The International Institute for Sustainable Development (iisd) presents
8 - 27 July 2003
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27) AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT FUND SUPPORTS STUDY ON HARNESSING AWASH RIVER, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, July 23, 2003
34) TALKS OF BORDER WATER CONFLICT MARK MULUZI-MKAPA MEETING, African Church Information Service, July 14, 2003
35) CABINET STANDING COMMISSION APPROVES BENGUELA WATER PROJECT, Angola Press Agency, July 8, 2003
50) PM URGES SCIENTISTS TO MAKE INDIA ‘WATER SECURE’, Press Information Bureau, Government of India, July 11, 2003
51) RATHER THAN PRIVATISE, WHY CAN'T WE REFORM WATER MANAGEMENT? The East African (Nairobi), July 7, 2003
The northern Jaffna peninsula, which has traditionally experienced a scarcity of uncontaminated underground fresh water should consider adopting new rainwater harvesting methods to meet the increasing demand, a German expert said this week in Colombo. "The Jaffna peninsula receives an average annual rainfall of 120 centimetres which is adequate for its population's consumption needs if this water is captured, stored and governed correctly", said Herald Kraft, a Consultant for the German Development Co-operation's (GTZ) Jaffna Rehabilitation Project. "In fact, rain water is the most uncontaminated water source in Jaffna, because there is almost no air-polluting industry on the peninsula and the main cloud masses reach Jaffna having passed over the sea", he explained.
Kraft was speaking at a seminar held at the International Water Management Institute on the potential of rain water harvesting in the Jaffna peninsula. The third of a series of seminars on the subject, it was organised by the GTZ Jaffna Rehabilitation Project, which has negated in relief and reconstruction work in Jaffna since 1996. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development GTZ has been involved in the rehabilitation of the peninsula's water supply system and the rebuilding of war-damaged schools and houses. Kraft, who had spent many months conducting a study on "water supply, rain water harvesting, waste water and solid waste management in the Jaffna peninsula", revealed alarming information which indicated the gravity of the groundwater situation in Jaffna and the islands.
The Jaffna topography is such, that the thin cover of soil over the groundwater table, which consists mainly of sandy soil with an infiltration capacity of 50 m/d, provides no protection against pollutants from entering the groundwater from the surface. The limestone cover, which is widespread in the Jaffna peninsula, provides almost no purification capacity, permitting all pollutants reaching the groundwater to spread far and wide. With more and more refugees returning to their homes in Jaffna, the peninsula's population is likely to increase rapidly, putting additional pressure on this already sensitive environment. As a means of introducing and popularising rainwater harvesting, GTZ will launch a pilot project at the Kopay Christian College. The school buildings at this college provide 1,845 square metres of roof surface and will be connected to a system of 600 cubic metres. It is estimated that this collection will be sufficient to provide drinking water to the students and teachers of the college 365 days a year.
The World Bank has provided US $ 40 million (around Rs. 4,000 million) as an outright grant for the implementation of the 2nd Community Water Supply and Sanitation Project. This is one of the largest grants given by the World Bank to an Asian country. The project launching workshop of the 2nd CWSSP was held at Dambulla Kandalama Hotel recently. Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Plantation Infrastructure, W. D. Ailapperuma and the World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka, Peter Harrold inaugurated this project with the participation of Ms. Sonia Hamman, Sector Manager, the World Bank, Washington, Toshiaki Keicho, Team Leader, the World Bank, Washington and Chief Secretary, North Western Provincial Council D. M. P. B. Dissanayake.
The decision of the World Bank to provide the financial assistance as a grant was based on the historical achievements made in the 1st CWSSP funded by them. This project has been rated by the World Bank as the "Best Project" and "Well Managed Project" among 200 similar projects in the world. The project will apply a Demand Responsive and Participatory Approach keeping the beneficiaries at the centre. Under this approach, the beneficiary communities will plan and design their water scheme, procure construction materials, construct their own water supply and sanitation facilities and promote good hygiene practices.
This project will be implemented in the North and East, North Western, Central and the Hambantota District in Southern Provincial Councils. The total beneficiary families of this project are 127,400. Nearly 1,000 Grama Niladari Divisions are planned to cover under this project.
In this inauguration Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Plantation Infrastructure W. D. Ailapperuma said "In Sri Lanka, the Government regards the provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities as an activity of the highest priority. The responsibility of providing these basic amenities is vested with the Ministry of Housing and Plantation Infrastructure. The Ministry up to date has taken a number of steps in the recent past, to address these challenging tasks. "When considering drinking water, special attention has to be paid to the rural water supply as more than 75% of the total population of Sri Lanka live in rural areas. More than half of the rural population do not have access to safe and adequate drinking water and basic sanitation at present. Unlike in the urban areas, the provision of drinking water to the rural areas is a complicated matter. The houses are located in a dispersed manner. The responsible organizations are located far away. As a result, the provision of services, operation and maintenance of them are much more difficult," he said. World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka Peter Harrold and Sector Manager, The World Bank Sonia Hamman addressed the inaugural session of this workshop and Director of 2nd CWSSP W. Piyasena made the welcome address of this session.
Mrs. Philomena Boakye Appiah, Ashanti Regional Programmes Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), says Ghana is listed among countries that would experience water stress of 1,700 cubic metres or less per person annually by 2025. She said in the recent past water scarcity which was at most temporary, was now becoming pervasive and persistent and that the present water availability of 3,000 cubic metres per capita per annum was decreasing, and was expected to decrease further. Mrs. Appiah was speaking at a durbar of chiefs and people of Asuofua in the Atwima District on Wednesday as part of activities marking the Ashanti Region launching of World Environmental Day celebration on the theme: “Water - A Vital Resource for Development.” She said besides water scarcity, poor water resources management due to pollution and land degradation was undermining an already stressed base.
The Environmental Programme officer said the theme for the celebration highlighted the centrality of water to sustainable development and human survival. She said it also provided the opportunity for people to declare their individual support towards the global attempt to protect and conserve freshwater sources through its judicious use, not compromising on its quality and quantity. “The protection of the environment is a precondition of a prosperous and healthy society.” In a related development, the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) is to spend 400,000 dollars to expand water supply to Anyinam and improve its delivery.
The project, which would start in 2005, would involve the expansion of the water reservoir, expansion and improvement of the treatment plant and the extension of supply of pipe-borne water to all parts of Anyinam.
The Eastern regional director of GWCL, Mr. Ebenezer K. Garbrah, said this at a forum organised by the East Akim District Secretariat of the National Commission on Civic Education in collaboration with GWCL.
Mr. Garbrah said the GWCL would use legal means to collect its debts from clients to help reduce the loss made by the company in the region.
The East Akim District manager of GWCL, Mr W. A. Abbey, said surface mining had deteriorated the quality of water for the Anyinam area and this has caused an increase in the cost of water treatment.
The District Commercial manager, Mr. D. O. Afrifa, said out of the monthly water rate of 10 million cedis sent to consumers in the Anyinam area, often 1.5 million cedis remained unpaid. He said the company spends a lot of money on its operations, including a monthly bill of six million dollars for the importation of chemicals and payment of monthly electricity bill of seven billion cedis nationally to the Electricity Company of Ghana. He appealed to the people to pay their water rate regularly to enable the company to meet the cost of its operations. Mr. Seth Amissah, East Akim District Fire officer, called for the protection of the forest in the area because all the rivers that served as sources of water originated from the forest.
“Formerly, bushfire was a threat to the forest but now illegal chainsaw operations have taken over as the greatest threat to the forest in the area.” - GNA.
About 115,000 more urban poor people were connected by Manila Water Co. to clean, affordable water supply in the first six months of 2003, way ahead of the Ayala-led concessionaire’s target of 100,000 additional people to be served by the end of the year. Manila Water president Antonio Aquino hailed 2003 as a banner year for the private utility which has successfully managed the water supply and sewerage/sanitation services in the East Zone of Metro Manila, where the population has been growing at an alarming rate. As a result of this growth, the provision of basic services are being spread too thin among the metropolis’ more than 11 million inhabitants. Aquino described Manila Water’s six-year performance as “a silver lining” in this bleak scenario due to its aggressive thrust to deliver more water services to additional customers, particularly within Metro Manila’s decaying informal settler communities.
The “Tubig Para sa Barangay” program has provided, as of June this year, 19,285 more households or 115,700 people, with potable water connections, in the cities and municipalities of Quezon, Marikina, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, Pateros, San Andres and Sta. Ana in Manila, as well as in the far flung areas of Cainta, Taytay and Rizal. This brings to 499,170 people living in almost 100 informal settler communities in the East Zone who have now been connected by Manila Water to affordable and clean water supply since 1998. This was the year the program was launched in response to President Arroyo’s appeal to the private sector to help in poverty alleviation. “We achieved a lot of success in the program because our people work closely with the communities where we are present,” Aquino explained. “You’ve got to get the community and their leaders, including the local government units to buy into our strategy of solving water theft, illegal water selling by syndicates, and the danger of water contamination due to poorly connected, or illegal water lines,” Aquino pointed out. “At the end of the day, they will be the ones who will guard the new pipes on a 24-hour basis, not us.”
Jarku, Nigeria: The blighted Nigerian village of Jarku has a grim lesson to teach policy makers about the thin line between life and death on the dusty southern edge of the Sahel semi-desert. A month ago the 400-strong community was a poor but robust farming settlement, then a simple mechanical problem with Jarku's water pump triggered a health catastrophe which wiped out a fifth of the population. "We lost so many strong men and we are afraid that we will not be able to produce so much grain this season because we cannot till all the farms," village chief Sa'adu Maigari said. Around 11 years ago Jarku was lucky enough to be able to build itself a borehole; a deep well with a pump and a water storage and filtration tank, a key resource in an arid area with irregular and limited rainfall.
The old open well and the traditional means of keeping its water clean were forgotten until earlier this year, when the borehole broke down. "The mistake we made when the borehole broke down and we turned to the well was that we failed to treat it with potash or alum, which are the two local methods of decontaminating an open well," Maigari said. Almost immediately people started falling sick. By the time the problem was traced to the dirty water in the disused well, 80 villagers had been struck dead by dysentry. The wizened elder sits in his white robes and red cap as he recounts the tale under an ancient baobab tree. The tree will survive thanks to the water stored in its fibrous trunk, but many of Jarku's crops are untended, and most of the village's mud-brick, thatched-roof homes are mourning the loss of a loved one. Maigari pointed to a hut abandoned because three of the four members of the household died. "Who will cultivate the farms left by those people? The only survivor in the family cannot, he doesn't have the strength," he says. Jarku is in Jigawa State, part of a vast band of northern Nigeria lying at the limit of the Sahel semi-desert which is home to 40 million people and dependent on highly unpredictable rainfall. The region is not prey to the crippling droughts that have killed millions in recent decades in the Horn of Africa or the south and east of the continent.
But the story of Jarku and villages like it shows that without proper planning and education, even communities in relatively developed countries like oil-rich Nigeria flirt with disaster every year. Last year African ministers met in the Nigerian capital Abuja to discuss ways to integrate water security into their development agenda -- the NEPAD blueprint -- Africa's home-grown roadmap out of poverty. "An adequate supply of fresh water is the most important prerequisite for sustaining human life, for maintaining ecosystems that support all life, and for achieving sustainable development," they concluded. Unfortunately, however, they also learned that while "fresh water is abundant throughout the world on a regional basis, it is, at the same time, however, unevenly distributed by nature and human kind." David Grey, senior water advisor to the World Bank, told delegates that while Africa gets on average as much rainfall as much of Europe, it was unevenly distributed in peaks and troughs, triggering droughts and floods.
Jarku goes without rain for much of the year, but then finds itself cut off in the wet season when the 30 kilometre (19 mile) mud track to the nearest sizable village -- and nearest health clinic -- is impassible.
The officials who met in Abuja agreed to set up a continent-wide ministerial working group to ensure that water security will be at the centre of NEPAD's poverty eradication agenda. If the plans bear results it will be good news for places like Jarku, where the villagers fear further healthcare problems ahead: The handle on the recently repaired borehole is going slack again. "If this borehole breaks down again we will have no option but to use local means of decontamination on the well and drink from it. It poses a danger to our lives, but we will have no other choice," Maigari said.
CHIEF Environmental Officer Jeffrey Headley expressed his concern yesterday over the repeated cases of illegal dumping in Zone One areas – a situation which, if not curbed, could cause irreversible damage to one of Barbados’ major wells, which currently accounts for 60 per cent of our island’s ground water supply.
Speaking at a press conference at the Town and Country Planning headquarters addressing the removal of illegal structures on the Zone One water table, he noted that there are a number of persons who are dumping illegally at night. This activity, he contends, is proving difficult to monitor, since at present there are no agencies or persons that are equipped to take on this massive responsibility. “There are no environmental inspectors, or litter wardens, or environmental police in Barbados, so that these persons could be identified … therefore it is easy for persons to dispose of the garbage along these dumping sites,” he said. “It is a very serious problem which requires a massive educational programme in the first instance, and then we require the inspectors to carry out their duties.”
