003 (ENS) - In the wake of a Supreme Court ruling more than two years ago that limited the federal government's ability to regulate isolated wetlands, the Bush administration has tried to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. But both the ruling and the administration's policies appear to have done little but further cloud an already murky debate over which waters should be protected by the federal law. "The current situation has created confusion and chaos," said Senator Mike Crapo, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water.
"This confusion that has festered for the last two years is not only detrimental to individuals in the regulated community, but is also detrimental to the environment," said Crapo, an Idaho Republican.
Crapo spoke today during a hearing he orchestrated to examine the regulation of wetlands and the issues raised by the 2001 Supreme Court decision of what is commonly referred to as the SWANCC ruling.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court decided that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had overstepped its authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which requires anyone planning to discharge dredged or fill material into navigable waters must first obtain a permit from the Corps. In particular, the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into "navigable waters" defined in the law as "waters of the United States" unless the polluter has a permit. The Court ruled by a 5-4 majority that the Army Corps could not protect intrastate, isolated, non-navigable ponds solely based on their use by migratory birds.
It is within this context that debate over the scope of the Clean Water Act is now taking place, with both sides using the ruling to further their desire to either reduce or expand the waters protected under the law.
The jurisdiction of the Army Corps - and the federal government - under the Clean Water Act is "vague and unresolved," Crapo said. The longer this continues, Crapo added, "the more likely it is that truly valuable wetlands will elude the protection of all of the federal and state programs designed to protect them."
Many in Congress are concerned about the Bush administration's response to the SWANCC ruling and contend that its policies are trying to use a narrow ruling to instigate broad, sweeping changes to the Clean Water Act.
First, it issued guidance in January 2003 to field staff at the U.S. Army Corps and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to require permits under the Clean Water Act for the pollution or destruction of wetlands that are located within a single state and are not associated with any navigable waterway.
Second, the administration - also in January 2003 - issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) asking for public comments on how the SWANCC ruling applies to the full context of the Clean Water Act, which waters in the nation should be considered "isolated." Defining an "isolated" water is at best a tricky issue and environmentalists believe the waterways at risk could include creeks, small streams, as well as many types of wetlands, which could become vulnerable to unrestricted dredging, filling and waste dumping. The term is not defined or used in current rules.
When the administration announced the new rulemaking and guidance, EPA estimated that as much as 20 percent of the nation's wetlands in the 48 contiguous states and Hawaii - some 20 million acres - could fit under the category of "isolated" and environmentalists fear up to half the nation's waters could fit the definition. The administration has said that states can choose to protect any waters that fall through the cracks of the Clean Water Act, but critics believe the removal of a federal backstop undermines the law and ignores the interconnections of the nation's waters. "We need to ensure upstream states can not export pollution to downstream communities," said Senator Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat. "It is not just a question of what a state can do on its own."
But some Republicans on the committee, while concerned about the continued state of confusion, are confident the SWANCC decision properly reigns in the federal government's oversight.
"Rather than expand Corps and EPA jurisdiction to the very ends of the commerce clause, the Court chose to read the statute as it was written," said Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, a Republican. "They have jurisdiction over navigable waters." Tracey Mehan, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Water, told the panel today that the agency has received more than 133,000 comments on the ANPRM and that a "substantial majority support a narrow reading of SWANCC and opposition to reduction in Clean Water Act jurisdiction." Mehan says it will take much of the summer for the agency to sort out all the comments and move forward with the rule.
In the meantime, the officials with the Department of Justice (DOJ) continue to defend the legal validity of the existing regulatory definition, often arguing that the broad definition of waters in the current rule is valid and necessary in order for the goal of the Clean Water Act to be met. The DOJ's actions, say critics of the administration, illustrates that the SWANCC ruling did not invalidate existing Clean Water Act rules.
There is no need for the administration's actions, according to Senator Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat. "Congress decided this debate over the scope of the Clean Water in 1972 and the renewed debate should end now," testified Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat. "Congress needs to reaffirm the longstanding understanding of the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction to protect all the waters of the United States." Critics of the administration's policies have thrown their support behind the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act, a bipartisan bill that has been introduced in both houses of Congress.
The bill, which is sponsored by Feingold, would delete the term "navigable" from the law and would reaffirm that Congress intended the Clean Water Act to protect all waters of the United States, including all wetlands, headwater streams, natural ponds, and other water bodies. Vernal pools are a good example of a seasonal wetland that could be affected by the administration's proposed changes.
"We need to be clear that Congress intends to erase any lingering ambiguity, to reconfirm the original intent of the Clean Water Act, and to protect our waters, rather than to lose them," Feingold said. Environmentalists are keen to see Feingold's bill pass, but are preparing to wage a legal battle of their own to counter administration policies they believe will undermine protection of the nation's waters. Later this week, the environmental law firm Earthjustice will file papers on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club to intervene in lawsuits filed by the oil industry that challenge the EPA's authority to enforce rules that prevent oil spills from contaminating the nation's waters. The provision in the Clean Water Act being challenged by the oil industry outlines measures to prevent contamination from oil spills into or upon "navigable waters of the United States."
In their lawsuits, the oil industry is arguing that most of the nation's waters are not protected under the Clean Water Act. The organizations who will seek to intervene are concerned the Bush administration will not aggressively battle the legal challenge of the oil industry and might choose to settle the case on terms favorable to the industry at the expense of environmental protection. "We are now forced to step in to defend the Clean Water Act," said NRDC attorney Daniel Rosenberg, "because the sad truth is we can not trust the Bush administration to protect our waters from polluters." The precedent of a settlement could have far reaching implications, added Jennifer Kefer, an attorney with Earthjustice, as other polluting industries would likely seek similar relief from complying with the law. "If that argument wins the day, either in court or under the administration's proposal, Americans can say goodbye to their favorite swimming holes and fishing spots, and start worrying about their drinking water," Kefer said.
NEW DELHI - India's groundwater has fallen to dangerously low levels due to years of drought, leaving millions of people without clean drinking water in the world's second most populous nation, activists say.
Environmentalists say the dramatic drop in the water table has also raised water contamination levels and groundwater in some parts of the country is polluted with high levels of nitrates, fluoride and even arsenic.
"We're in an extremely fragile situation. Access to clean drinking water is a problem for tens of thousands of people in India," Sumita Dasgupta, a water expert from the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, told Reuters.
"The rate at which the population is increasing and groundwater levels are dipping makes things very critical," she added as the world marked World Environment Day focusing on water as the main theme.
India depends on the annual June-September monsoon for most of its water needs, and although it receives around 4,000 billion cubic metres of rain during these months, the country is bone-dry for the rest of the year.
Over the years, many of the country's rivers, wells and ponds have dried up due to poor monsoon rains, forcing millions of people to tap groundwater instead. This year, people have been trekking long distances in search of wells with water and waiting hours in the scorching sun for water tankers as a severe heat wave grips the country. "The water table in some areas like the Thar desert, Gujarat and parts of peninsular India has sunk by between 20 and 60 metres in the past 35 years, affecting the quality of water," Radha Singh, a senior water ministry official, told Reuters. "We could face massive water stress unless we stop mining of water and supplement groundwater with water from other sources."
According to the ministry of water resources, the per capita availability of water has fallen to 1,869 cubic metres a day from 4,000 about two decades ago and with the rate at which the population is growing, it could dip to below 1,000 in 20 years. Although 1,800 cubic metres is not a low figure, officials and environmentalists say the water is unevenly distributed. Authorities and conservationists say the solution to India's water crisis lies in reviving traditional methods of "rainwater harvesting" which involve tapping the runoff from the annual monsoon and piping it underground to recharge depleted aquifers. "It's not a magical solution but long-term it's the only solution," said Dasgupta. "It has been used in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat to convert barren lands into lush green fields."
BEIJING (AP) - Millions of people in northern China face water shortages this summer as the Yellow River falls to its lowest level in 50 years, environmental officials warned Thursday. In addition, more than half the watersheds of China's seven main rivers are contaminated by industrial, farm and household waste, the officials said in a bleak annual report on the nation's environment. ``China is a country that lacks water resources, and the problem of water pollution remains severe,'' said Xie Zhenhua, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration. ``This year our top priority is to ensure clean drinking water for our people.'' Booming industry and a population of 1.3 billion people have outstripped China's rudimentary water and sewage systems and left its cities choked with smog.
Despite improvements, air in two-thirds of China's cities is still considered polluted by official standards, the environmental report said. Only one-quarter of the 21 billion tons of China's annual output of household sewage is treated, Xie said. Treatment plants are being built, but will still handle only half of all city sewage, leaving rural waste water untreated. The government has forecast an annual water shortfall of 53 trillion gallons by 2030 - more than China now consumes in a year. In the north, drought and overuse have left the Yellow River so drained that in recent summer low seasons, it has dried up before reaching the sea.
This spring, oil spills and water shortages on the Yellow River forced the government to suspend work on a project to divert some of its water further northward, said Wang Jirong, a deputy director of the environmental agency. ``The Yellow River is facing a serious environmental crisis,'' she said.
The 3,415-mile Yellow River winds its way from the mountains of western China to the Bohai Sea in the east, providing water to 12 percent of China's population. Monitoring of 185 sections of the river showed the water quality was terrible, with nearly half the stations recording pollution levels below grade V, the poorest measurement China has, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Pollution, erosion, overgrazing and other forms of environmental degradation are taking a heavy toll on the health of China's people and on the nation's economy. The World Bank says air and water pollution cost China $54 billion in 1995, Xie said. He did not give more recent figures.