The chief environmental officer identified the Belle in St. Michael and Hampton in St. Phillip as two areas which are a cause for concern. He added that attempts to clear up these areas seem to be an exercise in futility, since they return to their original state within a short space of time. “Rather than setting it out for the Barbados Sanitation Authority’s pickup day, they dump them anywhere they can find, which is very bad for the water quality,” he stressed. He acknowledged that there are some instances where the garbage could be traced, referring to an incident approximately ten years ago, where a company placed the onus on a contractor, a situation where passing the blame could inhibit prosecution. Addressing the possibility of adding a sewerage system in the Belle, Headley explained that Stanley Associates is currently carrying out feasibility studies in the area. He advised persons not to “jump the gun”, since the recommendations “could be to do nothing, have a system or an alternative”. “Having a system in the Belle, you have to dispose of the effluent somewhere. I don’t want to say much on that because the study is not over,” he explained.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Austin Opara has bemoaned what he described as the poor state of water supply in the country despite the huge resources committed to the sector by government.
He also decried the practice of according priority to the cities in utter neglect of the rural areas in the distribution and supply of water. The lawmaker expressed these concerns yesterday in Abuja, while inaugurating the House Committee on Water Resources. While assuring the Commit-tee that the House would strive to make adequate funds available for its operation, Opara urged them to review existing legislations in the sector with a view to retaining only the relevant ones.
Earlier in his address, Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Abayomi Collins, said his Committee's target is to achieve 80 percent water supply needs of Nigerians. Collins listed outdated legislations, poor metering system, over-stretched facilities, poor financing and poor management of existing facilities as some impediments to attaining good water supply. "The current system of poor metering and billing for water usage coupled with increasing water demand for domestic, industrial and agricultural activities have created the situation in which water agencies and corporations have not been able to generate enough revenue to sustain and improve on services to their customers by way of expansion and modernization of their aging installations. As a result, existing facilities and infrastructures have become outdated, overstretched and therefore not able to function and provide desired services," Collins said.
BAGHDAD - The World Health Organisation (WHO), along with NGOs in Iraq, told IRIN on Thursday that high summer temperatures, sometimes touching 50 degrees Celsius, were contributing to ongoing health problems throughout the country. "In this particular season we are faced with increased incidence of diarrhoea, including bloody diarrhoea and watery diarrhoea," Dr Faris Bunni, a WHO medical officer said.
Although the searing heat is normal in most parts of Iraq at this time of year, ongoing difficulties with electricty and clean water, as well as a degraded health system, were all contributing to the increase in disease, health experts said. Power supplies to major population centres remain intermittent and raw sewage remains untreated in many cities.
According to CARE International, the US-based charity, about two million mt of raw sewage are dumped into Iraq's rivers every day, four times the amount before the war. In the southeastern city of Basra, it seeps from the canals into the irrigation channels that are used for drinking and bathing. In the capital, Baghdad, 300,000 mt escape into the Tigris daily. For many, there is no other water source. The deteriorating situation is compounded by the lack of electricity and cooking fuel which prevent Iraqis from boiling water and making it safe to drink. Given the scorching temperatures, and the fact that 50 percent of Iraq's population have no access to clean drinking water, aid agencies are concerned. Inevitably, they say, it is the children who are most at risk from disease and death through dehydration.
"This is only the beginning of the summer of diarrhoea," Anne Morris, CARE emergency response director in Iraq, said recently. "If proper monitoring, testing and prevention mechanisms are not quickly put back in place, the breeding ground will spill over the brim of the cup. The entire Iraqi population is at risk of a public health crisis." Marilyn Hurrella, a medical officer with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), told IRIN from Basra that the number of diarrhoea cases there had been rising along with the temperature. "People don't have clean water to drink. They are drinking dirty water because they get very thirsty, then people get diarrhoea," she said. WHO is doing what it can to monitor the disease by setting up a surveillance system and supporting the activities of the Ministry of Health. "We are doing early detection of this disease on a daily basis in Baghdad and on a weekly basis in other governorates of Iraq," Bunni said.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is currently the leading UN agency for water and sanitation in Iraq. UNICEF information officer Geoffrey Keele told IRIN that 7.5 million litres of clean water are being distributed every day in Iraq. But with clean water still in short supply in many parts of Iraq, this amount remains inadequate. "We are targeting to provide access to the most vulnerable people in need. The water distribution system needs to be repaired in order the meet the needs of 27.5 million Iraqis," Keele said.
Seventy cholera cases have been reported in Basra, and one in Baghdad. This is up from figures for May and June, although no deaths have been reported. WHO reported diarrhoeal disease in the four main hospitals of Basra amounting to a total of 1,549 cases of acute watery diarrhoea.
WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) statistics indicate that more than 6 billion people around the world lack access to improved water sources, while 40 per cent are without access to improved sanitation services.
In Namibia, while 99 per cent of the urban population have access to improved water sources, this is true for only about 75 per cent of the rural population. Intentions are to increase this to 80 per cent by 2005. But Norman Tjombe, a human rights lawyer and Co-ordinator of the Land, Environment and Development Project of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), argues that the state's inability to supply water services to certain households, or their inability to pay for services, is a blatant violation of their constitutional rights.
Last week Tjombe presented a paper entitled 'Water- A basic human right or a privilege earned only by the depth of one's pocket?' to civil society during the 15th commemoration of the LAC. "There are certain basic needs that are essential for a dignified life, indeed for life itself.
Water is one of these essential human needs and a clean environment is also increasingly recognised as a fundamental human right," argued Tjombe. According to the paper, scarcity, water and ground contamination, and lack of access to water for the poor are among the main obstacles to full enjoyment of the right to water. The right to water has two levels - enough for all needs and for specific purposes such as for food and health. Tjombe cites numerous international human rights' statements which either implicitly or explicitly make reference to water as a human right. He argues that the right to water is not just a feature of international human rights and environmental laws, but also enshrined in the national legislation of a number of countries.
Tjombe defines the right to access to water as the water needing to be of "sufficient cleanliness and in sufficient quantities to meet individual needs". "If a member of a household must walk for hours to fetch daily water, or if fees are so prohibitive that a poor household must sacrifice other essential rights, such as education, health services or food, or else use contaminated water, then individuals of that household are not enjoying their right to adequate water". While Namibian legislation does not explicitly provide for rights to water, Tjombe argues that, since Namibia a signatory to international law (in particular the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979 and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child), which explicitly requires the protection of the right to water, these rights are enforceable in Namibian law. "There is no doubt that the Government has a statutory obligation to provide water to its citizens". Tjombe, therefore, encourages civil society to make use of a legal, administrative and policy instruments to see to it that their rights are met.
Business Report ( South Africa)
Africa is in the midst of an agricultural crisis, experiencing devastating famine, natural disasters, falling production and having to increase its reliance on imports and food aid. According to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), a component of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), the latest data (for the period 1997 to 1999) show 200 million people, or 28 percent of the total population, are chronically hungry. This is 27 million, or 15 percent, more than in the early 1970s. About 30 countries, well over half the 54 that comprise the continent, report more than 20 percent of their population is undernourished. In 18 countries over 35 percent of the population is chronically hungry. This is especially troubling when one considers that Africa is essentially a rural economy.
According to the CAADP, the agricultural sector accounts for 60 percent of the total labour force, 20 percent of total merchandise exports and 17 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Wiseman Nkuhlu, the head of the Nepad secretariat, attributes these shocking statistics to climate change, poverty, lack of an enabling policy, environmental degradation, conflicts, poor international market conditions and economic mismanagement. To remedy the crisis, the CAADP has come up with four "pillars for priority investment".
These will, the plan estimates, cost $251 billion, or about $17.9 billion a year, between now and 2015 to implement - about 90 percent of what Africa now spends on agricultural imports. The four pillars are land and water management, rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for improved market access, increasing food supply and reducing hunger, and agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption.
Extending the area under sustainable land management and putting in reliable water control systems, will cost $37 billion and maintaining the systems will cost $31 billion over the period. Improving rural infrastructure will take $92 billion and need $37 billion for maintenance over the period. About $2.8 billion will be needed for trade capacity. Increasing food supply and reducing hunger, will involve raising the productivity of 15 million small farms through improved technology, services and policies. It will cost $7.5 billion while $42 billion will need to be set aside for emergencies and safety nets over the period. The final pillar, agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption, will cost $4.6 billion, the CAADP estimates.
The plan is in three parts: immediate (which covers the period now to 2005); short-term (which runs from 2006 to 2010); and medium-term (from 2010 to 2015). In the first phase, the CAADP estimates that $56 billion will be needed for investment, operations and maintenance, and humanitarian assistance. Of this, it says African countries themselves can afford to pay $22 billion, or 39 percent. Between 2006 and 2010, the total investment climbs to $100 billion, with half coming from Africa, and in the period 2010 to 2015 it projects that $96 billion will be required with Africa putting in $53 billion. The lion's share, 93 percent, of Africa's total $104 billion investment in the agricultural sector will have to come from the public sector while 70 percent of foreign investment will be in the form of official development assistance.
Domestic and foreign private sectors will invest $27 billion and $17.3 billion respectively between now and 2015, the CAADP estimates. "Africa's own commitment to funding should be seen against a background of re-emerging international recognition that funding of agriculture is vital for sustainable development," the CAADP says. In its plan, Nepad has highlighted an issue that has been a core focus of the international trade agenda and one of the key issues in the current round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations: subsidies given by developed countries to their agricultural sectors. So far, countries have made statements committing themselves to the WTO's developmental agenda agreed in Doha in 2001, but the lack of concrete progress has made a lie of the rhetoric, trade insiders say. The CAADP points out that industrial countries (which can easily do without agriculture and still prosper), continue to finance their agricultural sectors heavily. "Yet Africa, with some 70 percent to 80 percent of its people dependent on this sector, is withdrawing state support; the consequences are grave."
So grave, in fact, that Nkuhlu told the first conference of African agriculture ministers, held here in early in July as a run-up to the summit, that the continent was unlikely to meet its goals of halving poverty by 2015.
Rather, he warned, poverty and the number of undernourished were likely to increase. Speaking at the AU summit last week, the need for agricultural reform was highlighted by both UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Horst Köhler. Annan said agricultural transformation was needed to break the pattern of recurring food crises and it would require addressing the "inextricable link between food insecurity and the biggest threat facing Africa today - HIV/Aids". Köhler, in turn, said the IMF would tailor its assistance to the evolving challenges facing African countries and that rural development to raise productivity and income needed to be prioritised. Food and Agriculture Organisation director-general Jacques Diouf said at the conference that it was vital the private sector got interested in the development of commercially viable farming. He said African governments should promote and support the identification and preparation of bankable projects and mobilise resources to implement them. The ministers bought the arguments, with the minutes of the meeting showing that they would recommend putting in place policies that provided public support and investment in agriculture. They agreed to focus on water development, infrastructure and access to crucial productivity-enhancing inputs, "with a view to creating an enabling environment to attract private sector and smallholder interest in farm production, processing and trade". They also agreed to encourage their governments to provide regulatory oversight of internal markets to ensure discipline and fairness and minimise exploitation of small operators.
Governments were to strengthen agricultural research through technology transfer and institutional reforms.
The ministers agreed that the resources for the transformation of the sector should come from internal funds and development partners as many of the projects would be eligible for grants. But these will depend on how individual countries implement the basic precepts of Nepad and underscore the need to sign on to the African peer review. The peer review provides scope for an objective assessment of reform programmes and gives both aid agencies and private investors a way of deciding where to put their money. Nepad has at its core the understanding that countries with good governance practices and a clearly defined reform programme will benefit first from increased aid and investment from the developed world. After the resolution of political conflicts that plague the continent, one of Nepad's key tests will be its ability to get the continent to a place where it can feed itself properly. The CAADP is the first salvo fired in the war against hunger. Like most plans, getting it on paper and doing the sums was the easy part. Getting the job done will be infinitely more difficult.
Lucky Begum of the sadar upazila of Patuakhali district now feels relieved of a major concern for safe water that chased the impoverished people like her for years. Now she owns a deep tubewell along with several others, which has ensured safe water particularly when the people of this coastal region are exposed to high risk of arsenic contamination in groundwater. The 28-year Lucky, mother of two minor children, even in her relatively young age, have seen people including her loved ones dying in diarrhoeal and other such diseases because they did not have access to safe water or hygienic sanitation system.
“We are now getting safe water . . . required for good health,” she said. Thanks to the initiatives of development partners, government and Danida in particular hard-core poor people of the coastline have started getting access to safe water and sanitation systems since a hygiene campaign was launched three years ago.
Under the initiatives of state-run Public Health Engineering Department (DPHE) and Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA), some 14,000 Deep Hand Tubewells (DHTW) were installed in the past three years giving the ownership to hardcore poor in the region. Besides, more than 60,000 sanitary latrines were also installed for the poorest of the poor community in the region under a partnership between Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) and 27 local NGOs with financial assistance from DANIDA. DPHE is implementing the hardware installations of the project in 28 upazilas of Patuakhali, Barisal, Pirojpur, Barguna, Jhalakati, Noakhali, Lakshmipur and Feni districts to ensure access of 1.3 million hardcore poor to safe water and two million people to sanitation facilities. Simultaneously, the project has also targeted to bring. 7.5 million people under hygiene promotion activities for making positive behavioral changes in respect to the use of safe water and sanitation practices.