The government has promised to close heavily polluting factories and plans to spend $32 billion on water treatment plants in the next few years. By 2005, almost two-thirds of waste water from cities with populations of 500,000 or more will be treated, Xie said. The release of the report follows the start last weekend of filling the vast reservoir of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in central China - the world's biggest hydroelectric project. Critics say the dam will trap pollutants from factories and cities in its 400-mile-long reservoir. Xie said there was no sign yet of that happening, though he acknowledged that “pollution upstream already far exceeds standards.” The government is spending $2.4 billion on construction of water treatment plants in the area, 60 percent of which are to be operating by the end of this year.
GENEVA - Water is returning to Iraq's southern dried-out marshlands, the U.N. said in a report on the home of a unique Arab culture almost destroyed by Saddam Hussein in apparent retaliation for an uprising. The United Nations' environmental agency UNEP said mechanical diggers had broken down barriers and levees built under Saddam, allowing water to flow into the area - believed by some archaeologists to be the Garden of Eden in scripture. Satellite images of the area, once home to some 450,000 largely Muslim Shi'ite Marsh Arabs made famous by British traveller and explorer Wilfred Thesiger, "dramatically reveal streams and waterways...surging back to life", UNEP said in its website report.
Saddam is believed to have diverted rivers in retaliation for what he saw as support by the Marsh Arabs for an uprising against his rule after the 1991 Gulf War. Tens of thousands of people were forced to leave as the marshes dried up, leaving an estimated population of only some 40,000 on the eve of the U.S.-led war in March to oust Saddam. The UNEP site (www.grid.unep.ch) carried the images showing the return of water to some of the most desiccated areas of the region, where people have lived on small islands and moved around on thin wooden boats for over 2,000 years. Parts of the marshes, UNEP said, had been inundated as floodgates had been opened upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that flowed into the area before their waters were diverted by Saddam.
Officials of Saddam's government said at the time the projects that led to the drying of the marshes were aimed at feeding water into other development areas. UNEP said some dams had now been opened upstream from the marshes and heavy rains had also helped lift water levels in the swamplands.
Local people had been involved in piecemeal efforts to revive the marshlands, but a more orderly and coordinated programme was urgently needed to ensure the recovery could be extended to the entire region and sustained, it said.
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - The Mercosul countries - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay - launched this week in Montevideo a project for the preservation of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the largest underground water reserves in the world. Uruguay President Jorge Battle and government officials from the three other countries involved attended the launch ceremony. Located mainly in Brazil, the Guarani Aquifer covers around 1.2 million square kilometers (463,323 square miles). The aquifer, named in honor of the Guarani Indian Nation extends over a total area greater than that of Great Britain, France and Spain together.
The underground aquifer could be a sustainable the source of water for more than 20 million people. It contains around 37 trillion liters of water and its depth varies from 50 to 1,500 meters (164 to 4,921 feet).
The new project, called the Guarani Aquifer Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Plan, will cost US$26.7 million. It will be financed by the World Bank, the Dutch and German governments, the International Body for Atomic Energy and the Organization of American States. The project will unfold in three stages. During the first stage, a basic map of the Guarani Aquifer System use and recovery will be constructed.
In the second stage, implementation of an information system of the aquifer will take place, and finally managers will receive training and institutional reinforcement, including those in the pilot project areas.
The project aims to avoid overexploitation of the reserve, which can be a crucial source of drinking water in the near future. Currently, the waters of the Guarani Aquifer are being used, although there is no control on this usage nor do officials have an idea of how much water is being withdrawn. The annual recovery of the Guarani Aquifer by the infiltration of rain water is some 160 billion liters, and the amount that can be consumed is about 40 billion liters. The process of infiltration takes decades, and during this process the soil filters the water, making it clean. This water is considered of excellent quality for public drinking water supply, and wells around 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) deep can provide 700,000 liters per hour.
The project will also work on answering some important questions regarding the future of the aquifer such as determining if there is a need to restrain agricultural and industrial activities in adjacent areas. Contamination by fertilizers and pesticides may ompromise the quality of the underground waters. Other activities, like garbage dumping, gasoline stations or construction of cemeteries in these areas can also contaminate the aquifer and may have to be restricted. With the data resulting from these investigations, the project staffers will map areas where these activities are dangerous to the aquifer and should not be permitted. Another question concerns the fact that the aquifer's water is considered of excellent quality. Some researchers believe that such a good water should not be used by agriculture and industry. Project officials may forbid access by agriculture and industry to the underground water. They would then have to use only surface waters from the river basins for their activities.
In the other hand, in some parts of Brazil which are subject to a desertification process, the use of the underground water may be authorized for the irrigation of crops. Another possible agricultural use is to warm the surface of land with the deeper, hot water, to avoid the loss of crops due to winter frosts.
These hotter waters, which can be as hot as 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) may be approved for use in the tourism industry, which has been growing in recent years. The building of an aqueduct to provide water for the São Paulo metropolitan area, which is not on the aquifer area, is also being considered, in spite of the fact that such a system could be wasteful due to leakages. The city of over 18 million inhabitants is facing a severe water shortage in the near future, as its main water reserves are threatened by pollution and constant growth of settlements without wastewater treatment. Other metropolitan areas of Mercosul, such as Buenos Aires, Argentina, may also be authorized to use water from the aquifer.
OSLO — Cheap measures like collecting rainwater or plugging leaky pipes can go a long way to meeting a U.N. goal of improving water supplies in the developing world by 2015, the new head of a U.N. commission said on Monday. Norwegian Environment Minister Boerge Brende, appointed this month as chairman of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, also suggested city councils in rich nations might "adopt" regions in Africa to improve water supplies. "The main focus ... will be on water, sanitary conditions," he said of his two-year term. The commission would also make a linked drive to improve conditions for the poorest people living in slums in the next two years. One in six people on the planet, or 1.1 billion people, lack access to safe drinking water. Halving that proportion is part of a U.N. plan to halve extreme poverty by 2015.
A parallel goal of halving the proportion of people who lack basic sanitation, now about 2.4 billion people, was added at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg last year. Water-related diseases kill a child every eight seconds. Brende said simple measures could make a huge difference, even though the World Bank reckons the goal of improving water supplies alone could cost US$25 billion a year. Rainwater collected from rooftops can be stored in barrels, for instance, while pipes in Africa leak about half the water that goes into them before they reach a tap. "Rainwater harvesting could help up to 2 billion people in Asia alone," he said.
Brende said the goals meant another 270,000 people needed to get access to safe water every day in the next 12 years. "It's a daunting task but not impossible," he said. He also said businesses, local authorities, and other groups had to help alongside governments. For instance, his local council in the mid-Norwegian city of Trondheim could "adopt" a city in Africa to improve water and sanitation, he said. Other cities around the world could follow suit. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said the world is slipping behind with the millennium development goals, which also include cutting child mortality and ensuring universal primary education.
Like all other years since the intergovernmental treaty - the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, 1971), the World Wetlands Day has been commemorated by all Contracting Parties on a specially designated day, 2nd February. Malawi is Party to the convention as signified by her initiative to enlist the Lake Chilwa as a Ramsar Site in 1997. In spite of the effort, today, almost five years PLUS from a magnificent start to implement the ¡®wise-use concept and other obligations that go along with the Convention, the day appears to have passed unnoticed in Malawi!
Who Should Care About Wetlands? The lettering on the wall is clear and the message loud enough to remind us that ‘we’, everybody should care about wetlands. It was never imposed on us that we should designate a Ramsar Site. Just to refresh our memories, wetlands include a wide variety of habitats such as static water like lake or fast flowing like a river; on the coast or inland, in the mountains or on the plains; natural or human made. It also includes freshwater or marine or brackish, acidic or alkaline; a saltmarsh, a lake, a river, an oasis, a floodplain, a mangrove forest, a swamp forest, a peatland, a sandy beach, a coral reef, a marsh, a reservoir, an estuary, a cave pool and many more! For the Lake Chilwa, it includes the catchment areas comprising of Mulanje Mountain, Zomba Mountain and many other smaller hills surrounding it.
WORLD WETLANDS DAY 2003
The theme for this year’s Wetlands Day was ‘No Wetlands, No Water’ and therefore No Life.
Mulanje Mountain forms a very big watershed area for nine major rivers and hundreds of other small rivers, some of which flow into Lake Chilwa and others flow into the neighbouring Mozambique. Currently water flowing from Mulanje Mountain is used by the tea estates for irrigation and power; by over 100 irrigation schemes in Phalombe; by communities immediately around the mountain and through gravity feed by communities over a radius of 30 to 40kilometres from the mountain and by a fish farm at Njema. Statistics however show that over two billion people live around rivers where there are frequent water shortages worldwide and over 70 percent of these live in areas where water is scarce, undermining the capacity for local communities for food production and economic development.
In spite of the many rivers and streams that flow from Mulanje Mountain, there is clearly not enough clean water in the right places. This is a typical situation in most parts of the northern and western parts of the mountain due to the physiography and hydrological cycle of the mountain. To begin with, Malawi needs to consider very seriously putting in place a Wetlands Policy which will regulate activities relating to wetland management and utilization. The next step will be to institute an integrated water resources management strategy at the river basin level with full stakeholders¡¯ participation. Just like many other nations on the planet, Malawi faces the triple challenge of achieving food security, water security and ecosystem security.
Efforts should therefore be focused on use of improved technologies for more efficient and sustainable use of water in agriculture, industry and home use and to paying for the true value of water infrastructure and ecosystem protection with the appropriate safety nets for the poor.
Finally and inclusively, Malawi must realize that it faces the challenges of shared river basins and transboundary wetlands. The case of Mulanje Mountain is no exception to this. The Ramsar Convention believes that the source of fresh water, our wetland ecosystems should be the starting point of all integrated water management strategies. Maintaining the health of wetlands to secure our sources of freshwater and much of our food is one of the fundamental keys to a sustainable planet.
The Evandro Chagas Research Institute, linked to the Brazilian Health Ministry, has found high levels of mercury contamination among 60 percent of the newborns at three hospitals in the city of Itaituba, in the Brazilian Amazon. The institute tested the blood of all the 1,666 babies born during 2002 in the three hospitals of the city and found 1,000 of them to be contaminated. Some of the children had 80 parts per million (ppm) of mercury in the blood. The highest acceptable level, according to the World Health Organization, is 30 ppm. The contamination is due to gold mining activities that took place in the rivers of the region during the 1980s. In those years, Itaituba became the biggest gold producer in the world. Most of the gold is gone now, but the problems remain.
The National Department for Mineral Production estimates that around 600 tons of mercury was thrown into the Tapajós River, one of the biggest tributaries of the Amazon River, over a 10 year period. This mercury enters into the circle of life, through the small species like algae and vegetarian fishes. These end up feeding some carnivorous species which are very popular in the Amazon menu, like tucunaré and pirarucu.
Other studies have shown that the level of mercury in these species makes them unsuitable for human consumption. When they are consumed by humans, the mercury in their bodies is ingested but not excreted, and higher and higher concentrations accumulate in the blood. Then, it passes from mother to child.
In addition, contamination by mercury may cause irritation of skin and eyes, neurological problems, joint pains, fainting, loss of appetite, diarrhea and learning deficiencies in children. According to scientists at the institute, some of the effects of the metal on human health have yet to be discovered by science.
The study by Evandro Chagas Institute, a reference center for tropical diseases, is the first of such detail conducted in mining areas of the Amazon forest.
In the future, researchers at the institute intend to keep studying 200 of the contaminated children to track the long term effects of the mercury's presence in their bodies. As they grow older the contamination in their bodies could become even worse, as the children will stay in the area and suffer further exposure to the metal through their food. On the other hand, if there is no further exposure, the levels of mercury in their organisms tend to be reduced, because of excretion through the hair, fingernails and urine. The mothers of the subject babies have also been examined by researchers. The result of their evaluation has yet to be published, but in some cases the mercury contamination was also dramatic. Some of the victims were found to have as much as 177 ppm of mercury in their blood. The municipality of Itaituba, a city located in the southeastern part of Para State, said it already has knowledge of the problem, but officials still do not know what measures could be taken to minimize the future effects of mercury contamination.
The mercury, a liquid metal also known as quicksilver, is usually used in mining areas, to isolate the gold from the ore in which it occurs. There is no control on its utilization, and there are many communities and cities of the Brazilian Amazon affected by this indiscriminate use. One known mercury victim is the present Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva, a former senator. Born in the Amazon Region, Silva lived in a small community of rubber tappers during her childhood and teenage years, when she probably was contaminated. She discovered the sickness in 1992, when she experienced strong headaches and weak appetite. This contamination sometimes forces Silva to be absent from public meetings for health treatments.
CAMBRIDGE, UK, May 20, 2003 (ENS) – The Ukrainian Union for Bird Conservation, the BirdLife International Partner organization in the Ukraine, is urging the government to cancel its plans to build a deep water canal through a strictly protected zone of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve on the Black Sea coast.
In a letter sent today, the Ukrainian Union for Bird Conservation (UTOP) asked the Ukrainian government to pledge that the canal will not be built at this week’s European Environment Minister’s Summit in Kiev which opens on Wednesday. The Danube Delta is the largest European wetland and reed bed, forming also Europe’s largest water purification system, according to the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which maintains the Man and the Biosphere program. UNESCO says that 312 important bird species are present in the Delta, which is a stopover and breeding area for many other bird species.
The canal is planned to traverse the Bystroe estuary. The Ukrainian Minister of Transport Georgy Kirpa has stated the intention of his ministry to withdraw all estuaries from the reserve to further the canal project.
Transport Ministry officials say the canal is necessary because 65 percent of foreign ships have begun to travel through the Bystroye estuary instead of using Romanian channels. Oleg Dudkin of UTOP warns, “If it goes ahead, this development will destroy the nesting and staging sites of tens of thousands of birds, including six species on the IUCN Red List of Globally Threatened Species and 38 on the Ukrainian Red List.”
“Along with the Volga Delta in Russia, this is the most important wetland site for birds in Europe," Dudkin said. The Ukrainian Parliament's National Safety Committee meeting which will decide whether or not to route a deep water canal through the reserve has been postponed to the end of May. Declared as both Natural World Heritage and Ramsar site in 1991, about 90 fish species, including populations of sturgeon, live in the Danube Delta reserve. Bystroye estuary is the herring fishing center of the delta.
The reserve is part of the joint Ukrainian and Romanian transborder biosphere reserve, and it has been designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. It is also one of the last refuges for the European mink, the wildcat, the freshwater otter and the globally threatened monk seal.
The reserve is inhabited by six globally threatened and near threatened species, BirdLife says - the critically endangered slender-billed curlew, the vulnerable red-breasted goose, the conservation dependent Dalmatian pelican, and the near threatened ferruginous duck, the pygmy cormorant, and the white-tailed eagle.
UTOP says there are at least six preferable alternative routes to the proposed canal including Solomonov – Zhebriyanovskaya Bay. BirdLife International, a global alliance of national conservation nongovernmental organizations working in more than 100 countries, is going to write to the European Commission asking the EU executive not to support the proposed canal development. The bird conservationists want the Commission to lobby the Ukrainian government to cancel current plans and choose an alternative to building a canal through this wetland.
BirdLife Partners organizations in countries that include or border the River Danube are also going to write to their respective governments calling on them to pressure the Ukraine to drop the canal route through the wetland reserve. In total, more then 20,000 pairs of waterfowl breed there, BirdLife says - terns, ducks, swans, gulls, geese, plovers, ibis, egrets, herons - a variety of increasingly rare species. In all, 115,000 birds or 10 percent of the population in the Black Sea-Mediterranean area winter there, and in certain years up to 7,000 red-breasted geese or seven percent of the world population may winter on the reserve, says the bird conservation organization. From Russia, the Socio-Ecological Union, a nongovernmental organization, is lobbying hard to keep the canal out of the reserve. "The navigable channel intends realization of huge dredging work, during which millions of cubic meters of the taken out ground will be dumped in the Black Sea," the group says on its website. "It results in destruction of soil fauna, the food for fish, and many young fish perish, reservoir becomes polluted." The Institute of Hydrobiology, of the Ukranian National Academy of Science, has carried out an ecological assessment of a navigable waterway from the Danube to the Black Sea. The expert team concluded that the civil engineering design and operation of the deep water ship channel through the Bystroye estuary cannot be permitted on legal and environmental grounds.
The Daily Post (Fiji)
Water is an important resource and there is a need to manage it properly. The comment was made in Cabinet yesterday after Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase forwarded a paper, while informing Cabinet on 2003 being the International Year of Fresh Water. Fiji is fortunate to have a reasonable water resource but more efforts and commitments are required by all concerned stakeholders to improve the efficiency of water infrastructure to reduce losses and safeguard its provisions. In announcing the Cabinet decision yesterday, Minister for Information and Media Relations Simione Kaitani said that the provision of safe drinking water for all citizens should be the ultimate goal.
Water is one of the important contributing factors to poverty alleviation as well as for sustainable development. Cabinet has also agreed that in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the World Summit Sustainable Development (WSSD) and the recent decision of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), Government will pursue the provision of safe drinking water to everyone as a goal by 2015. Government will also undertake necessary networking and collaboration for developing partnership at the regional and international levels to ensure that Fiji benefits from some of the global commitments on water.
GENEVA, Switzerland — The World Economic Forum, in association with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), has launched a water initiative to create public-private partnerships to improve the management of watersheds "from the summit to the sea." Members of the initiative include, among others, top businesses, NGOs, international organizations, and governments. Their aim is to improve the quality and quantity of water for both business and communities by sharing best practices and partnering in the maintenance and management of water and watersheds around the world.
"Shared responsibility for the management of watersheds from mountain ranges to coastal areas will improve the quality and quantity of water for business, populations, and the environment," said José María Figueres, senior managing director at the World Economic Forum. UNEP executive director Klaus Töpfer agreed, saying, "We must not only increase public awareness about the challenges the world is facing in relation to water, but we must also change the way the water issue is perceived: from being a driver of conflict to being a catalyst for collaboration."
Public opinion appears to be clear about the urgent need to protect water resources. According to the results of a Gallup International survey, more than half of the world’s population believes that access to clean drinking water should be added to the list of basic human rights — even if additional taxes would be required to ensure universal access. Responses by the 36,000 people surveyed in 36 countries are strikingly similar: 61 percent approval in the E.U. (Spain 81 percent and Ireland 88 percent), 68 percent in non-E.U. countries, 62 percent in Eastern and Central Europe, 50 percent in the Middle East, 53 percent in North America, 60 percent in Latin America, and 56 percent in Africa. "Reliable access to fresh, drinkable water is one of the most important and fundamental issues for many communities," said Travis Engen, president and CEO of Alcan Inc. "I am pleased that Alcan can bring to bear its 101-year experience with the management of watersheds and water resources to enhance the availability of this precious resource."
The World Economic Forum Water Initiative is intended to facilitate private sector participation in the maintenance of watersheds and put water management at the forefront of economic development. The Water Initiative has three principal objectives. First, the initiative will serve as an incubator for public-private partnerships that address the importance of watershed management for the environment and the need for better use of water in the business production cycle. Second, it aims to contribute to a better understanding of how to structure and balance the costs and benefits of payments for environmental services. Third, it seeks to establish and promote best practices in the management of watersheds and related payments for environmental services.