A senior DAM official in Dhaka said until June 2003, the project has ensured access to safe water for 0.8 million people, access to sanitation facilities for 0.6 million people, covered under hygiene promotion activities about 3.5 million people and built capacity of 0.05 million people. He said DAM as well as the government were now trying to ensure the sustainability of the project activities through capacity of local people under a group of about 0.1 million people comprising members of user groups, union parishad leaders, imams, youths, social leaders and officials and NGOs. Open defecation was a very common picture, particularly among the poor community of the coastal region. But a radical change has been made there for use of sanitary latrines. Community people are now habituated to using sanitary latrines since they feel shy in open defecation. “We took the challenge to promote sanitary latrine at the community level. We hope we can make our user groups cent percent sanitised by June 2005,” a DANIDA official said. A senior DPHE engineer echoed the same saying the past experience of work on sanitation field showed that the sense of ownership was crucial for sustainability of a programme.
“The earlier programmes of installing tube wells could not yield the desired result and many of those became inoperative for want of proper maintenance in the absence of the sense of ownership among local people,” he said. Whenever people’s participation in terms of physical or financial contribution was ensured in the project, as it happened in the DPHE-DAM project with community share of 10 percent of the installation cost, it proved to be sustainable and successful, he also said. A small group of poor people comprising seven to 10 households under the rural component and 10-20 households under the Arsenic Mitigation component could be able to own a deep tube-well after giving only 10 per cent of the total estimated cost. Each of the user groups has to pay an amount of Taka 4,500, if necessary in instalments, as contribution money.
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Water and Power Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said here on Friday that justice shall be done with every province in releasing them their due water share and feelings of any province are not be hurt. "All the federating units shall be taken along as we want development of our country through just utilisation of our water resources," he said while taking to newsmen during his visit to Indus River System Authority. The minister was given briefing by Chairman Indus River System Authority (IRSA) Nasir Rajput, which was attended by all members of IRSA, chief secretary Azad Jammu & Kashmir, additional secretary Water & Power and secretary IRSA.
He said all provinces enjoy harmony, therefore, dams would be constructed after taking them into confidence. The minister disclosed that the telemetry system would start functioning from September 30, adding that the system would be installed at 23 places on different rivers, dams and barrages. He said it was his first visit to IRSA and intricate problems facing provinces could only be resolved through mutual understanding among the four provinces. He urged the IRSA team to help government settle problems facing provinces including water distribution after evolving a consensus. "We will visit all the four provinces along with IRSA members to settle problems regarding water distribution," he added. Earlier during the briefing on IRSA, Sherpao directed that Wapda shall continue to operate Telemetry System till IRSA is equipped to take over the system. Aftab Sherpao said, "We are monitoring daily flood situation in the country and provinces are fully equipped to face any emergency".
He was informed regarding telemetry system that cost Rs 450 million. It is aimed at building consensus among provinces on the water distribution issue. The system makes available online data regarding water flows at 23 critical locations. Sherpao directed speedy work on remaining four sites and annual operating and maintenance costs of the telemetry system are Rs 25.45 million. The minister said that water is always an issue between countries and within the federating units of a country. "I have full confidence in IRSA, an apex body that came into existence through an Act of Parliament and is playing a positive role," said Sherpao. He said I shall be visiting provinces to know about their viewpoint. It will be a great service to our nation if we resolve water issues amicably, he added. Chairman IRSA briefed the minister about the working of IRSA, which came into existence under IRSA Act 1992. The Advisory Committee of IRSA meets before each cropping season in order to lay down the basis for regulation and distribution of surface water among the provinces according to the allocations and policies spelt out in the water accord. IRSA sends daily water situation to all the provinces and media, which shows transparency of the Authority.
BANGKOK - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has vowed to eradicate all water-related problems plaguing the country, which he said were major hurdles in the government's war on poverty. The Prime Minister said he had ordered an immediate study aimed at ending the cycle of repeated floods and droughts, according to a report in the Bangkok Post. The study, to be completed within a year, would give details of budgets and conceptual designs for projects to control levels of water in 25 river basins, to help rehabilitate
forest and soil resources, he said. It would help him meet his goal of eradicating poverty by 2009, when he planned to retire from politics, he said. 'The bottom line of today's water issues is poverty,' he told officials, provincial governors and academics at a seminar on the issue on Wednesday. He said that the government was spending nine billion baht (S$380 million) to solve flooding and drought problems. This amount did not include the costs borne by residents from water disasters.
According to The Nation, Deputy Prime Minister Suwit Khunkitti will be put in charge of overseeing the project. Only 29 million rai (4.6 million ha) of farmland was irrigated by the national water supply, with 103 million rai at risk of drought during the dry season. Farmers in irrigated areas earned three times more than farmers forced to find their own water supplies, according to the Bangkok Post. Mr Thaksin said that if the irrigation system was extended, both farmers and the government would reap higher revenues. Senator Pramote Maiklad, former chief of the Irrigation Department, said it would not be easy as officials would have to deal with varying landscapes. He also doubted whether the study could be completed within a year.
However, the plan was applauded by environmental officials and water management experts. Natural resources and environment Permanent Secretary Plodprasop Suraswadi said it was the first time in 20 years he had seen such state enthusiasm for tackling water-related issues. 'This is a national water policy, not just an irrigation policy,' he said. 'It includes floods, and all other dimensions of water usage.'
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein told a House panel Thursday that any water bill for California must balance environmental and water supply concerns or it risks failing. Feinstein, D-Calif., said her bill was on a "different wavelength" from the one introduced this week by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, which favors building more water supplies. Feinstein said at a House water and power subcommittee hearing that a bill to reauthorize CalFed -- the state-federal partnership set up to solve California's water problems -- must include help for restoring wetlands and conservation as well building more water supplies for farmers and urban dwellers. "A CalFed bill that is going to pass must even-handedly provide for all these interests so Californians can rally behind it," she said. "Please, the only way to do this is to bring the parties together."
CalFed has failed to win authorization over the past two years because California's lawmakers are split between those wanting to build dams and those supporting more conservation and recycling. Without authorization, CalFed receives little federal funding. Most of the program is now funded by the state.
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
In spite of the astronomical increases in the tariffs on water and electricity, Ghanaians continue to experience poor supplies though the hikes were made on the promise to improve the services. Chronicle's constant monitoring and complaints received so far from a section of the public since the two-tier increment can reveal that the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) are performing below the expectations of the average Ghanaian consumer. The paper gathered that there have been frequent power cuts and interruption in water supply without prior notice to consumers while the quality of water supplied to residents in some parts of Accra has often been questioned.
In Chronicle's bid to find out what the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) is doing to put the utility providers on their toes to salvage the situation since the commission has the statutory responsibilities to adequately protect consumer's interest, the paper spoke to the executive secretary of the commission, Mr. Stephen Adu. He disclosed that, "all tariff decisions, since the commission's inception, have been, inter alia, performance-based."
According to him, certain performance targets and operational benchmarks are incorporated into the tariff and when the utility fails to meet the benchmarks there is an automatic revenue loss. Mentioning some of the benchmarks as the collection ratio-pertaining to utility revenue collection performance and directions on system loss reduction, Mr. Aidoo noted that these have been put in place to ensure vigilance by the management of the utility companies and keen shareholder interest in their performance.
Quizzed further as to whether the PURC has in place certain penalties to be imposed on utility providers who fail to meet standards of performance, the executive secretary answered that the commission is adopting a phased approach towards the institution of a sanction regime, adding that the initial penalties under the scheme will include fines imposed and collected by the commission.
Also in place is a monetary compensation for customers who suffer damage or some loss for failure of the utility to meet performance standards or breach of other service responsibilities. He also stressed that other penalties in the nature of fines for non-compliance and compensation for failure to provide adequate service are being developed by the commission in consultation with the utilities licensing bodies such as the Energy Commission and other stakeholders.
Mr. Adu hinted that currently, monetary penalties guidelines are being formulated for consideration and adoption after due stakeholder discussions. "These penalties cover aspects of service provision that do not require huge capital investments. Activities such as wrong billing, unlawful disconnections, poor response to customers' complaints and failure to provide requested feedback through the PURC stipulated reporting format will be penalized under the next phase of the sanctioning" he added. Asked whether the public has been educated on the penalties to be implemented, Mr. Adu replied that funds are being mobilized by the commission to deliver more effectively on its monitoring and sanctioning mandates and also speed up the decentralization drive aimed at bringing services to consumers' steps. "Being committed to protecting customers, the commission will organise workshops to outdoor the penalties when instituted and thereafter hold public fora at various major centres to publicise them and increase awareness," he added.
Shanghai Daily news
Forest and water resources in the city will be better combined to create a green metropolitan with 30 percent of its territory covered by trees by the year 2020, according to an industry meeting yesterday. The meeting, organized by the State Forestry Administration and with focus on the strategic researches about the sustainable development in the forestry sector in China, was attended by many senior officials from the central government and the local government, as well as some senior scholars from the state-level scientific research centers.
The idea of creating a green metropolis was put forward yesterday by a scientist with the Chinese Academy of Forestry. Peng Zhenhua, the professor and also leading scientist with the academy, proposed that an integrated ecological system comprising well-designed water and tree network will build a city into a real green metropolitan, which will possibly fuel and guarantee the sustainable development of modern cities. Yang Xiong, vice mayor of the city, delivered a speech in favor of Peng's idea. He called on local forestry administration to do their bits to reach the goal of covering 30 percent of the city with greenery by the year 2020.
UNESCO Director General, Koichi Matsuura has called for a speedy doubling of the number of water professionals around the world and for radical change in water education programmes. Speaking at the UNESCO – IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands, Mr Matsuura said that by 2050, between two and seven billion people will face water scarcity, depending on factors like population and policy choice.
However, trained professionals and competent policy makers aware of the linkages between water, poverty, health, development and survival are sorely lacking. “The World Water Vision concluded in The Hague that, for the next quarter century, annual global investment in water infrastructure would need to increase to US$180 billion per year. Such an approximate doubling of investment would require a similar increase in the number of qualified professionals to manage and implement this investment,” Mr Matsuura said.
He added that the water professionals would have to be trained to take various factors, such as indigenous practices and knowledge, into account as many engineering and natural science curricula do not currently cover such topics. Stephen Turner, Deputy Director of Water Aid, welcomed the statements by UNESCO, and said the education agenda should be widened to include schools and community groups in affected areas. “Children act as excellent ambassadors for information. If one can bring water topics into the national curricula in schools, children will bring this information into the home. This is especially true in terms of water hygiene,” he told edie. “Water Aid would welcome a move away from technological solutions to water resources and an emphasis on local governance and community management solutions,” he added.
About 25 per cent systems loss of water supplied by Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) could be reduced through immediate replacement of its cracked pipelines, officials said. There is no alternative to immediate replacement of one fourth of WASA's 2,258km pipelines to reduce systems loss significantly, they added. Forty-nine per cent of the WASA water is lost to systems loss, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan told the Jatiya Sangsad recently. The WASA has a supply capacity of 150 crore litres a day against the demand for 160 litres. Pilferage is another main cause for the systems loss, officials said. "The replacement of pipelines will also cut the loss significantly, as some corrupt staff set up illegal supply lines and blame the pipelines for the loss," an official said, requesting anonymity.
Of the WASA supply lines, more than 15 to 20 per cent are of cast iron (CI) and mild steel (MS) pipes and 2 to 3 per cent are of asbestos cement (AC) ones. The AC and MS pipes were installed about 30 or 40 years ago. The lifetime of the AC pipelines has already expired and the MS pipelines have rusted and cracked.
The MS pipes cover a large part of Dhanmondi, Motijheel and Mohammadpur areas, while the AC pipelines criss-cross Lalmatia, Khilgaon, Moghbazar, Malibagh, Mirpur and a few areas in Banani, Mohammadpur and Segunbagicha. Most pipelines in Lalbagh, Chakbazar, Sadarghat, Banglabazar, Gandaria, Islampur, Sutrapur, Bangshal, Armanitola and parts of Narinda are made of cast iron. They were installed during the British rule. Deposition of chemicals and filth pipes has reduced the radius the capacity of the CI pipes to carry water. Besides, iron bacteria thrive inside the pipelines, sources said. The ruptured pipes also pollute and carry contaminated water to clients' houses, they added. The systems loss has hobbled the WASA efforts to raise its capacity and ensure better supply to customers despite the launch of Sayedabad Water Treatment Plant. About 75 per cent of WASA's supply network is made of the PVC pipes, which are in a good serviceable condition, the officials said. The WASA took up Water Pipelines Installation and Replacement project last year. Under the project, which will end in 2007, the CI and MS pipes will be replaced.
Faced with the likely devastating effects of natural disasters and global climate change, there is the need to put in place policy initiatives to effectively deal with disaster risk management. Moreover, the onus is on the relevant regional bodies to sensitise governments of the need for legislative reform, with respect to understanding such issues as coastal zone management, island systems management and integrated water resources management.