"Water resource management is one of the most important challenges the world faces. Freshwater is the critical resource of the 21st century and for the future of humankind," said Kristalina Georgieva, director of environment, World Bank. Of the Earth's water, 97 percent is saltwater found in oceans and seas, and 3 percent is freshwater, of which only 1 percent is available, while 2 percent is currently frozen in glaciers and polar icecaps. More than half of humanity relies on water from mountains, often thousands of kilometers away from the source. All of the world's major rivers originate in the mountains. "The water crisis in the world is due essentially to the unsustainable use and management of water resources and to the destruction of ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and soil that capture, filter, store and release water," said Philippe Roch, director of the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests, and Landscape. If 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe water supplies, some 2.4 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation, causing the death by water-borne diseases of more than 3 million people, among them 2 million children, mostly in developing countries.
"A clean sustainable water supply depends on the ecosystems that capture, filter, store, and distribute water, such as forests, wetlands, and soils," Roch said. This sentence has been used in the Ministerial Declaration of the Third World Water Forum that took place in Kyoto in March 2003, and now it has been taken by the Ministerial Declaration Environmental Meeting of the G-7/G-8 in April. "If we fail to protect forests and wetlands, if we do not manage soils with precaution, water will disappear. We can build all the water pipes and treatment plants we want; there will be nothing to drain or clean," Roch said.
Citing the challenges to the United Nations posed by the Iraq crisis, UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown pledged yesterday to pursue the goal of "making UNDP work even better and making the UN system work better together." Mr. Malloch Brown addressed the Executive Board at the United Nations in New York at the start of his second four-year term as Administrator, following his reappointment by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month. The agenda when he took office was clear -- reform UNDP, he said, with a message that "was close to reform or die." Now the organization is spearheading the Millennium Development Goals from global conferences to the poorest neighbourhoods of the poorest countries, and "making global and local waves" with Human Development Reports on issues ranging from technology to democracy to the crisis of the Arab region.
UNDP is addressing down-to-earth development challenges in some 140 countries with its National Human Development Reports, said Mr. Malloch Brown, and innovating new approaches to technical cooperation and capacity-building across all six practice areas -- democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and environment, information and communications technology, and HIV/AIDS. He pointed to the tension between the inter-governmental character of UNDP and its dedication to the world's poor. There is no absolute solution, said Mr. Malloch Brown, "Yet if we are to fulfil our possibility, we must not take our eye for a moment off performance, performance, performance."
"From poverty reduction to crisis prevention and recovery, from energy and the environment to democratic governance, UNDP is now playing a much more effective role in addressing the world's biggest development challenges," he said.
Citing an opinion poll in 20 countries finding that public confidence in the United Nations is a major victim of the conflict in Iraq, Mr. Malloch Brown disputed the argument that multilateralism is inevitably breaking down because of the overwhelming dominance of the US. In 1945, he noted, the US was more dominant than it is today. "Its leaders then sought to manage that leadership through a system of multilateral institutions," he recalled. "In an interdependent world, unilateralism is a choice - and an expensive one in many ways." "We must win you back," he said, referring to public opinion in developed and developing countries whose support for the UN has weakened, "And we will win you back." Pointing to public support for the principles that guide the UN, he said: "They may not think they have a strong UN today, but they want one!"
These achievements stand on a foundation of reforms, he emphasized, including building wide networks of partners and new global knowledge networks; shifting staff, resources and decision-making power from headquarters to the field; and re-profiling to align staff skills more closely with priorities. UNDP is also mobilizing information and communications technology to maximize efficiency and impact. The world is at a crossroads, he said, with recession in the industrialized countries hampering support for development goals, while challenges of poverty, insecurity, infectious diseases, corruption and attacks on human rights "confront leaders and civil society, north and south, with a real choice, which is no choice." There is only one way, said Mr. Malloch Brown: "Forward towards a decent, democratic life and opportunity for all. And if any organization is privileged to be at the heart of such a drive, it is surely UNDP."
The full text of the statement is available: Internet: http://www.undp.org/dpa/statements/administ/2003/june/10jun03.html
Leaders of the world's eight largest industrialized democracies wound up their annual three day meeting today in Evian on the shore of Lake Geneva, with a joint statement that emphasizes environmental responsibility and sustainable development. Economically, "major downside risks have receded and the conditions for a recovery are in place," the G8 leaders said, and they called for measures to prevent marine pollution and improve tanker safety, and adopted a plan of action to help halve the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation by 2015.
All during the meeting, activists protesting G8 policies clashed with police on both sides of the lake. More than 100,000 came out on Sunday. Denonstrators were tear gassed, chased and beaten. Hundreds were arrested, and one activist climber in Lausanne was seriously injured when the rope from which he hung was cut by police. Leaders of the G8 countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - pledged the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and urgent restoration and maintenance of global fish stocks.
"There is growing pressure on the marine environment," the G8 leaders acknowledged. "The decline in marine biodiversity and the depletion of fish stocks are of increasing concern, as is the use of Flags of Convenience, especially for fishing vessels, as a means to avoid management conservation measures," they said.
The sinking of the oil tanker "Prestige" off the coast of Spain in November 2002, said the leaders, "has again demonstrated that tanker safety and pollution prevention have to be further improved." In addition, the leaders "agreed to take all necessary and appropriate steps to strengthen international maritime safety." They also agreed to accelerate the adoption of guidelines on places of refuge for vessels in distress such as the "Prestige." Calling for support of the International Maritime Organization's efforts to strengthen maritime safety, the G8 action plan urges acceleration of the phaseout of single hull oil tankers, "mandatory pilotage" in narrow and restricted waters in conformity with International Maritime Organization rules, and enhanced compensation funds to benefit victims of oil pollution.
In their statement, the G8 leaders said that in addition to efforts to improve the safety regimes for tankers, they are "committed to act on the significant environmental threat posed by large cargo vessels and their bunkers," and they are encouraging the adoption of liability provisions including, where appropriate, through the ratification of international liability conventions. Noting that "global sustainable development and poverty reduction requires healthier and more sustainably managed oceans and seas," the G8 leaders promised to maintain the productivity and biodiversity of important and vulnerable marine and coastal areas, including on the high seas. The establishment of ecosystem networks of marine protected areas by 2012 in their own waters and regions is a priority under the action plan the leaders said, and they pledged to work with other countries to help them establish marine protected areas in their own waters. Fresh water is a matter of "human security" the G8 leaders said, assuring each other and the world that they would act to "reverse the current trend of environmental degradation through the protection and balanced management of natural resources."
They made particular mention of the importance of proper water management in Africa, in support of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, as stated in the G8 Africa Action Plan. They promised to promote river basin cooperation throughout the world, with particular attention to African river basins.
Good governance, capacity building, and financial resources are needed to increase and stabilize water supplies, and the G8 leaders said, "We are committed to playing a more active role in the international efforts towards achieving these goals." At the same time they underlined the need for "the United Nations to take a key role in the water sector." While offering to share best practice technologies in the delivery of water and sanitation services including the "establishment and operation of partnerships, whether public-public or public-private, where appropriate," the G8 leaders clearly favor the public-private partnership model.
They decided to promote public-private partnerships by "inducing private sector investments" and encouraging use of local currency, facilitating international commercial investment and lending through use of risk guarantees, encouraging the harmonization of operational procedures, and facilitating the issue of national and international tenders. To ensure sustainable forest management, the G8 leaders confirmed their determination to strengthen international efforts to tackle the problem of illegal logging.
A working session at the G8 Summit. Heads of the World Bank, the European Union, African and Arab countries attended the summit in addition to the leaders of the eight primary nations. (Photo courtesy G8)
On the health front, the leaders pledged to fund the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and to eradicate polio. "We welcome the increased bilateral commitments for HIV/AIDS," they stated, "whilst recognising that significant additional funds are required."
The spread of SARS demonstrates the importance of global collaboration, including global disease surveillance, laboratory, diagnostic and research efforts, and prevention, care, and treatment, the leaders stated, and promised to collaborate on this effort. The pre-eminent threat to international security, the leaders said, is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, which "poses a growing danger to us all," as well as the spread of international terrorism. North Korea's uranium enrichment and plutonium production programs and its failure to comply with its safeguards agreement under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undermine the non-proliferation regime and are a clear breach of North Korea's international obligations, the G8 leaders stated. "We strongly urge North Korea to visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs, a fundamental step to facilitate a comprehensive and peaceful solution." Iran came in for a stern warning as well. "We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program," they said, stressing the importance of Iran's full compliance with its obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"We urge Iran to sign and implement an IAEA Additional Protocol without delay or conditions. We offer our strongest support to comprehensive IAEA examination of this country's nuclear program," the G8 leaders stated. The eight leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and urged all countries that have not yet joined these agreements to do so. The leaders adopted an Action Plan on how best to use science and technology for sustainable development focused on three areas:
Russia, the sole country whose ratification of the Kyoto Protocol could bring it into force, indicated that it is ready to ratify this year by agreeing to the common statement, "Those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol reaffirm their determination to see it enter into force." The protocol is an international treaty under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It requires 37 industrialized countries to reduce their emission of six greenhouse gases an average of 5.2 percent of 1990 emissions during the five year period 2008-2012. The rules for entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol require 55 Parties to the Convention to ratify the Protocol, including the industrialized countries governed by the protocol accounting for 55 percent of that group’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1990. To date, 43.9 percent of CO2 emissions are covered. Russia's ratification will bring the protocol into force. Despite these positive statements for support of sustainable development, across the lake in Geneva, Switzerland, demonstrators against the G8 broke windows at the World Meteorological Organization and other buildings housing international organizations. In return, police attacked the Center of Independent Media in Geneva on Sunday.