The suggestion came from Project Manager, Adaptation to Climate Change in the Caribbean (ACCC), Dr. Neville Trotz, at the seminar on “Climate Change and Severe Weather Events in Asia and the Caribbean”, held at the Grand Barbados Beach Resort yesterday morning. While thanking the Inter-American Development Bank for supporting the meeting, he added that the occasion would serve as an opportunity to cement the relationship between the disaster management community and the climate change community.
In addition, co-ordinator of Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), Jeremy Collymore said the two-day work seminar would also afford representatives of both regions to share possible solutions that speak to the vulnerability of small island and low-lying states and the dangers that can be posed by natural disasters. “Our limited size, fragile ecosystems and economic vulnerability increase our risks to the adverse impacts which are associated with this ‘yet to be pinned down’ phenomenon,” he stressed.
He explained that to effectively deal with these issues, “climate change and disaster management must be mainstreamed into the development agendas of our regions”. Collymore, enlightening his Asian counterparts, stated that the region has made every effort to build sustainable partnerships between stakeholders.
He further explained that the recently established Caribbean Climate Change Centre (CCCC) is therefore part of the effort to advance the institutionalisation of this programme. He argued that while our deliberations surround the issues of whether climate change is occurring and the rate at which it is doing so, the impact of extreme events leaves no room for uncertainty, as they represent significant and fundamental challenges to existing disaster management practices. He therefore stressed: “The ‘one size fits all’ approach to our contingency planning systems must be addressed to deal with these high-magnitude low-probability events.”
Pointing out that there was room for improvement, the CDERA official suggested that scientifically driven programmes be designed to improve fact-based response planning and that there be enhanced analysis of the intensity and distribution of rainfall. He also noted that due to the limiting scope of climate forecasts, there is the need to ensure tighter linkages between the climate and overall development.
Bandar Seri Begawan - The private sector involvement does not necessarily result in the greater and better provision of essential services, particularly water. The Commonwealth Foundation Director Mr Colin Ball stressed this at the end of the meeting of Commonwealth Civil Society Consultation on 2003 Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting. According to Mr. Ball the provision of water has been the focus of much of the discussion during the three-day meeting. He said the private sector involvement or privatisation has resulted in a more efficient and effective provision, which continues to enable access to those services by poor people in particular. He added however, there seems to be growing evidence as reported by this meeting that although there has been a reduction of poverty and diseases, there appears to be an evidence which strongly suggests that many poor people become more excluded from access to that services than there were in the past. Mr Ball also said the meeting also discussed the question whether for example essential services such as water is it a commodity to be bought and sold or is it a human right. –
(AGI) - Rome, Italy, July 24 - Altero Matteoli has announced to Italians that up to this point there has been an excessive demand for water, beginning in our homes. We now need to learn to use water more appropriately. The Environment Minister, on the side of presentation of the annual report to parliament on the state of water, said that the water problem in Italy is related to the loss of resources, about 40 pct, mostly due to obsolete piping and waste. Later speaking about the many subjects that manage water, Matteoli underlined the need to bring the many authorities together, even if that would involve acting carefully given the varied interests involved. The Environment Minister also stated another necessity: "We need energy - he said - and the problem must be resolved by building new plants. I have given my approval for 12,500 KW, but the problem now has to do with the local authorities that often oppose the construction of these plants".
Asuofua (Ash), July 24, GNA - Mr Kenneth Baffoe Maison, Ashanti Regional Chief Manager of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), has stated that water is no longer free. He explained that it is a finite resource with supply constraints with a scarcity value and cost to using it. Mr Maison stated this at the Ashanti Regional launching of the World Environment Day celebration at Asuofua, in the Atwima District on Wednesday. The theme for the day was, "Water - A Vital Resource for Development". He noted that a major factor impeding sustainable water resource management and stakeholders' participation was the lack of awareness of the state of water resources in terms of availability and demand as well as the economic, social, environmental and management aspects to its uses and protection. Mr Maison called for a rain harvesting culture to be inculcated in the minds of people, especially students so as to preserve potable water for washing utensils and other activities. "National politics need to focus on integrated approach to water management and a new water culture needs to be promoted that emphasises conservation practices and other stewardship of this precious resource", he added.
Professor Kwesi Andam, Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), called for the protection of water bodies and asked people to use water wisely and to do all that was necessary for the sustainability of water for future generation. He emphasised that the protection of the ecosystem was very vital and asked communities to guard against the sale of all lands for the construction of houses. The Vice Chancellor called for proper land management, saying, "Building of storey building must be encouraged to save space for future physical and structural development". Mr Sampson Kwaku Boafo, Ashanti Regional Minister, said the government was concerned with the provision of potable water for communities indicating that the high cost involved in the provision of water and sanitation required that communities take good care of facilities provided. He reiterated the call for all district assemblies in the region to adopt a buffer zone by-law prohibiting farming, construction and other human activities on the banks of streams and rivers and to monitor activities in and around other bodies. "By protecting our water resources, we will be guaranteed a healthy future for humanity and the planet", he said.
Mrs. Philomena Boakye Appiah, Ashanti Regional Programmes Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said many people around the world have now realised the myth concerning water that "water is free and plentiful". She said there was no time to waste with regards to environmental protection and urged the people to be worthy stewards of the environment. Mr Charles Yeboah, Atwima District Chief Executive, called on the chiefs and the people to check land degradation and environmental pollution. He assured the people that the Barekese road was going to be rehabilitated and that efforts were also being made to improve education, health and sanitation.
The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking penalties totaling nearly $1 million against 12 companies for allegedly failing to control erosion and manage storm water at nine construction sites in the metro area.
Target Corp., Richmond American Homes and companies that built Colorado Mills and FlatIron Crossing shopping malls are among the firms cited by the EPA. Nine of the 12 companies are Colorado- based.
The EPA said the companies failed to obtain storm water permits, put in place storm water management plans, control sediment runoff or inspect their construction sites for such problems. Regulators say storm water flowing off construction sites is an environmental hazard because the sediment it carries clogs rivers and buries river-bottom habitat for fish and bugs. "Everybody's starting to look at this as a place we need to (pay) a little bit more attention," said Diane Sipe, an enforcement director for EPA's regional office in Denver. The $928,500 in proposed fines against builders and property owners range from $48,000 for Westwoods Development Co. related to construction of Westwoods Center in Arvada to $137,000 for Miller Weingarten Realty and Adolfson & Peterson Construction of Minnesota, related to building the Aurora Town Center.
The EPA frequently settles for less than the initial penalty proposal. Though state and federal environmental officials began requiring construction sites to manage sediment 10 years ago, many builders still aren't complying, the agency said. In 1999, less than one-third of construction projects had storm water permits, according to the EPA. State and federal regulators have only recently started enforcing laws related to controlling storm water flows. In the most significant action so far, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment cited T-REX contractors in May for at least 50 alleged violations relating to erosion control along the 19-mile highway reconstruction project in the southeast metro area. State officials say the latest round of actions was handled by EPA because so many sites needed inspection and staffing levels at the health department weren't sufficient to handle the load.
But Howard Roitman, director of environmental programs for the health department, said the state is ramping up training and staffing to take over the work. "We would prefer to do all aspects of the program, and we're moving toward that," Roitman said. Other firms cited by the EPA include Roche Constructors, Saddle Rock Marketplace, Village Homes, JDN Intermountain Holdings, Midcities Enterprises, Coalton Acres and The Mills Corp.
Indian plans to divert vast quantities of water from major rivers, including the Ganges and Brahmaputra, threaten the livelihoods of more than 100-million people downstream in Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi government fears. Ministers are so concerned that they are considering appealing to the United Nations to redraft international law on water sharing. The ambitious Indian plans to link major rivers flowing from the Himalayas and divert them south to drought-prone areas are still on the drawing board, but Bangladeshi government scientists estimated that even a 10% to 20% reduction in the water flow to the country could dry out great areas for much of the year.
More than 80% of Bangladesh's 20-million small farmers grow rice and depend on water that has flowed through India. "The idea of linking these rivers is very dangerous. It could affect the whole of Bangladesh and be disastrous," said Hafiz Ahmad, the water resources minister. "The north of Bangladesh is already drying out after the Ganges was dammed by India in 1976. Now India is planning to do the same on [many of] the 53 other rivers that enter the country via India. Bangladesh depends completely on water." The minister said the government had protested to India but had so far not had any response. "Without this water we cannot survive," he said. "If [rice] production falls then we would not know how to survive. We want no kind of war, but international law on sharing water is unsure and we would request the UN to frame a new law. It would be a last resort."
The Indian government is preparing to seek international funds for its giant river-linking project, intended to divert water from the north of the country to drought-prone southern and eastern states. Up to one third of the flow of the Brahmaputra and other rivers could be diverted to southern Indian rivers to provide 173-billion cubic metres of water a year, supplying millions of people in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka states with more reliable drinking and irrigation water. But the plan -- which could cost between £44-billion and £125-billion and take at least 14 years to implement, making it potentially the largest and most expensive water project in the world -- would redraw the subcontinent's hydrological map with immense ecological and social consequences.
It involves building hundreds of reservoirs and digging more than 960 kilometres of canals. Preliminary estimates by environment groups suggest that more than 4 800 square kilometres of land could be flooded and three million people forced off their land. India's national water development agency, which is backing the scheme, has said it will divert enough water to irrigate 216 000 square kilometres of farmland and produce 34 000 megawatts of hydroelectricity. However, much of the electricity would be needed to pump the water around. "This could trigger a long-term disaster on the subcontinent and trigger bloodshed in the region," said Shashanka Saadi, of Action Aid Bangladesh.
Bangladesh already knows the consequences of India restricting its water. The Farakka barrage, built across the Ganges about 17 kilometres from the Bangladeshi border in 1974, had at certain times of the year reduced by half the water that once flowed via the Ganges into Bangladesh, said Mr Ahmad. "Great parts are turning into a desert, rivers have lost their navigability, salt water is intruding into farming areas. You can walk across the river Gori at some times of the year," said the minister. Although the Indian and Bangladeshi governments have a water sharing agreement for the Ganges, there are none for the other 53 rivers that cross the border. Bangladeshi water engineers say that Indian barrages, canals, reservoirs and irrigation schemes are slowly strangling the country and are stopping its development.
Bangladesh, which is too flat for major reservoirs, says if India goes ahead with its schemes, it may have to build a network of expensive canals to irrigate large areas now fed naturally by the Brahmaputra. "It would cost a huge amount of money, but we may need it to survive," said Mukhles uz Zaman, the director general of the Bangladesh water development board. "At the moment there is just about enough water for everyone, but the Indian plans could be disastrous. They would have catastrophic effects on Bangladesh's rice fields." One of the most serious consequences of India's continuing search for irrigation water is expected to be the further drying out of the Sunderbans, the world's largest coastal forest, a world heritage site shared by India and Bangladesh and vital for fish. "The forest needs fresh water to survive. Because of the Farakka dam fresh water is not reaching there and the rivers are silting up rapidly. The trees are dying" said Zaman.
Local people say the Farakka barrage has already changed millions of people's lives. "In eight to 10 years I believe that most of the Sunderbans will be silted up. The rivers flow far less than before the barrage was built, and it is getting worse every year," says Humayun Kabir, of Noapara, where a large river is now a small backwater and 6 metres of silt has been deposited across thousands of hectares. "These new Indian plans would finish the whole area."
DEPUTY Minister of Agriculture Paul Smit has called on agricultural producers to employ more stringent water usage methods to ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of the industry. Addressing members of the horticultural industry in Windhoek yesterday, Smit said a scarcity of water rather than a shortage of land was hampering the growth of the agricultural industry. The gathering of local producers and other industry players will discuss a new marketing strategy - the 'Green Scheme' - which seeks to increase local food production and decrease dependency on imports. In recent months local farmers have increased import substitution from 10 to 14 per cent, but the Namibia Agronomic Board says more needs to be done to produce the country's required food crops. The Green Scheme, which was drawn up by consultants, also suggests marketing ploys for products locally and internationally.
Calling for more responsibility on the part of producers, Smit said he would not like to see Government having to implement policies to regulate their water usage. He said flood and sprinkle irrigation using underground resources and surface dams should be scrapped. Smit stressed the role agriculture needs to play in the realisation of the country's development plan, Vision 2030. "What we need to do is build a strong middle class and not a system where the rich become richer and the poor, poorer". He said the sector has to strike a balance between protecting farmers and protecting consumers, so that the nation can be fed and clothed at affordable prices. While Government will continue to assist in developing bulk infrastructure such as dams and pipelines, Smit says it is up to the private sector to conduct on-land training and come up with ploys to market their produce better. In recent months the National Horticulture Task Team has feverishly worked on increasing information among producers about the industry's current production levels and the goals it needs to reach through various electronic databases accessible at several of the main towns throughout the country.