The G8 protests extended far afield, even to the Jordan-Iraq border. Since Saturday, a delegation from Ya Basta, an Italian activist organization, repeatedly has been refused entry into Iraq, according to Indymedia UK. Timed to coincide with the G8 Summit, the delegation was sent to establish links between elements of civil society in Iraq, Palestine, and Europe, including the Baghdad Independent Media Centre. "Yesterday at 3:08 UK time," the independent media organization said today, "we began receiving text messages from the delegation who feared that U.S. forces would shoot them at the border. The activists staged a sit down protest, but American soldiers then violently dragged them onto the rear of a truck, injuring nine.
SANTIAGO, Chile - Indian activists in Chile won a partial legal victory yesterday when courts prohibited a Spanish-owned power company from flooding their ancestral lands as part of a huge hydro-electric dam project. The ruling allows Endesa Chile (END.SN) (EOC.N), owned by Spain's Endesa (ELE.MC), to continue building the $530 million dam, Ralco, in southern Chile. The dam is 85 percent complete.
However, until a legal issue is resolved it prevents the firm from flooding an area to form an artificial lake where Pehuenche Indians live. Environmental and Pehuenche groups have been fighting the 570 megawatt dam in the courts for more than five years, saying that flooding from the project will damage the delicate ecosystems of the forest and mountain region 310 miles (500km) from Santiago, destroy ancient burial grounds and force Indians to leave their ancestral homes.
A Santiago court questioned in May the legality of the environmental impact study that allowed the works on Ralco to begin. "The ruling is both good and bad for us ... However we're satisfied the indigenous area cannot be flooded and the Ralco dam cannot start operations," said Roberto Celedon, lawyer representing the indigenous families fighting the project. Endesa said it was content with Monday's ruling but declined to comment on whether or not it would appeal. "We are studying the text of the ruling. What we are absolutely clear about is that construction will not stop," a spokesman said.
As China prepares to begin filling the Three Gorges reservoir on Sunday, a senior member of the project inspection team has acknowledged that some of the cracks that were repaired at great expense on the upstream face of the dam have reopened. Pan Jiazheng, one of China’s top engineers, said that experts who took part in a final inspection of the dam before it starts holding back water “have been particularly concerned about several issues around which further studies are needed. “During the inspection, for example, we found that some of the vertical cracks on the dam that were repaired have reopened, even though we put a great deal of money and effort into the repair work.
“It appears that during the concrete pouring, we put too much emphasis on the goal of achieving a very high degree of strength. But it has turned out that a high degree of strength does not necessarily mean good quality in a concrete dam. We have achieved an unnecessarily high degree of strength and a lot of cracks in the dam by pouring too much concrete and spending a great deal of money. “I feel that it’s too early to be proud of ourselves, and we have a long way to go. As we enter the third phase of the dam construction, I hope we will do our best to build a first-class project rather than a dam with 10-metre-long cracks!”
The candid remarks by Mr. Pan, who is a member of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences and former vice-director of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, were made in a speech at the closing ceremony of the May 12-21 inspection, and posted on the Web site of the Changjiang Water Resources Commission.
Mr. Pan also warned that the abnormally severe floods expected this summer pose another major challenge. “It’s true that in the decade since we started building the dam, we have experienced many types of floods. But this year’s floods will be really serious. ... “All the structures we have built will be subjected to a big test, since the Yangtze floodwater is famous for its huge volume and velocity and mighty, destructive power. Of course we ought to be well prepared for powerful, disastrous floods. Please, let us never lower our guard in this respect.” Mr. Pan told fellow Three Gorges inspectors in November that the 39 billion cubic metres of water to be stored in the reservoir, and natural forces such as floods, earthquakes and landslides, will be the project's "real examiners" and that they will show no mercy.
"They are ready to take their revenge and exploit any mistakes and misjudgments that we make in design, construction, manufacturing and installation, as well as project management," he said. Numerous cracks in the dam were discovered in October, 1999, but only revealed in March last year by the popular South Wind Window (Nanfang chuang) magazine, a sister publication of the Guangzhou Daily (Guangzhou Ribao). After visiting the dam, reporter Zhao Shilong wrote that he had seen cracks stretching from top to bottom of the huge concrete structure. After the problem was brought to light, Lu Youmei, general manager of the Three Gorges Project Development Corp., acknowledged in Three Gorges Project Daily (Sanxia gongcheng bao) that cracks had appeared on the whole upstream face of the 483-metre-long spillway section, and that they extended from 1 metre to 1.25 metres into the dam. For his part, Zhang Chaoran, chief engineer of the Three Gorges Project Development Corp., said: “This is a normal phenomenon, and cracks such as these can be observed in almost all large dams around the world.” But he also said: "Our problem was that we failed to take the cracks seriously at first. We didn’t think they would develop so quickly or so dramatically, beyond our expectations.”
BEIJING - After a decade of work, China will begin filling the reservoir for the Three Gorges dam on Sunday, a major milestone for the world's biggest hydroelectric project that critics say could bring ecological disaster. The sluicegate of the giant dam at Yichang in the central province of Hubei is due to be shut on Sunday and water from the flood-prone Yangtze river would begin creating a 600-km (365-mile) reservoir, state media said. The water level is expected to reach 135 metres (443 ft) by June 15, the official Xinhua news agency said. Dam officials plan to raise the water level further next year, ultimately submerging 29 million square metres (312 million square feet) of land.
The controversial $25 billion dam, on which work started in 1993 and is due to finish in 2009, has been criticised fiercely at home and abroad as impractical and an ecological disaster. Former parliament chief and premier Li Peng, who ignored widespread opposition and championed the project, has called it one of the greatest engineering feats in history. China says the dam is needed to tame the Yangtze, whose floods killed more than 300,000 people in the last century alone and ranks only behind the Amazon and the Congo rivers in terms of water flow. But the project forced the uprooting of more than one million Chinese and critics say the flooding of empty towns and villages would bring severe pollution and cause silting by slowing the river's flow. "The decades of accumulated trash from the villages, hospitals and cemeteries, including highly toxic waste material from the factories, are all still there," dissident writer Dai Qing told Reuters.
"It is hard to estimate, but there are millions of rat corpses lying around in the valley from when the authorities poisoned them in preparation for the flooding," she said. "These things will all be there when the area is flooded and the water will be used for drinking purposes, so this problem is far from being resolved."
About 1.13 million peasants living along the Yangtze will be resettled - hundreds of thousands have been moved already - before ancient villages are submerged. More than 1,000 ancient relics are being moved, including the tomb of Liu Bei, king of the state of Shu about 1,700 years ago and a central figure in the classic novel "Three Kingdoms". The project also has been plagued by corruption and deep cracks appeared in the dam that required repairs. But the government says there is more to gain than lose from the project, which would help meet future energy demand and begin generating power for the booming Chinese economy this year. When finished in 2009, the Three Gorges dam will have 26 turbines - the largest in the world - pumping out 18,200 megawatts of electricity, equal to about 10 big coal-fired power stations using 50 million tonnes of coal a year. Two 700 megawatts generators would begin operation in August and two others in October, Xinhua quoted Three Gorges spokesman Chi Wenjiang as saying. The project would deliver electricity to Shanghai and eight provinces in central, east and south China over the next three years.
Business Times (Dar es Salaam)
A REGIONAL Power Trade Project (RPT) involving ten countries through which the River Nile passes has been launched under the auspices of the Nile Basin Power Forum. The riparian countries are Kenya, Uganda, the Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Eritrea and Tanzania. According to the executive director of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Secretariat, Meraji Msuya, the forum will enhance power trade among the ten countries and, consequently, lower power tariffs in those countries. "Power forums are proving effective in developing power trade among other regional groups of countries, notably in the Southern African Power Pool, the Mekong Regional Power Market and the Central American Regional Electricity Market in the Mercosur Region. "The establishment of regional power markets has generally improved systems reliability, and economies of scale in planning, construction and operation of generating and transmission facilities - thereby contributing to the development and integration of regional economies," he said.
Among other things, the forum is expected to support continued discourse on the matter, and promote power trade among Nile Basin countries. "The present limited development of national power systems in the basin imposes a constraint on the exploitation of these resources at affordable cost at the national level.
"The cost of hydropower in the Nile Basin is also increased by the large seasonal variations in hydropower output, while the costs of meeting peak loads on national power systems can be high in countries where these loads are supplied from expensive thermal plants," he noted. Msuya expressed the belief that constraints on supplying affordable power could be overcome through expanding the market for these resources by developing power trade among Nile Basin countries. An RPT Project steering committee will be established to provide strategic guidance, direction and oversight to ensure that the project objectives are achieved, while the project remains within the budget and on schedule.
Moreover, a technical committee will be established to provide technical guidance to the activities of the Power Forum. While the steering committee will meet in Dar es Salaam at least once a year, the technical committee will be meeting at least twice a year at the Project Management Unit's premises - also in Dar es Salaam. The ministers responsible for energy from the ten countries signed the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Regional Electric Power Trade, an agreement in which the countries reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation in power generation and trading. Areas of co-operation under the Declaration include investment in hydropower generation, transmission, development and integration of electricity markets.
The RPT Project will cost US$13 million (Tsh13 billion). $8 million of that has been committed by donors.
Norway has committed $4 million, while Sweden and the African Development Bank have committed $2 million each. According to a senior power sector specialist from the World Bank, Mangesh Hoskote, the RPT Project's long-term goal is to improve access to reliable and low cost power in the Nile Basin in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The Project will also in the long term boost rural electrification programmes in the region.
Other long term benefits of the project include inviting the private sector to finance power utilities for the development that would ease responsibility of the public sector from financing the generation and transmission of electricity. "Resources used by the Governments in the region for power would then be used for other development projects, as other sectors would have opportunity to embark on power projects," he said. He added that there would be job creation for the coordinating office in Tanzania, and many other opportunities in the supporting services. "In most of the Nile Basin countries, only about ten per cent of the population has access to electricity. This situation exists despite the presence of vast and as yet untapped hydroelectric and other energy resources in the basin," Hoskote said.
He said NBI and its co-operation partners agreed to establish the Nile Basin Trust Fund (NBTF), which would be a common basket for the NBI project finances. Sigrid Romundset, the Norwegian Ambassador in Tanzania, said donors would start channelling their financial contributions to the fund, as the NBI Secretariat has been legitimised in Uganda. "This means that we can start channelling our financial contributions through the NBI Trust Fund, which was launched in February this year. "Activation of the Trust Fund will allow at least $75 million in grant funds to start flowing to the Shared Vision Programme and the Subsidiary Action Programme," she said. She added that her country had allocated 100 million Norwegian kroner (Tsh14 billion) for the NBI over five years.
Norway, which is a lead donor and partner in the RPT Project, will also sign the NBTF Agreement.
NBI was launched in February 1999 to provide a framework to fight poverty and promote socio-economic development in its jurisdiction. There are seven other projects that are being executed by NBI in different member countries. These are trans-boundary environmental action in the Sudan; co-ordination in Uganda; efficient water use for agricultural production in Kenya; applied training (Egypt), water resources planning and management (Ethiopia), socio-economic development and benefit-sharing (Uganda) and confidence building and stakeholder involvement - also in Uganda. According to Hoskote, the projects are estimated to cost $132 million.
KHARO, Pakistan - Abbas Baloch gazed ruefully at a wide, shallow bay of the Arabian Sea.
"This used to be our land," he said. "And now it's covered by the sea." When Baloch was born in 1965, this watery expanse was at the center of his family's estate on the Indus River delta. But after decades of dam and canal projects upstream, his farmland has largely been swallowed. The dams and canals were built in India and other parts of Pakistan to provide irrigation and power. But little thought was given to the consequences downstream. Here at the mouth of the Indus, the river has dried up and sea water has rushed in to replace its flows, inundating 2,000 acres of the Baloch family's land.The family has received no compensation, said Baloch, who is now trying to make a living in the overcrowded business of coastal fishing.
For millions of smaller-scale landowners, tenant farmers and river fishermen, the losses of land and the water shortages caused by water diversions upstream have been even more devastating. Many have moved to the slums of nearby Karachi; others remain in desolate villages, stunned by the sight of empty canals.
From its glacial origins in the Himalayas to its mouth at the Arabian Sea, the Indus and its tributaries support the world's largest system of irrigation canals. The region has fertile soils but little rain. The waters of the Indus basin sustain scores of millions of people in northwest India and literally underwrite the nation of Pakistan, population 142 million and growing. But the progressive blocking and consumption of those waters have also provided a stark example of the ecological havoc such projects can cause. "It was just a race for the water, with no expert planning," said Sikander Brohi, a development expert at the Center for Information and Research of the Bhutto Institute in Karachi. When so much is squeezed from a finite resource, conflicts are inevitable. No one has fully measured the economic and environmental effects of half a century of water developments on the Indus, or shown what a different pattern of management may have achieved. By now, the pitfalls of large dams are notorious, and donor agencies like the World Bank have become more wary, at least requiring detailed environmental and social assessments. A few decades back, the engineers were less constrained. The largest single project on the Indus is the Tarbela Dam, in northern Pakistan, which was largely planned in the 1960s and completed in 1976.
As a report in 2000 by the World Commission on Dams put it, in damning understatement, "the ecological impacts of the dam were not considered at the inception stage as the international agencies involved in water resources development had not realized this need at that time." Yet in parched regions like this, the pressure for new, perhaps dubious projects remains intense. Residents of Punjab province in central Pakistan, who have enjoyed major benefits and suffered relatively few of the damages of past projects, are pressing for another major dam. Pakistan is forging ahead with a disputed new canal in Punjab that will divert still more water to bring new desert lands under cultivation. "A lot of the engineers and politicians consider any flow of water into the sea to be a waste, and they consider the mangrove swamps of the delta to be a wasteland," said Mohammed Tahir Qureshi, coastal ecosystem director in Pakistan for IUCN/The World Conservation Union, a global scientific body. The division of Indus basin waters has been a source of friction between Pakistan and India, largely but not entirely salved by an international treaty in 1960.
Even more, it is a source of bitter conflict in Pakistan, with Sindh province here in the south claiming that the more politically powerful Punjab province of Pakistan is grabbing more than its share. "Upstream, they are demanding more water for canals, but we are demanding water to save our coastal area," said Brohi, the development researcher in Karachi. "The dams are not giving proper benefit to Sindh," he added, expressing a view that is universally held in Sindh and rejected by officials in Punjab. "When our crops need water, they are filling the dams to meet needs in Punjab." The social and environmental damage is most visible in the Indus delta itself, which used to be a vast network of creeks surrounded by rich silt that yielded abundant rice crops for export. The traditional year-round flow into the sea was drastically curbed a few decades back, and more recently, with ever more withdrawals topped by years of low precipitation in the river headlands, it has disappeared altogether.
"At least we used to get water through here for two or three months of the year," said Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, during a visit to half-abandoned villages just above the delta.
"But for the last four years there has been no flow at all. The fields can't be planted and now drinking water has become the biggest issue." With no river to push it out, the sea is pushing in. Along the coast, studies show, at least 1.2 million acres of farmland have been covered by sea water. Millions more acres inland have been impaired or destroyed by salt deposits left by invasions of sea water that leaves vast stretches of glistening white earth when it evaporates. The coastal marshes, where fresh water and salt water mixed, were filled with the mangrove forests that are vital to spawning of fish and shrimp and to protection of the shoreline. Long under pressure from timber and fuel-wood collectors and grazing camels, these forests now suffer the greatest threat yet, a lack of incoming fresh water.
Once more than 850,000 acres, the area of mangrove swamps in the Indus delta has shrunk to less than 500,000. Trees are stunted in many of the remaining forests, and the number of species has dropped to three from eight. Fisheries have suffered accordingly, with catches of some of the most valued species nearly disappearing. Overfishing is another problem: Driven out of farming by the absence of water, thousands of people have switched to offshore fishing, putting enormous pressure on the stocks.
The flood plains banding the Indus along its lower hundreds of miles were covered until recently with rich forests, occupied by more than 500,000 people who engaged in animal husbandry, farming and forestry.
But now the river so seldom overflows that the ecosystems are failing. At best, the mix of tree species is changing and in some areas, vegetation is dying out, leaving ghostlike skeletal remains of forests and abandoned settlements. Could it be different? Scientists in Sindh want more water released upstream, and in seasonal patterns more attuned to ecological needs of the lower basin. They also note that an estimated 40 percent of the diverted waters are lost to seepage from dirt canals and evaporation, losses that can be curbed only with large investments in concrete and modern irrigation methods. "I realize that we can't turn back the clock and restore the original flow of the river," said Qureshi of the IUCN. "But we need to have rational water management." At the same time, the demands on the Indus climb steadily. Bitter competition for its waters and ecological costs seem unlikely to wane. Pakistan's population, which was little more than 30 million when the country was formed in 1947, is projected to reach 250 million by 2025.
Water experts have predicted that a worldwide water
shortage is set to worsen significantly over the next 25 years with billions
of people affected by an unprecedented global crisis. The experts also
forecast that women and children, especially in Africa are the group that
would be hit hardest. During a recent international workshop on the
privatization of essential services participants sent distressed signals
that women would be the worse affected if water were put in private hands.
They therefore called on the sponsors on the water privatization scheme to
rethink their position and find alternatives to the water privatization
Statement to the 15th Session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Bonn, Germany, 4-13 June 2003 Agenda item 8. Cooperation with relevant international organisations
Thank you for the opportunity to make this statement, which will briefly update you on the work of the Ramsar Convention on issues of climate change and wetlands. In particular I will outline the decisions on these matters made by our 8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Ramsar COP8), held in Valencia, Spain in November 2002, and the work of the Convention's subsidiary Body, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP). Since its agreement in 1971, the Ramsar Convention has developed into an effective, action-based treaty, now involving 136 countries worldwide. The Convention advocates and supports action to manage sustainably the world's wetlands as vital resources providing many goods and services critical to people and their environment.
The Convention's Parties at COP8 recognised the issues of synergies between Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and of climate change, as high priorities, and gave them substantive debate, recognising that the goals of sustainable use of water and wetlands cannot be achieved without taking into account climate change and national responses to it, and that to deliver this therefore needs increasing collaboration on implementation at the national level as well as at the global scale. The importance of enhanced collaboration between MEAs at both national and international level was recognized by COP8 through a decision concerning "Partnerships and synergies with Multilateral Environmental Agreements and other institutions" (Resolution VIII.5), which called for implemention of the Convention's Operational Objective on these matters in the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008 adopted by COP8. This urges actions to strengthen cooperation and synergies in global technical and scientific processes and at national level through the focal points of our respective instruments.