WASHINGTON, DC, July 23, 2003 (ENS) - The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today voted for a measure to require peer review of U.S. Army Corps of Engineer civil works projects as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2003. Army Corps projects have historically been controversial and are frequently the bane of conservationists, who contend environmental oversight of the agency is often lacking. The measure approved today as part of the Water Resources Development Act would establish mandatory peer review mandatory for projects estimated to cost $5 million or more. It does, however, contain a slew of exemptions that can be made by the agency chief, including an exemption if the Chief of Engineers determines a project is not controversial or has no substantial adverse impact on fish or wildlife species.
Still, environmentalists hailed the move as an important step in the right direction. "While we believe the independent review provisions adopted today need to be substantially strengthened, it is a major milestone in the campaign to reform the Corps that, for the first time, a Congressional committee has acted on the well demonstrated need for independent review of the Corps' civil works projects," said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for the environmental law firm Earthjustice. In recent years, two National Academy of Sciences panels and the Army Inspector General have concluded that the Corps has an institutional bias for approving large and environmentally damaging navigation, flood control and other types water resources projects, and that its project planning process lacks adequate environmental safeguards. "Corps civil works projects have been responsible for damaging many of the nation's most important rivers and other waters, destroying wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat, and reducing recreational opportunities," said Mulhern. "These abuses must be stopped, and today's committee action shows that Congress recognizes it is high time to address these problems and restore some integrity to the Corps' civil works program." Today's vote comes as the Army Corps is mired in a legal battle over its management of water flows on the Missouri River. The bill will now move to the full House.
Integrated Regional Information Networks
Ethiopia is launching a major study on harnessing the potential of the Awash river basin - which is home to more than 10 million people. The country was granted US $2.6 million by the African Development Fund (ADF) on Tuesday to help it tackle the problems of annual flooding and water management in the area.
The funding came as the Awash river - the longest in the country at 1,200 kilometres - burst its banks, causing severe flooding and leaving around 3,000 people homeless. Such floods - which usually happen between June and August - cause immeasurable damage to agricultural land and infrastructure as well as leaving hundreds homeless. The government estimates that damage of around US $75,000 is caused to farmland each year before the river eventually flows into salt lakes near the Djibouti border. In 1999, the flooding was so severe that the military was called in to help, using helicopters to rescue survivors and help relocate them.
Under the study the government aims to draw up schemes for flood control to protect property in the fertile region, and develop an early warning system. The regional government is also looking at using the area as a resettlement site for nomadic Afar pastoralists who inhabit the region. The ADF said in a statement from Tunis that harnessing the 111,000 square-kilometre river basin could "enhance food security, employment, and reduce poverty". It added: "The demand for natural resources by the fast growing population remains a major challenge to effective agricultural and forestland management. "The high pressure on forest resources in particular, has led to the exploitation of fragile watersheds and ecosystems that has resulted in massive loss of plant and animal biodiversity."
A much-needed national water policy would cost Australian governments about $2.5 billion over the next 10 years, two opposing lobby groups agreed. The National Famers' Federation (NFF) and Australian Conservation Council (ACF) have reached a historic agreement on principles to ensure the needs of water users and the environment are both met. NFF president Peter Corish and ACF president Peter Garrett said both the federal and state governments must commit an estimated $250 million a year for 10 years to implement the total cost of the agreement's initiatives. The statement identifies key actions which will ensure the long-term vision meets the needs of the environment, industries, urban and rural communities.
Among the principles, the groups want the adoption of a national framework of guaranteed, tradeable water rights with strong safeguards for river and landscape health, as well as a 10-15 year plan to ensure river health and sustainable water use, particularly within the Murray River.
They also want a national heritage rivers reserve system to protect rivers with high conservation values.
Mr Garrett said the time had come for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to adopt a national water policy. "They've got to agree on a national plan, they've got to sort out questions of entitlements and water access, they've got to provide water for river health, they've got to set aside sufficient funds ... and if they do that, and no more, then they'll have done their job," he told reporters. Mr Corish added that COAG must establish a framework that would encourage farmers in the long-term to be willing participants in environmental reform. "We want to be good environmental managers but we can't carry the cost of reform on our shoulders," he said. "So a framework that gives us permission to access rights and provides a very clear and transparent process (for change) ... is what's' required." Mr Garrett said he did not believe either side had compromised their needs, rather they had broadened their understanding of what each group needed out of discussions about water. "That's one of the healthy things about this particular relationship, that we've maintained very strongly the positions we brought into the discussions but we've just opened up our knowledge and understanding about what the other constituencies are dealing with," he said. "I think it's good for a conservation organisation to be able to see widely and think how the sort of things it's talking about affect the community, and we brought that wider sensitivity into this discussion."
East African Standard (Nairobi)
Members passed a Motion for the withdrawal of Sh1.9 billion from the Consolidated Fund to run the Water Ministry this fiscal year. Water Resources and Development Minister, Martha Karua, said priority will be given to existing projects before new ones are started. She said the Water Apportionment Board will soon be replaced with the Water Regulatory Advisory Board to regulate water management. She said services will be run by independent bodies appointed by local authorities. The Minister, who was roundly praised by Members for the manner she had "steered the ministry" said communal bodies will also be started to manage water resources. Mathioya MP Joseph Kamotho said water resources were vital and that bodies such as the Kenya Power and Lighting (KPLC) and Telkom Kenya should contribute to a fund to safeguard the environment. Education Assistant Minister, Kilemi Mwiria, said those building houses should harvest rain water to alleviate shortages and increase supply. Kilome MP, John Mutiso said water tariffs should be reviewed. Environment Assistant Minister Wangari Mathai said people living near rivers, forests and water catchment areas should be moved and compensated.
SAO TOME, July 22 (Reuters) - The women at the public wash basins in Sao Marcal would gladly trade all the oil in the Gulf of Guinea for running water in their towns on impoverished Sao Tome and Principe's coast. They have little time for news of last week's coup on the tiny West African island nation, and even less for dreams of oil wealth -- dreams that some analysts say fuelled the bloodless military takeover.
"What do I think of the coup? I think I walk three hours every day to wash clothes and fill up all the buckets and bottles I can carry with water and then walk back home. The coup isn't going to change any of that," said Elisa, 23, a mother of two who says she was never given a surname. Soldiers seized the country in a pre-dawn putsch last Wednesday, drawing condemnation from Africa and the United States, which sees West African crude as a way to reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern supplies.
For many of the 170,000 people on this potentially oil-rich archipelago, the coup is just a bulletin on the radio and little notice is given as the military junta and mediators struggle to bring a quick end to the takeover. With an average annual income of $280 a year, less than $1 a day, the small former Portuguese colony is one of the poorest countries in the world. Some hope that a potential oil boom could drag the islands from obscure poverty into the elite club of oil nations. But in hard-to-reach villages in the countryside, this seems like a pipe dream -- coup or no coup.
OIL NO GOOD FOR THE POOR
Just a few kilometres past the colonial-era houses and broad leafy streets of the capital, the road disintegrates into broken gravel and running water dries up. In Sao Marcal, Elisa washes clothes in ribbed cement basins with other women, babies tied to their backs, who hoist full buckets on their heads. The women are from the coastal towns of Pantufo and Praia Melao, reached by crumbling roads without lighting or public transport.
There are four kinds of malaria and not a single health clinic in Praia Melao, a small town populated by Angolares, descendants of slaves from Angola who reputedly survived a shipwreck in the 16th century and are now fishermen. They have little faith in the government or the military, or the potentially large oil reserves firing the imagination of many inside and outside of Sao Tome.
Oil industry officials hope to find six to 11 billion barrels of crude and produce up to a million barrels a day in a decade from waters shared by Nigeria and Sao Tome. But in Praia Melao where dozens of hand-carved fishing canoes are pulled up on the beach, some think the oil has only made the plight of poor people even worse. "Sao Tome has been talking about oil for a long time, what has it brought us? Water or jobs or a health clinic? No, just war on top of the misery we already had," said Nando, a wrinkled fisherman with just a few teeth. Coup leaders have demanded a new government to combat poverty on Sao Tome and ensure that when the oil profits start rolling in everyone benefits. But Nando, for one, does not believe the promises. "We are very bad off in Sao Tome. Everyone is looking out for themselves. I guarantee you, no matter who wins in this coup, or how much oil they find, Praia Melao will be exactly the same in 10 years," Nando said.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday brushed off neighboring Singapore's protest over his government's scathing media campaign accusing the city-state of spreading misconceptions about a long-standing water dispute. Local newspapers and the Asian Wall Street Journal have been carrying full-page, government-paid advertisements rejecting Singapore's claim, made in a booklet, that Malaysia was unreasonable in demanding an increase in the price of water it supplies to Singapore.
The advertisements published Thursday accused Singapore of having "gone around the world" claiming that Malaysia had repeatedly agreed to a new price of water and then "shifted the goal posts." "All points have never been agreed," the advertisement placed by Malaysia's National Economic Action Council read. "No agreement has been signed by the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore." The Singapore Foreign Ministry said the advertisements, which will run until Sunday, ignored crucial facts and were a rehash of old arguments. Speaking to reporters upon returning from a three-day visit to Ukraine, Mahathir defended the advertisements and said Malaysia needed to make its arguments known to the public. "Many people don't know, so it must be new to a lot of people," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama. "People should know the facts, that's all."
The advertisements were in response to the Singaporean booklet, titled, Water talks? If only it could, which was released in March and accuses Malaysia of changing its stance in negotiations over issues such as water prices, border crossing locations, and military airspace. Malaysia and Singapore have a touchy relationship despite close economic and cultural ties. The former British colonies were united in 1963 but split amid bitter discord two years later. Their usually cordial ties sometimes turn testy over persistent disagreements.
Malaysia wants to renegotiate two agreements dating back to the 1920s, freezing the price of water it supplies to Singapore at 3 Malaysian sen (US$0.01) per 4,540 liters (1,200 U.S. gallons) of untreated water. Malaysia says the price is now ridiculously low. But Singapore, which relies on its neighbor for half its water needs, said Malaysia missed its chance to review prices in the mid-1980s. The two agreements expire in 2011 and 2061.
Paris – In the face of looming water shortages, which threaten to affect billions of the earth’s inhabitants by mid-century, UNESCO is calling for a radical review and reform of water education programmes and for a speedy doubling in the number of water professionals around the world. This call is contained in a speech that the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, will deliver on Thursday July 17 at the new UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands. According to a state-of-the-issue document*, published last March to mark the International Year of Fresh Water, by a coalition of 23 United Nations agencies and programmes, between two and seven billion people will face water scarcity by 2050, depending on factors like population and policy choices.
But trained professionals and competent policy makers aware of the linkages between water, poverty, health, development and, indeed, survival, are sorely lacking. Long-established as a world leader in water education, the IHE took on an international status and mandate when it became part of UNESCO in March of this year. It is expected to become the hub of a global network of UNESCO-related regional centres, UNESCO Chairs, networks and partnerships in water education and capacity building. More than 12,000 students from 120 countries have graduated from the IHE since it was founded in 1957.
HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, President of the Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations (AGFUND) will also be participating in the event in his capacity as UNESCO Special Envoy for Water, and will deliver a special address in which he is expected to announce the establishment of a multi-million dollar AGFUND-UNESCO Fund to support projects for the preservation and development of fresh water resources.
Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)
The countries which share the Limpopo basin, namely Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, are advancing towards the establishment of a commission to manage the entire watercourse.
Senior officials from the four countries met in Maputo on Tuesday and Wednesday and agreed that the agreement to set up the Limpopo Watercourse Commission should be signed before the end of the year.
According to a joint press release issued at the end of the meeting, it was held "in the spirit of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Protocol on Shared Watercourses, as well as the willingness of the member states to implement development and poverty alleviation initiatives, and ensure a sustainable and integrated management of the Limpopo watercourse".
The meeting approved the terms of a reference for a Limpopo basin study, which is to gather information on the current use of the Limpopo water resources, and the future demands that will be put upon them. This study is to form the basis for agreements on drought and flood management, sharing of water among riparian states, transboundary impacts, information exchange and water quality. The officials also agreed "that a donor meeting should be held to present the Limpopo River Basin Study, and mobilise financial resources".
African Church Information Service
The issue of whether Tanzania's border lies inside Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa, continues to emerge during meetings of leaders of Malawi and Tanzania. At a recent meeting between Presidents Bakili Muluzi and Benjamin Mkapa of Malawi and Tanzania respectively, the two were at pains to deny existence of problems associated with use of the waters of the lake and of River Songwe on the border between the two countries. Answering a question at a press conference here on July 7, President Muluzi said the issue about how to use the waters was not a big problem as was being portrayed. "It is not controversial as you put it...It affects our people, but I think, we can talk about it," he maintained. Muluzi explained that there have been several agreements between the two countries on the use of the lake and the river.
Commenting on the matter, President Mkapa pointed out that the decision to step up efforts to integrate the economies of Malawi and Tanzania, including utilisation of the common waters, would render the problem redundant. Lake Malawi, as it is known in Malawi, or Lake Nyasa according to Tanzanians, is seen by Malawians to be wholly situated on their soil, with its northern shores barely touching Tanzania. But Tanzanians maintain that their border with Malawi is somewhere inside the lake. River Songwe, which largely runs along the border between the two countries, but has had its waters changing course and causing confusion among communities residing along its banks, has become another controversial water body between the two states. In a joint communiqu_eleased at the end of the meeting, the two leaders expressed desire to co-operate closely also on Songwe river stabilisation project.
Angola's Cabinet Council Standing Commission today in Luanda approved the Benguela's Integrated Water Supply Project designed to cater for the cities of Benguela, Lobito, Baia Farat and Catumbela. The minister of energy and water, Botelho de Vasconcelos, told journalists he submitted to the Standing Commission the bill in terms of water production, intervention on the netwworks of distribution, organisation and term for execution of the project. "Now we need to set the subsequent steps that are the preparation of the contracts, discussion with potential contractors and then have the project on the move in line with its conception", he said. Botelho Vasconcelos explained that he provided to the Standing Commission an information on the evolution of the Capanda hydro-electric project. According to him, "it is a project that concerns all the society in terms of expectations and at the moment all parties involved are required to be fully engaged so the project reaches the success expected and initially predicted".
On the supply of water and power to Luanda, the minister explained that the capital city's distribution networks are in need of a deep intervention. He further stated that some investments have been approved by the Government and appealed for the comprehension of the population as, he added, the Government is working towards improvements.
Hyderabad , July 25- THE image of Hussainsagar as a huge lake of highly polluted water will be changed soon if a Rs 200-crore proposal by the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) gets the go-ahead from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). As part of its efforts to clean up the lakes in the State capital, HUDA is going to showcase the action plan at a two-day seminar beginning on Saturday in New Delhi. The `Project Formulation' seminar will have presentations on 14 different projects from across the country. "We are seeking a three-way co-operation from the Japanese agency.
While asking for sharing of technical expertise and tools for capacity building, we will propose to facilitate visits by experts from both sides. The third component will be financial assistance," Mr K Bhoopal Reddy, Executive Director (Urban Forestry), HUDA, told Business Line.
Mr Reddy will make a presentation on the `Conservation and management of Hussainsagar' at the seminar.
"The presentation is a follow-up of a recent visit by JICA's Senior Advisor (Water, Waste and Environment), Dr Yoshida Mitsuo, to the city. He attended an international workshop on urban lakes and visited some lake projects being undertaken by HUDA." Mr Reddy said that his presentation would be followed by visits by Japanese teams to critically analyse the issue. "The restoration will help improve the water quality in the lake, besides increasing biodiversity. While expanding scope for tourism, it will perk up groundwater quality in the city. It also reduces huge water treatment costs," he said, referring to the report submitted on the subject by Dr R. Venkataraman, an environmental engineering consultant. Meanwhile, HUDA is taking up the seventh `One-day-one-lakh plantations' on July 31. The venue is Nomula village in the reserve forest area near Ibrahimpatnam. The earlier programmes were taken up at Hakipet, Ramachandrapuram and HMT (Balanagar). "A range of 15-36 species were used with a survival rate of 95-98 per cent," a HUDA official said.
Nakheel, the developers of Dubai's iconic offshore island development called The Palm, announced today that they have signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations University – International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU/INWEH). At the signing of the agreement between Nakheel and United Nations University – International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU/INWEH) was Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Nakheel and Dr Ralph Daley, Director UNU/INWEH. The agreement provides an umbrella under which both Nakheel and UNU/INWEH shall undertake a series of specialized projects, for monitoring and enhancement of the marine environment adjacent to The Palm, as well as education activities linked to it.
The UNU/INWEH's core global mission is to contribute to the resolution of global water issues relating to environment and human health, through education, training research and dissemination of information. Commenting on the agreement, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Nakheel said, "We have partnered with this UN Agency due to their proven expertise in coastal zone management. Nakheel is dedicated to enhancing the environment of The Palm project and is taking every opportunity to protect its diverse marine life, whilst at the same time minimizing the environmental impact of its execution".
At the signing ceremony Dr Ralph Daley, Director UNU/INWEH expressed his enthusiasm about being involved with the extraordinary Palm project and said, "The program of activities we will undertake with The Palm in Dubai includes an ongoing monitoring program for the marine waters adjacent to the development; and an onsite demonstration project on habitat and fisheries enhancement."
In addition to UNU/INWEH's dedicated Palm activities, they will also collaborate with The Palm management team to organize a triennial UNU-led conference on Marine Coastal Zone Management. This conference is expected not only to bring global visibility to Dubai but also position Dubai as a focal point to promote the protection of the world's marine near shore resources.
The Palm has appointed a number of internationally recognized experts both internally and as consultants to carry out a range of activities in the area of bioresource management and environmental engineering. One such appointment is the Dubai-based International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) that was announced last month.
The ICBA will implement practices that enhance the conservation and management of natural resources for the landscaping and greenery components of the island projects. In total there will be two Palm islands, the first is The Palm, Jumeirah, which is expected to open towards the end of 2005 and the second is The Palm, Jebel Ali which is expected to open towards the end of 2007. Each island will create a large number of residential, leisure and entertainment opportunities all within a unique and inspiring setting.
Developers of The Palm project are extensively investing in projects that ensure environmental protection, conservation, ecosystem enhancement and bioresource sustainability.
WASHINGTON — From snakehead fish in Maryland to zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, invasions by foreign species are a growing problem. To better understand and control the invaders, the government is opening a new center to study these species, and U.S. and foreign researchers are working together to share data. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it is establishing a new National Center for Research on Aquatic Invasive Species in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Each year, aquatic invasive species wreak billions of dollars in damages on the U.S. economy, much of which is passed on to the consumer," said NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher.
Coastal waters worldwide are increasingly becoming infested with foreign species that proliferate because they lack predators that kept them in check at home. Often the newcomers are discharged in the ballast water of ships. The new NOAA center will coordinate research efforts on invasive species and will work with other agencies. Meanwhile, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md., announced it has formed a partnership with CSIRO Marine Research in Hobart, Australia.
The two groups will combine their databases of invasive species, creating a global inventory to help scientists and managers cope with the problem. The two database systems provide extensive information about hundreds of marine species, said Greg Ruiz, director of the Smithsonian's Marine Invasions Research Laboratory.
Among the invasive species causing problems:
By combining data from the Smithsonian and CSIRO — Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization — researchers can learn more about species that have already threatened their waters and others that may pose potential threats.
The Smithsonian database, called NEMESIS (national exotic marine and estuarine information system), and its Australian counterpart summarize the invasion history, distribution, biology, ecology, and impacts of invaders. Ruiz said the Smithsonian wants to add other partners to the effort, including museums, government agencies, universities, and other organizations that maintain databases on nonnative species. NOAA's center for research on aquatic invasive species will be located at the agency's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, which has been studying invasive species for 14 years. Stephen Brandt, research lab director, said the center will establish regional coordinators in six major aquatic coastal regions around the country.
Lautenbacher said Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans has indicated it plans to develop a similar Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and expressed the desire to have the two centers work together.
WASHINGTON, July 24 (AScribe Newswire) -- More than 5 000 foresters, scientists, members of forest-based communities and others interested in forests from over 160 countries are expected to participate in the XII World Forestry Congress (Quebec City, 21-28 September 2003-organized by Canada in collaboration with FAO. Discussions will be based on the Congress theme Forests, Source of Life. "Nations must manage their forests in a sustainable way so that present generations can enjoy the benefits of the planet's forest resources while preserving them to meet the needs of future generations," FAO Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department, Mr M. Hosny El-Lakany said today.
Commenting on the World Forestry Congress, Mr El-Lakany indicated that FAO will contribute 37 voluntary papers to underline the importance of forests for mankind and to challenge the world community to do more in areas where forests play a fundamental role. FAO contribution tackles various issues ranging from assessment and management of forest resources to forestry and climate change, forestry trends in the next 50 years, the impact of deforestation, forest fire management, forest-based poverty reduction and trade opportunities for non-wood products. The World Forestry Congress, which is hosted every six years by a different FAO Member State, provides a forum on forest management, conservation and development. It is the largest and most important international meeting of the world's forestry sector. Its final non-binding recommendations are addressed to governments, international organizations, scientific bodies, forest owners and other interested institutions or individuals.
FORESTS AND PEOPLE
Participants will address the many expectations that people place on forests and will focus on how different socio-cultural values influence the way forests are perceived and managed, FAO says. It will help to improve harmony between people and forests. They will examine the state of the world's forests and their capacity to provide a wide range of goods and services. Main issues include:
In Quebec, FAO will stress the importance of three new thrusts in its program: forests and water, forests and poverty/food insecurity alleviation and forests and climate change. With water scarcity increasingly recognized, FAO is giving priority to the role of forests in conservation and sustainable use of water resources. Forests and forested watersheds have an essential role in sustaining and protecting water supplies.
Well-managed forests have a direct impact on the quality of water yields from watersheds. They also contribute to soil erosion control and consequently to reducing the levels of sediments downstream, according to FAO. “We are asking forest scientists to demonstrate more clearly the role of forests in influencing water balances. At the same time, we are asking foresters to make water management a prominent feature of their forest plans," said R. Michael Martin, FAO Forestry Department Director of Policy and Information. Forests, through storing carbon in their wood and in the soil, play an important carbon sink function, countering climate change. Healthy and well-managed forests are essential to the global climate balance.
Regarding poverty and food insecurity alleviation, FAO is drawing attention to the 840 million food insecure and the role of forests in meeting some of their essential needs. "FAO is challenging foresters to commit themselves to the wide campaign against hunger launched at the 1996 World Food Summit through better integration of tree resources in agriculture and a focus on assistance to small enterprise and farmers to produce marketable products to build income," Mr. Martin also said.
Regarding international trade, developing countries are still waiting to benefit fully from the array of international agreements in general and international trade in forest products in particular. FAO hopes that the Quebec City gathering will reap fruits not only with regard to sustainable forest management but also to a greater say and role of the poor in forest decisions. In developing countries, wood-based fuels are the dominant source of energy for more than 2 billion poor people. But wood is not the only resource taken from forests. In those countries, about 80 percent of the people use non-wood forest products for health and nutritional needs and for income. "Making sure that forests are well managed today so that they can continue to provide essential goods and services in the future is the goal of FAO," underlined Mr. El-Lakany, head of the FAO Forestry Department.
"The Environmental impairment caused by human beings living in the entire world is a similar disaster to the damage caused to human lives through terrorism. As such, while struggling to eradicate terrorism worldwide it is essential to pay special attention towards environmental protection to secure human lives. Minister of Mass Communication Imthiaz Bakeer Markar said. He was speaking after opening the art exhibition 'Towards Beautiful Environment' organised by the "Soka Gakkai, Buddhist Association at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) Colombo, on Tuesday. The Minister said that enhancement of technology resulting in globalisation and more developed procedure has caused environmental impairment "in such circumstances time has come to make changes in the activities carried out without paying attention towards the minimum facilities that should exist to have human lives", Markar said.
The small countries of the world like Sri lanka have faced several problems with regard to terrorism similar to the most powerful countries like United States of America. Thousands of lives are destroyed by this terrorism. However, it has caused a massive impairment to the environment as a result of human activities.
The world leaders identified this situation at the Environmental Summit held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. The impairment caused to the environment due to the improper behaviour of the humanity, is a massive harm than what is caused by terrorism or war throughout the world. Thousands of properties and hundreds of lives were destroyed instantly by the flood and earthslips that occurred recently.
So what is the difference between this and the destruction caused by the terrorist bomb? In such a circumstance, now is the time to pay a special attention towards the protection of the environment. This cannot be done only by one Ministry or one organisation. The protection of the environment is a responsibility of all human beings. As such, the present Government has paid special attention on protecting the environment, which is under threat. Fifty years ago, there was 48% of forest cover in our country and it has been reduced upto 20% at present. If it is reduced upto 10% our country will have frequent earthslips. Then there was a 85% of water level of the earth and, it has been reduced to 25% at present. In an era, where development of the country has become a challenge for the protection of the environment, it is essential to have a balance between the development of the country and the protection of the environment.
'Therefore, now is the time to have a change in the attitude and these students those who are to bear the responsibility of the future, are the most suitable category to make an influence in this regard. These students should function as an organisation which emphasises the significance of the protection of the environment, to the elders. The opportunity to protect the environment for a better world could only be had by such procedures', Minister Markar said. Minister of Human Resources Development, Education and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku and Prof. Chandrasiri Palliyaguru of the Kelaniya University were present. The message of Daisaku-Ikeida, Chairman of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist Association was read on this occasion. This exhibition consists of environmental arts of children and will be held till July 12 at the BMICH.
New Delhi, July 26. (UNI): The Centre has decided to release funds for four major irrigation projects in drought-hit Orissa, Minister for Water Resources Arjun Charan Sethi has said. In a letter to Ram Chandra Khuntia, Rajya Sabha member from Orissa, Mr Sethi said the Bhimkund Irrigation project on river Baitarani at Rajnagar in Keonjhar district will irrigate 30,000 hectares of land. The survey of the project was under preparation. It would be submitted to the Central Water Commission (CWC) for approval as soon as the report was received said. The Anandpur Barrage Project, costing Rs 482 crore, in Keonjhar had been submitted for clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Jokadia Irrigation project on Kharsuan river would irrigate about 17,600 hactares of land after its completion. The Rengali Left Canal system would irrigate a major area in Jajpur district. The project was funded by the World Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Sethi said in the letter.