In that respect, we welcomes Ramsar's participation as observer to the CBD, UNFCCC and UNCCD Joint Liaison Group as a mechanism for establishing such further cooperation, and we also welcome your upcoming workshops on Synergies and cooperation with other conventions", to which we anticipate contributing. The Ramsar COP8 debate on climate change was informed by a technical report on "Climate change and wetlands: impacts, adaptation and mitigation", prepared by an expert Working Group of our STRP, which included contributing authors on wetlands to the IPCC's Third Assessment Report, and which drew on the wetland-relevant information in the TAR as well as other sources.
Parties at COP8 also emphasised the important role of coastal wetlands in mitigating impacts of climate change and sea-level rise in the context of achieving integrated coastal zone management.
COP8 adopted a Resolution on climate change and wetlands (Resolution VIII.3). This decision calls on Parties to:
Importantly, Ramsar Parties - your governments - also recognised the potential for conflicting challenges for governments in meeting their commitments to implementing UNFCCC and, where appropriate, the Kyoto Protocol, through revegetation and forest management, afforestation and reforestation, and their commitments to the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. COP8 urged Parties to ensure that their climate change implementation does not lead to serious damage to the ecological character of their wetlands.
Through this Resolution our Parties also invite you and the IPCC to focus some of your future work on issues related to region-specific wetland data, and to improve knowledge of the vulnerability of wetlands to climate change, and has requested our STRP to assist you in any such work. To contribute to this, a current task for the STRP is to prepare a report on vulnerability assessment methodologies, including case studies, for wetlands in relation to climate change and other impacts.
Ramsar's Parties at COP8 also requested the IPCC, as part of its future work, to prepare a Technical Paper on the relationship between wetlands and climate change, for consideration by the STRP and, if possible, by Parties at Ramsar COP9 in 2005 - an approach endorsed by the recent 11th meeting of our STRP.
We will be discussing with the IPCC and UNFCCC secretariats as to how this work might be undertaken in the context of your future priorities and the preparation of the Fourth Assessment Report. Our STRP stands ready to assist in any such work, and to respond to the request from our Parties to collaborate with you and the IPCC in your future work so as to promote the management of wetlands and mitigation of climate change impacts, particularly in the context of land use, land use change and rising sea levels, forestry, peatlands and agriculture.
Mr Chairman, Yesterday we celebrated World Environment Day in this International Year of Freshwater. You are being invited here to recognize the important contribution that climate change policies can make in strengthening global efforts to supply the world's poor with freshwater. Sustaining healthy wetlands, to which Ramsar Parties are committed, is vital to this effort since it is the wetlands that capture, purify, store and provide this essential supply of water. We believe that our Convention's work at COP8 has significantly progressed the identification and focus of such issues of common concern to our Conventions and their subsidiary bodies. We look forward to implementing these opportunities for strengthening, in practical ways, this collaboration, so as to support our respective Parties in their national responses to climate change, wetlands and water security.
Water Council Secretariat
Freshwater is now recognized as a precious and finite resource that is central to sustainable development, economic growth, social stability and poverty alleviation. This is why water is one of the main topics of your G8 meeting in Evian this June. It is the role of the World Water Council and the World Water Fora to promote awareness of critical water issues at all levels, including the highest decision–making level and to encourage an effective and sustainable management of the world’s water resources as a major contribution to the improvement of the quality of life.
The 3rd World Water Forum was held in Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga in Japan from 16-23 March, 2003. As co-organisers of this Forum, the World Water Council and the Secretariat of the 3rd World Water Forum would like to request your commitment and support for the actions needed to meet the water related goals set forth at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in New York (2000), the International Freshwater Conference in Bonn (2001) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002). This in also the context of the declaration of water as a human right by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2002.Balancing increasing human requirements for adequate water supplies and improved health and sanitation with food production, transportation, energy and environmental needs will require in most countries more effective water governance, improved capacity and adequate financing.
To this end, the World Water Council and the Secretariat of the 3rd World Water Forum, on behalf of those who participated in the 3rd World Water Forum, would like to call upon the governments of the G8 to promote, support and assist with the implementation of the following recommendations, which were amongst the most recurring themes at the Forum:
We request you to support and promote these recommendations to enable future generations wherever on this globe to enjoy in peace the benefits of water.
Mahmoud Abu Zeid President of the World Water Council, and Ryutaro Hashimoto, Chairman National Steering Committee, 3rd World Water Forum
The author is an assistant professor of preventive medicine at St. Marianna University.
An active debate on how to fight water shortages took place at the Third World Water Forum in March. However, another pressing issue that needs to be addressed is chronic arsenic poisoning, a serious health hazard caused by exposure to contaminated well water resulting from careless water development.
Inorganic arsenic that naturally exists in bedrock and earth deposits is contaminating ground water. The toxicity of arsenic found in ground water is about 300 times greater than the arsenic of a different chemical compound found in fish. The contamination occurs when, prior to digging wells, there are inadequate assessments of the environmental risks and the impact on the ecosystem.
According to latest statistics, people developing chronic arsenic poisoning, including potential patients, number about 47 million in India and Bangladesh and about 3 million in China. The problem is also spreading to other parts of Asia and Central and South America. Worldwide, a total of about 100 million people are believed to be dependent on arsenic-contaminated drinking water. According to Hans van Ginkel, rector of the United Nations University, the spread of damage is greater than that of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Chronic arsenic poisoning is caused by drinking contaminated water usually over a period of five to six years. When the level of contamination is high, people can get sick in a matter of months.
Symptoms appear in the form of keratotic lesions mostly on the feet and hands. They are painful and make it difficult for patients to work and carry out daily chores. Since their work efficiency drops, they are often misunderstood and considered lazy. As a result, many patients also suffer psychological distress. Even worse is the fact that arsenic is carcinogenic. Skin and lung cancer caused by arsenic has been confirmed in many places. Taking into account the incubation period, researchers predict a sharp rise in the number of arsenic-induced cancer patients in Asian countries within the next five to 10 years. Disorders in the peripheral nervous system and circulatory organs are also expected to increase. The situation is also serious because arsenic affects the central nervous system of children. Belatedly, international organizations and researchers have recently started to look into the effects of arsenic to human health and to provide support for preventive measures. However, they are facing a mountain of problems. There is a shortage of equipment to analyze the effect of arsenic on the environment and living conditions. Ways to provide a stable supply of safe drinking water and to alleviate painful symptoms have yet to be found. More than anything else, there is an acute shortage of experts.
Although it is not widely known, Japan is a world leader in terms of research in arsenic poisoning. If Japan actively proposes plans to fight the situation, it would no doubt be welcomed by international community. There is no better time than now to extend appropriate help to countries and areas that are troubled with arsenic poisoning. Most Japanese people who are not dependent on well water may think they have nothing to do with the problem. But they are wrong. Arsenic poisoning is not something that only affects people in distant countries but also concerns us. Take, for example, seaweed. Some kinds of seaweed harvested in Japanese waters contain harmful inorganic arsenic and some European countries ban their import. Arsenic contained in hot spring water is similar to one that is causing chronic poisoning across the world both in terms of density and chemical composition. It is extremely dangerous to habitually drink hot spring water that has not been properly tested.
Despite such circumstances, why is there so little public interest? There is very little accurate data on how much arsenic is being accumulated in the body in everyday life and how it is affecting human health.
Dangers of arsenic have been pointed out in the past in relation to the 1955 Morinaga milk arsenic poisoning incident in which infants who were fed contaminated baby milk became seriously ill and other pollution cases. However, debate never really left the laboratory table and I find it regrettable that little research has been done on the harmful effects of arsenic in everyday life. Seaweed is an important part of the Japanese diet. Enjoying the benefits of hot springs is an established Japanese tradition and culture. That is all the more reason why their safety needs to be scientifically verified.
On the terrace of the Café du Mur Blanc in Evian-les-Bains yesterday, drinkers admiring the geraniums were knocking back their lunchtime tipple of choice - small bottles of Evian mineral water costing €2 or £1.50 each. A few hundred metres away at the opulent Royal Parc Evian Hotel, hundreds of cases of Evian in special bottles were waiting to be served as the official water of the leaders of the eight leading industrialised nations and their entourages over 48 hours of geopolitical horse trading. The message was simple: without Evian the water, Evian the town would not be what it is, a wealthy lakeside resort synonymous with purity and health where the casino even has free Evian on tap.
As Antoine, a waiter at the Mur Blanc, said: "We don't have too many problems in this town, apart from this summit and all the security. Everyone likes Evian. It has served us well." But while water has made Evian rich, the choice of the Alpine resort to host the G8 summit is for many an irony too far. This, after all, is a conference aimed at solving the world's ills, particularly the thirst suffered daily by a billion of its people.
Jacques Chirac, the French President, has made access to clean water in the developing world the summit's key aim, by securing an agreement to double the amount spent by the G8 members to £4bn.
The G8 goal is to halve the number of people without safe drinking water by 2015 and the £4bn figure will be held up as real progress on a problem that claims two million lives a year in deaths from water- related disease.
But aid agencies say the figure underlines the gross disparity between the world's rich and poor when compared with the £31bn spent on bottled water in developed countries last year. The brand that sold the most was Evian. The amount spent on 500ml bottles of Evian by 10 customers at the Mur Blanc at lunchtime yesterday would have funded the water and sanitation costs of one child in the developing world for life. Stephen Turner, deputy director of Water Aid, a British charity that specialises in sanitation and fresh water provision, said: "If, after the next two days of discussion and sipping Evian, the G8 governments do not emerge with a blueprint to finally tackle this issue then it would be an obscenity. Aid spending on water and sanitation has been falling, not increasing, and yet this is humanity's most basic and fundamental need. If, of all places, that situation is not reversed in Evian, then that is the word for it - obscene."