The Ministry of Water Lands and Environment has handed over 55 computers and printers worth $100,000 to district water officials. Minister of State for Water Ms Maria Mutagamba, said the computers would enhance service delivery. They were donated by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
She said the donation is a component of several items and services, already provided by donors.
Services rendered by various donors include training, tools and equipment to enhance water and sanitation programmes.
The Director of Water Directorate, Mr P. Kahangire said computerisation would enhance analysis and alleviate implementation constraints at the district level. The Principal Engineer at the Directorate, Austin Tushabe, said a special computer package Arc-view, would enable district staff accomplish a lot. They would produce maps showing water sources, location, and distribution, he said.
RALCO, Chile - Four elderly Pehuenche Indian women are blocking completion of a $570 million hydroelectric dam at Ralco in southern Chile, saying it would flood sacred land and destroy their way of life.
For six years the women have rejected offers of money - up to $1.1 million - and land in exchange for their 103 acres (53 hectares) on the banks of the Bio Bio River that Chile's Endesa END.SN EOC.N power company needs to finish its giant power station project. "They're not going to flood my land ... I'll only leave here when I'm dead," declared 78-year-old Berta Quintreman in front of her mud-hut home in the densely forested Bio Bio Valley some 370 miles (600 km) south of Santiago.
Graffiti on a decrepit bus shelter outside her home reads, "Endesa, you won't remove us even for a sack of gold." Eighty-nine of the 93 Pehuenche families affected by Ralco have already accepted compensation and agreed to move to new properties up to 37 miles (60 km) away. The Chilean government and Endesa, which is controlled by Spain's Endesa ELE.MC , say the 540-megawatt dam, which is almost 90 percent complete, is crucial to meet Chile's energy needs and help economic growth. However Indians and environmentalists have fought the project in court, saying it would destroy unique forests and endangered wildlife as well as ancient cemeteries, religious ceremonial grounds and Pehuenche communities. Endesa aims to have the dam up and running by mid-2004 but the four women and their lawyers vow to fight to the end. Nobody knows when - or how - the dispute will end. "This is the worst thing that could happen for the power generating system, this indecision over whether or not they will be able to flood the area," said Maria Isabel Gonzalez, former director of the government's energy commission from 1994 to 2000.
PINE NUTS AND MONKEY PUZZLE TREES
The Pehuenche get their name from the pine nuts which they gather from the "pehuen", or ancient monkey puzzle trees native to the Andean highlands. They belong to Chile's largest indigenous group, the Mapuche, which makes up 90 percent of the 692,000 indigenous people in Chile. Pehuenche are believed to have inhabited the Bio Bio Valley, dotted with snow-capped volcanoes, since 1200. The Mapuche have long clashed with forestry companies over land claims but the Ralco dispute united Indians, human rights groups and environmentalists alike. Endesa insists the country's 1982 Electricity Law allows expropriation of private property to provide energy for the public good regardless of whether it is indigenous land.
However the 1993 Indigenous Law states land owned by native peoples cannot be sold without the owners' consent.
"This land is sacred. It cannot be bought with money," said Quintreman in her native tongue, wearing a colored head scarf half-covering her wrinkled brown forehead. Endesa offered $1.1 million plus land to the four hold outs, who have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate much higher compensation. Though the government has said the Ralco project will go ahead and the Pehuenche removed from their homes by force if necessary, the Indians believe they could be saved by a pending court ruling on whether the 1997 environmental impact study that paved the way for the dam was valid or not. If the court were to rule the study invalid, Endesa may have to tear apart everything it has built so far of the dam. The company said last month that if this were to happen it would sue the government for the $570 million it has invested.
THE END OF A WAY OF LIFE
The Pehuenche opposing Ralco say the alternative plots offered by Endesa are either too isolated in winter or not suitable for farming. Endesa says the Pehuenche are better off than before as the company has committed to 10 years of financial support, including new houses, electrification, school buses, technical farming assistance and promotion of the indigenous culture. "We work with them every day maintaining irrigation systems...advising them on what to plant," said Claudio Sanhueza, director of Ralco's environmental project at Endesa. But for Hilda Huenteao, whose mother Rosario is one of the four women opposing the project, the Pehuenche community has been irrevocably changed since Endesa arrived.
"Since Endesa came people have stopped going to the religious ceremonies...Women have stopped making craftwork because they have got jobs with Endesa," said Huenteao. Huenteao says the Pehuenche believe that if nature is not respected it will avenge itself and adds that some Indians that exchanged their lands have since committed suicide. "That is the punishment for not respecting nature's power. Now they are going to have to live with death," she said.
China's Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest water control project, has begun generating electricity.
The first of the dam's 26 generators to go into operation was connected to the power grid at 0131 local time on Thursday (1831 GMT on Wednesday), 20 days ahead of schedule, Xinhua news agency reported.
The generating unit will supply 12.9 million kWh per day to the power grids in central and east China, the project's vice general manager said. Yang Qing said the unit would have to pass a 30-day trial operation, before beginning commercial production in August. The combined energy of all the dam's 26 generators will eventually generate more than 80 billion kWh of electricity each year.
The Three Gorges dam is unprecedented in both the scale of its construction and the number of people who have been forced to move to make way for the project. By the time it is completed, the water level will reach a depth of 175 metres (574 feet), and create a reservoir which is 600 kilometres (375 miles) long. Many villages and towns - and even some small cities - along the banks of the densely populated Yangtze have already been submerged by the rising waters. More than 600,000 people have been forced to relocate, some as far away as Shanghai, 1,000 km (600 miles) east. About 1.3 million people will eventually have to move.
China's leaders say the country needs the 180bn yuan (US$22bn) dam to produce electricity, as well as control the annual flooding of the Yangtze. But critics are worried about the destruction of dozens of cultural heritage sites. And they say that if the dam breaks, it would spell disaster for those living down-river. Many environmentalists have also warned about the danger of soil erosion, as well as pollution caused by trapped sewage and industrial waste.
OneWorld South Asia
The first phase of the Rashtriya Jal Chetna Yatra, (National Water Awareness March) an initiative of Jal Biradri (Water Brotherhood) chief and well-known water conservationist, Rajendra Singh, came to end recently. To be completed in four phases, the yatra (March) is an effort to raise national awareness water-related issues. The two main issues facing the country are water privatisation and the linking of rivers as well as the use of traditional water harvesting methods, thus giving the right of ownership of water to the communities rather than a few private firms. They are two sides of the same coin; water should belong to communities as it has traditionally done rather than go into private hands.
The yatra was kicked off on December 23, 2002 from Rajghat, New Delhi. In the past seven months, it has covered the drought and flood affected regions of 17 states. These include parts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharshatra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. In the first phase, the yatra went through 210 across 210 zillas (zones) and 5,000 villages, touching the lives of millions of people. According to Rajendra, they got the best response from the people of Karnataka. The first phase had its share of highs and lows for Rajendra and his team of 7,000 volunteers. What enthused the team most was the interest taken in the yatra by the youth and teachers from across the country.
Besides this, the Sirnath River in Chhattisgarh was handed over to the villagers by Radius Water Limited. Also, as part of the Shramdaan (voluntary effort) initiative, 152 water conservation structures are now functioning smoothly across the country. Addressing a press conference at Jaipur, Rajendra said, "Our most memorable experience has definitely been raising awareness about the ills of water privatisation. And what is more encouraging is the fact that the youth across the different states have sworn never to buy bottled water." Keeping the nature of the task in mind, it was obvious that the yatra would face many hurdles too. Wavering political reactions, protests by private firms and allegations of a link-up with a leading cola giant did not stop Rajendra from continuing with the exercise. The first phase of the march has thrown up many alarming facts. Nearly 40% of the dams in India are located in Maharashtra. Yet, one-third area of the state is without water at the moment. "The only water is in the eyes of the villagers," quips Rajendra.
The condition in the so-called hi-tech states was no better. "I met 30 families in the Mehboob Nagar district of Andhra Pradesh, where members had committed suicide because of water shortage…of course there are other elements like lack of education, health facilities, etc., but water was the main cause there," says Rajendra. He also expressed his grief at the degradation of the Moosi River in the state. "Modern agriculture leads to wastage of resources. The results are not good and, of course, there is a misuse of water. In Andhra Pradesh, the soil is not suited for fertilizers and other chemicals. But for their personal gains, some people have encouraged this technique nevertheless," he adds. However, there is usually a silver lining. For example, the collector of Warangal district of AP, according to Rajendra, refused to allow the use of machinery for agricultural purposes in the area. While in Tamil Nadu, it was found that the state (along with the Latur district, Maharashtra) had the largest "water market" in the country. Apparently, every zilla in the state has some 10 shops selling water. A lot of resources are being pumped into water conservation in Tamil Nadu, but sadly these are for research purposes only. Goa, Kerala and Orissa also were badly off where water is concerned.
"The Hirakud dam in Orissa has been the most non-controversial structure. It irrigates nearly 35 lakh hectares of land in the Cuttack delta. Yet, despite this, the Cuttack-Bhuwaneshwar region was flooded last year," says Rajendra, highlighting the need for better resource management by the society.
Rajendra and his team have been working for water conservation in Rajasthan over the past 19 years. Starting from Gopalpur village in Alwar, they have been able to bring about effective water management through traditional means such as building ponds and small dams in other parts of the state like Jaipur, Sawai Madhavpur, Karolli, Dhosa, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jalore and Pali. As a result, even during the drought of the last 4 years, most of these areas were never short of water. "The Aravari River used to remain dry most of the year. But by building 7,500 small dams, we have made it perennial," he says. Speaking on the issue of linking up of rivers, the Magsaysay Award winner said that joining rivers was 'not auspicious'. "Linkage of rivers is not simple as most of our rivers are polluted. This will be a linking of pollution and of course, of corruption as well," says Rajendra. He has had several meetings with Union minister of state for Environment Suresh Prabhu about the harms of linkage of rivers, but these meetings have produced little results.
Management of water bodies, according to Rajendra, should be left to the local communities. "Drought and flood treatment requires decentralised community driven water management from where the rivers start. It is extremely important to involve society in the exercise." The second phase of the Rashtriya Jal Chetna Yatra begins in mid-July this year whereby it will go from New Delhi to Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, finally culminating in October 2003 at Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. During the second phase, an emphasis will be given to the mountainous regions of the country. The final phase will take the yatra to the north-eastern region of the country, where it will end at Aizwal in June 2004. "I chose to end the yatra at Aizwal because the water problem faced by the north east is different from the rest of the country," says Rajendra. Taking a month long break from the yatra, Rajendra plans to follow up on the work done so far, plan for the forthcoming phases, appraise the other projects and train the volunteers across the country. This fight is not just about water, it is an effort to preserve all our natural resources. These resources belong to the people who have all the rights to own and nurture them, he ends with a hopeful twinkle in his eyes.
Richard Kingsford is the principal research scientist of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Protection of the Paroo heralds hope for the rest of the Murray-Darling system, writes Richard Kingsford.
Water management commands centre stage as Australians debate, during one of our worst droughts, environmental problems and our population. Each of us uses two to five times more water than someone in Asia or Africa. And our rivers are feeling the crunch. The Murray River struggles to reach its mouth; 80 per cent of river red gums in the Lower Murray may die; blue-green algal blooms are increasing; native fish stocks hover around 10 per cent of original levels in the Murray-Darling Basin and at least half our wetlands have disappeared. Increasing salinity promises to make the water of Adelaide undrinkable in 60 years.
The repair bill increases as we grapple with the competing demands of environment and agriculture. One thing is clear: prevention is better than cure.
Last Friday marked a turning point for rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin, as much as saving the Snowy. The premiers of NSW and Queensland signed the Paroo River Agreement on its banks at Hungerford, where a two-metre-high dingo fence separates the states. This agreement effectively protects the last free-flowing river in the Murray-Darling Basin from dams or river diversions. Nowhere else in the world are people protecting whole river systems. We are maturing, growing into our country, understanding its fragility and needs.
What makes the Paroo special? This river starts its 600-kilometre journey in the gorge country of western Queensland, meandering south and spreading its deltaic tentacles into the vast floodplains of NSW, eventually reaching the spectacular string of Paroo overflow lakes, including Peery Lake in the Paroo-Darling National Park. During large floods, such as in 1990, its waters cover nearly 800,000 hectares. It is a magnet for waterbirds. Tiny crustacean eggs hatch in millions. Frogs wait patiently underground for the big wet. And native fish species wriggle down every shallow rivulet. The system explodes into life. Waterbird concentrations and diversity are as spectacular as Kakadu. Tiny migratory wading birds, starved and exhausted by their unimaginable journey from Russia, gorge on the invertebrate soup on offer.
Paroo is probably derived from the Budjiti word for the river, and more than 14,000 years of Aboriginal history pervades it. Today's custodians, the graziers and bee-keepers, have lived on the river for generations, similarly developing a deep affinity for the Paroo. They know their Paroo. They watch its ever-changing patterns.