The inequality in the economics of water in the "first" and developing worlds is stark. When the French aristocrat the Marquis de Lessert stopped at a fountain outside Evian in 1789 to slake his thirst and found it improved his kidney ailment, he could not have known he was starting a commerce that is now growing at 15 per cent a year in America, and is worth more than the combined annual incomes of Mali, Zambia and Namibia.
Evian now sells about 900 million litres a year worldwide. It is owned by Danone, the French food and drink conglomerate that last year had a turnover of £6.6bn, to which sales of mineral water contributed £2.9bn, £900m more than the amount spent last year by the G8 countries on water provision in developing countries.
The world's biggest mineral water company, Nestlé, whose brands include Perrier, Vittel and San Pellegrino, had a turnover from water sales of £3.6bn. In the villages and towns of Africa, which account for most of the one billion people in the world without access to safe drinking water, the picture could not be more different.
A child dies from a water- related disease in Africa every 15 seconds and collecting water in rural areas takes about two hours every day, according to Water Aid. In Africa average consumption of water is 10 litres a person a day for all uses, compared with the minimum WHO recommendation of 50 litres a day. In Britain, average consumption is 135 litres. The £1 spent on any premium brand in a British supermarket would provide enough fresh drinking water for an African man or woman for six months.
While mineral water sales are growing by 5 per cent a year in Britain and will reach £1bn this year, spending on water and sanitation in the developing world fell from more than £3bn in the mid-1990s or 7 per cent of aid spending to £2bn or 5 per cent of aid. Even what is spent is misdirected. Water spending in rural areas is one third of that in urban areas, although six times more people live in the countryside. But according to water experts, the greatest injustice in water provision is nothing to do with aid provision.
Instead, it is the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), drawn up at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva under which developing countries are required to open up utilities such as water provision, to private contractors. Campaigners claim this benefits six multinational companies, including Britain's Thames Water and United Utilities, which account for 90 per cent of all private investment in water utilities in the developing world. A coalition of 100 non- government organisations at the G8 summit have issued the "Evian water challenge" to its European members to drop an EU demand that 72 countries open up their water sectors. The coalition claims that privatised systems concentrate on urban areas and reinforce water poverty in rural areas.
Clare Joy, of the World Development movement in London, said: "Many developing countries have rejected the idea of 7 water for profit, yet the European members of the G8 are pushing them into a trade agreement lobbied for by business." Whether the eight most powerful men in the world agree will not be clear until a flurry of post-summit accords emerges on Monday. Meanwhile, there is evidence that the political importance of water is not lost on Evian. The mayor has tried to salve tensions between France and America by sending to the White House a six-pack of teardrop-shaped bottles of Evian.
Jamal Saghir is director of energy and water of the World Bank. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star
Few things are more fundamental to human existence than water. People all over the world, in rich countries or poor, need access to water. It is essential for hygiene and health. It is important for irrigation, to ensure food security. And it is a basic component of industry, necessary for hydropower and energy, which so many poor countries need for development. Water is also necessary to maintain ecosystems and biodiversity. But bringing water and water infrastructure to those who lack access is no easy task. Overall, a staggering 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. Some 45 million people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) alone do not have access to safe water, and more than 80 million live without adequate sanitation. During the past century, while the worldï¿½s population tripled, the aggregate use of water has increased six-fold, with irrigation accounting for the most global water withdrawal, along with industry and municipal use.
Increased water use has been at high environmental costs, too. Today, some rivers no longer reach the sea, and 50 percent of the worldï¿½s wetlands have disappeared in the past century. At the same time, 20 percent of freshwater fish are now endangered or extinct. In many areas, many of the most important groundwater aquifers are being mined, with water tables already deep and dropping by meters every year. Without remedial action, 4 billion people, or half the worldï¿½s projected population, are expected to live under conditions of severe water stress by 2025, especially in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Inadequate external financing for the development of modern water infrastructure is one of the biggest hurdles for many developing countries. With so many of them facing sharply increasing costs to supply water, serious help is needed to generate financing for new investments. The new global priority setting is starting to translate to increases in donor funding. The European Union (EU), United States and Japan pledged a total of over $3 billion to major water initiatives at last yearï¿½s Johannesburg summit on Sustainable Development.
Recently, the European Commission proposed the establishment of an EU Water Fund. With a budget of 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion), this fund will help give people in the 77 signatory countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Agreement access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. And during the Third World Water Forum held in Kyoto in March, governments, donors, multilateral institutions, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector were all encouraged to undertake concrete action for improved water management. The recent report of the World Panel on Financing Water Infrastructure, chaired by Michel Camdessus, has also urged the international community to intensify support in all aspects of the water sector. According to estimates of the World Commission on Water, which were quoted by the panel, water investment must increase from $75 billion to $180 billion annually. As part of this, annual water supply and sanitation investments must be doubled from $15 billion to $30 billion to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Partnerships between public, private sector, and civil society will be key to mobilizing resources.
Water will also be high on the agenda of the G-8 countries meeting in Evian, France, this June. It will be also included in the program of seminars for the MENA region during the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Dubai in September, and an important theme of a regional roundtable being organized by the World Bank and the Joint European Commission/World Bank Program on Private Participation in Mediterranean Infrastructure in Lebanon starting tonight. But financing is not a panacea. To be effective, it must be complemented by tangible policy improvements on the ground. With help from the World Bank Group and others, developing countries will need to strengthen the capacity of their institutions for better management and development of water resources.
The way we manage water today will clearly have an impact on the water resources we have for use tomorrow. Better management of irrigation water, for instance, will increase the income of rural people and free up flows to be used for other purposes like drinking water and the environment. For its part, the international development community has a collective responsibility to help developing countries improve their water management, develop their water resources and provide their citizens with access to water and basic sanitation. Such assistance though, should be tailored to each countryï¿½s circumstances and be consistent with the long-term poverty reduction objectives of these countries. There is no ï¿½one size fits allï¿½ approach, especially in terms of service delivery.
The World Bankï¿½s main concern is that the poor have access to safe water in an affordable and sustainable manner. There is no model for service delivery; in some instances, it may be through the private or the public sector, or by public/private partnerships, including partnerships with civil society. It will depend on the cultural, political, economic, and social reality of the country in question. There is no universal dogma. What works in Latin America will not necessarily work in the Middle East and North Africa, Africa or Asia. The decisions on which development path is best for a country need to be made with the full participation of all interested parties as a result of an informed debate. The international development community must continue to help poor countries harness the true potential of water as an engine of sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. It must focus on the productive role of water as a major catalyst for economic integration and cooperation at all levels from villages to international river basins. The direct economic benefits of doing so make such efforts every bit worth the while.
55) BBC: ASK THE EXPERTS: CAN WATER CRISIS BE AVERTED? The BBCï¿½s online discussion with a panel including Koichiro Matsuura, director general of UNESCO and Michael Rouse, president of the International Water Association, Internet: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/2963656.stm
56) UNEP: The June 2003 edition of ï¿½Our Planetï¿½ with a focus on Freshwater is now available. This edition includes articles by: Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, UNEP; Margot Wallstrï¿½m, EU Commissioner for the Environment; HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, UNESCOï¿½s Special Envoy for Water; Ryutaro Hashimoto, Chairman, National Japanese Steering Committee, World Water Forum; Wang Shucheng, Minister of Water Resources, Peopleï¿½s Republic of China; Paula J. Dobriansky, United States Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs; Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations; Executive Director, UN-HABITAT; Wayne Gilchrest, Chairman, Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans, US House of Representatives; Richard Jolly, Chair, WSSCC; Ashok Khosla; Pekka Haavisto, Chairman, UNEPï¿½s Desk Study on the Occupied Palestinian Territories; Ravi Narayanan, Director, WaterAid; Jonathan Loh, Editor, WWFï¿½s Living Planet Report; Lisa Hadeed, Communications Manager, WWF International, detail the rapid loss of species in freshwaters; Polly Ghazi, Senior Correspondent, Green Futures. Internet: http://www.ourplanet.com/imgversn/141/content.html
57) IUCN: MOVING WATER ï¿½ LATEST ISSUE OF IUCN'S MAGAZINE BUBBLES WITH IDEAS AND ACTION: The first issue of IUCN's World Conservation Bulletin in 2003, the International Year of Freshwater, deals entirely with water resources management. The drive for action to tackle poverty, scarcity and pollution in the river basins of the world gives the Bulletin its name: ï¿½Moving Waterï¿½. Twenty-six contributions from leading experts underline the immense importance of water resources to sustainable development, and of natural ecosystems that generate these resources. From fisheries and climate change to dams and communication, different perspectives provide a river of ideas and practical innovations to protect our vital water resources. ï¿½It is in the river basins of the world that IUCN and its members have made important contributions in the past, and, with the increasing degradation of freshwater ecosystems, it is where our contributions in future must focusï¿½, writes Achim Steiner, IUCN Director General. Internet: http://www.iucn.org/
58) IUCN: WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT? WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2003: 'WATER: TWO BILLION PEOPLE ARE DYING FOR IT': IUCN-ELC has presented a land mark paper on 'Water as a Human Right?' at the Law for a Green Planet Institute 'Law, Water and the Web of Life' 7th International Conference on Environmental Law being held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The same paper was also pre released to judges from Western/Central/Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, together with judges and experts from across the globe, at judges symposia held in Rome and Lviv last month. The IUCN-ELC paper comprises a comprehensive review of the current situation at global, regional and national levels and poses the question of whether a human right to water may help to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation. The paper was prepared by IUCN-ELC, with input from CEL members, to help facilitate further discussion and consideration on this issue during 2003, being the UN International Year of Freshwater. Internet: http://www.iucn.org/themes/law/pdfdocuments/WW-Rev%202%20-%202nd%20June.pdf