Why did the Paroo not follow the well-trodden development path of every other river in the Murray-Darling (that is, dam it, constrain the floods with levees, clean out the channels and then divert much of the water to irrigation)? The catalyst for protection of the Paroo was a scientific workshop in the Hungerford hall in 1997, stimulated by proposals in Queensland to irrigate. Water is precious in Paroo country, where rainfall averages only about 300 millimetres a year and the graziers knew of the effects on their grazing friends of dams on the Murray and the Macquarie. Next door, on the Darling, they'd heard how the river sometimes flowed backwards when the pumps turned on. The scientists provided the evidence of the ecological damage.
Conservationists and graziers stood shoulder to shoulder, promising this was to be the last stand. The graziers' sticker said it all: don't pump the Paroo - let's leave this one for our kids. Some may decry the lost opportunity of closing a river to irrigation. What about the potential benefits? The Paroo River will only grow in reputation, nationally and internationally, as a free-flowing river with intact environmental and cultural values. Its sustainable agricultural produce will command a premium. And, best of all, there will be no tab to be picked up by future generations, but a rich dividend. Railways and rivers were the most contentious concerns for federation. The Paroo River Agreement is a great step forward. It dissolves the line dividing the states, consigning tribal animosity to the sporting field where it belongs. Rivers are much more important. There are no second chances for intergenerational equity or sustainable management of our rivers.
The Paroo River is a stunning example of how a partnership between rural and conservation communities, brokered by government, effectively saved the last free-flowing river in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Md Asadullah Khan, a former teacher of physics, is Controller of Examinations, BUET.
Even after the passage of 30 years since the first Summit on World Environment was held in Stockholm in 1972 charting out the first symptoms of ecological crisis the world has hardly made any headway to halt or slowdown the destruction of global environment. And the result has been catastrophic. This year's theme for the World Environment Day: "Water -- two billion people are dying for it" has awakened the conscious citizenry to look for specific solutions to meet the millennium goal. In the backdrop of critical shortage of water in Asia and Africa, the goal is to inspire political and community action and encourage greater global understanding of the need for more responsible water use and conservation.
The problem of water pollution is causing indisputable harm in poor countries. Because populations in poor countries are growing so fast that improvements on water supply have failed to keep up with the growing number of people. Worldwide two billion people still have no access to clean water and water contaminated by sewage is estimated to kill 3.4 million including two million children every year. Water experts have sounded alarm that within next 25 years, half of the world's population could have profound trouble in finding enough fresh water for drinking and irrigation. Currently, as reports reveal, at least 80 countries representing 40 per cent of world's population, are subject to serious water shortages. Condition may get worse in the years to come as population grows and as global warming disrupts rainfall patterns.
Believably, West Asia faces the greatest threat. Over 90 per cent of the region's population is experiencing severe water stress with water consumption exceeding 10 per cent of renewable freshwater resources. Precisely speaking, human water consumption rose six fold in the past century, double the rate of population growth. People now use 54 per cent of the available fresh water and additional demand will further jeopardise all other ecosystems. That only indicates that water scarcity may soon limit economic development, particularly in parts of China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan where supplies are already inadequate to meet the needs of agriculture and industry. Added to this is the problem of pollution caused by fertilizers, silts, sewage and other toxic effluents that have killed lakes and poisoned rivers.
The crisis did not end there. Half of the world's wetlands have been drowned through conversion, diversion and fragmentation of the system resulting into destruction of habitat. Insanitary water which provides a breeding ground for parasites, amoebas and bacteria damages the health of 1.2 billion people a year. Water borne diseases are responsible for 80 per cent of illnesses and deaths in the developing world, killing a child every eight seconds. Almost 60 per cent of the world's population lives within 60 kms of the coast lines. Disease and death related to polluted coastal waters alone cost the global economy US$ 16 billion a year.
Much of the woes and suffering to people stemming from water crisis in many parts of the world, it is now believed, has come out of dam building mentality of the developed nations. The first of the world's great dams, Hoover, built over Colorado river to support bustling modern Los Angeles inaugurated an age of dams that spanned three quarters of the last century. The dam building mentality, however, has pretty much expired in the developed world, especially in the US, -- one reason is they have run out of dam sites -- but it is still prevalent through much of the world. In China which is erecting the Three Gorges Dam, the biggest hydroelectric project in history and at $ 25 billion the most expensive one in the world, one senses outright resentment against rivers running free.
True, almost everyone appreciates how water projects have altered the course of civilization in ways we call (perhaps foolishly) benign. Dams and reservoirs permit unimaginable numbers of people to inhabit forbiddingly arid regions -- as well as flood plains where cities would be washed away without upstream protection. Dams produce more clean energy than nuclear reactors. Irrigation agriculture, largely dependent on reservoirs, grows 40 per cent of the world's food on a much smaller fraction of its farmland. Ironically true, we are now beginning to understand how water development projects, amounted to a Faustian bargain between civilization and the natural world which, as it happens, supports civilization. For example, reports have it that hydroelectricity from Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state smelted enough aluminium during world war II to build tens of thousands of warplanes with enough surplus power to make plutonium for the first atom bombs. But in the form of devastated salmon fisheries and lost farmland, worth billions of dollars Grand Coulee, along with countless other dams, is extracting an awful price for its creation.
Undoubtedly true, nature can take some blame for the tribulations of river life in China, India and Bangladesh. As for China, the devastation wrought upon over the years owes much to the policies of its great leader, Mao Zedong. Mao ordered Peasant communities to "plant grain everywhere". In the 1950s, work brigades drained the lakes along the Yangtze and its tributaries and seeded them with crops. Families settled on flood plains. The enormous Dongting lake once a catch basin during the years the Yangtze swelled was now half the size it was when Chairman Mao came to power in 1949. And the results were predictably disastrous. The surrounding countryside lost its ability to absorb water from the Yangtze as it flowed from the Tibetan plateu downwards. To ward off the crisis, even when the government tried to build dikes and sluices, as the ultimate solution, such attempts have been of very little help.
The Three Gorges Dam is now under construction upriver in Sichuan province. Yet even that grand ambition turning the upper Yangtze into the world's greatest reservoir probably won't stop downstream flooding. Water shortage in India caused water hazard in Bangladesh, its lower riparian country. As for instance, India receives an annual precipitation of around 4000 bcm (billion cubic metre) including rain and snowfall. Of this the runoff -- accessible water -- is 1869 bcm of which barely 690 bcm is used. Nearly 1179 bcm water is drained into the sea. Not only water is drained into the sea, along with it are transported silts and sediment that eventually raises the riverbed causing the rivers to overflow its banks. This ultimately means watery death to humans, animals and total destruction of farm crops.
In most parts of the world including India and Bangladesh pipelines are there but these often turn dry because the crux of the problem -- supply has not been addressed. Most cities and towns are not based on riverbanks and the rapid pace of urbanisation has led to the drying up of the traditional water sources like tanks and lakes. With water sources shrinking day by day and population pressure increasing water stress has become visible. Most municipalities and corporations especially in the towns and cities have gone for the immediate, tapping ground water resources. In the countryside, as well, to meet the drought like situation and to pursue agricultural activities, people have joined the rush to bore wells. Expectedly, the pressure on groundwater has shown up. Tubewells are now routinely dug at higher and higher depths.
Against the backdrop of severe water crisis hitting almost two thirds of the global population, Bangladesh, once considered a country of abundant water resources or otherwise known as a country of rivers, haors and baors -- is now facing an acute water crisis and also seasonal flooding. This is due to several factors: Rivers and lakes are drying up due to siltation, most rivers have changed their original course because of obstruction raised here and there with unplanned dikes and sluices, no new tanks, lakes and reservoirs in any part of Bangladesh have been excavated during the last one century and lastly the river water has been dangerously polluted. Because of careless and senseless human activities, rivers now contain many bacteria from human waste and other harmful effluents thrown in the rivers. Noticeably, an estimated 90 per cent of sewage in our part of the world is discharged into rivers, lakes and seas without any treatment. To make things worse as already mentioned supplies of fresh water that might dilute the sewage are dwindling in many areas. Almost 90 per cent of the populations of Bangladesh has now become victim of river pollution. Cities, towns and villages stand by the river, but the population cannot use river water for indiscriminate disposal of pollutants there. Most shocking, even if the alarm bells are ringing governments in Asian countries and the public in general are apathetic to the problem.
The emerging water crisis shortage and flooding -- especially in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan in the Asia region other than Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean is the most worrying problem for the new millennium. To achieve the 2015 targets for freshwater provision, water supplies will have to reach an additional 1.5 billion people in these regions. But water problems, as experts indicate, are more related to mismanagement than scarcity. Upto 50 percent of urban water and 60 percent of water used in agriculture is wasted through leaks and evaporation. Besides, logging and land conversion to accommodate human demand has shrunk the world's forests by half contributing to increased erosion and water scarcity. Between 300 and 400 million people worldwide live close to and depend on wetlands. Strikingly, wetlands act as highly efficient sewage treatment works, absorbing chemicals and filtering pollutants and sediments. Paradoxically, urban and industrial development has claimed half the world's wetlands. Undeniably true, sustainable development and poverty alleviation will only be achieved through better management of and investment in rivers and wetlands.
For a country like Bangladesh that wants to achieve 5 plus percent GDP growth and where 80 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture, investment in rural infrastructure has been pitiful. Besides the management of water supply, there is an increasing need for technology to increase efficiency. This water-starved region must shift from the concept of yield per acre to yield per cubic metre of water, emphasizing equally on the need to adopt micro and drip irrigation methods practised in many water scarce countries of the world. As urban demands for water increase, supply for the developing world's already water-starved agricultural areas will be further affected thereby creating a potentially monumental food security crisis.
More money is needed to solve the world's water problems. But even more important, argues John Peet, is the application of economic principles, particularly pricing and markets.
The ancient mariner had it right. In Coleridge's poem, the glittering-eyed, becalmed sailor famously bemoaned the paradox of “water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink”. Water is by far the commonest substance on earth, but 97% of the total is seawater, unfit for human use. Of the 3% that is fresh, two-thirds is locked up in glaciers or ice and snow around the poles. Only 1% of all the world's water is available for human consumption. Water is literally vital: without it, life could not exist. But even 1% of the earth's available water should be enough for all. In a natural water cycle, rainwater falls from the clouds on to the land, nourishes life, returns through rivers to the salty sea and evaporates as fresh water back into the clouds. Except for a few sources, such as fossilised groundwater, it is not at all like oil or coal: water is infinitely renewable.
Yet two big obstacles stand in the way of delivery of water to people. The first is that it is often in the wrong location. Some places, such as Canada, Austria and Ireland, have more water than they can possibly use; others, such as Australia, northern China and the Middle East, have too little. In many parts of the world, such as India and Bangladesh, rainfall is highly seasonal: almost all the year's supply may arrive within a few months. There are variations even at local levels, as a “water poverty index” shows for two villages 20 miles apart in Tanzania, Water is also heavy, which makes it costly to transport over long distances.
The second, bigger difficulty with water is, however, neither physical nor geographical: man's extravagantly wasteful misuse of it. This stems largely from a wilful refusal to treat water as an economic good, subject to the laws of supply and demand. Water, the stuff of life, ought to be the most precious of all gifts. Yet throughout history, and especially over the past century, it has been ill-governed and, above all, colossally underpriced. Indeed it is often given away completely free. Not only does this ignore the huge costs of collecting, cleaning, storing and distributing it, to say nothing of treating waste-water and sewage. It also leads to overuse of water for the wrong things, especially for highly water-intensive crops. This survey will argue that the best way to deal with water is to price it more sensibly—to reflect, so far as possible, the costs of providing it (including environmental costs), as well as its marginal utility.
In the past few years water has become the stuff of international politics. Last March's world water forum in Kyoto, Japan, was only one of a plethora of conferences devoted to it. The United Nations has declared 2003 to be the international year of fresh water, and produced two heavy tomes in support. The Johannesburg earth summit in August 2002 agreed to reduce the number of people without safe access to clean water and basic sanitation by half by 2015. Today, over a billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.4 billion lack basic sanitation. Last month's G8 summit in Evian (a French spa town), appropriately, had water on its agenda, though in the event it did little more than reaffirm the Johannesburg goals.
Pricing ought to be a big part of such discussions, yet many green lobbyists hate talking about it. They believe that it is immoral to charge for water because the stuff is essential and God-given; that private-sector involvement in water is an ethical disgrace; and that interference with the flow of rivers, such as dam-building, is environmentally disastrous. They claim that water consumption inexorably grows with income and population, and that this will lead to increasing shortages and even to wars. The world is fast running out of water, they say, and extravagant domestic consumption is to blame.
To take this last claim first, the world is not running out of water, partly because the natural cycle perpetually renews it but also because the growth in water consumption no longer seems to be correlated with growth in GDP and population. According to Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, in the 1930s it took 200 tonnes of water to make a tonne of steel in America; now it takes only 20 tonnes of water, and the best Korean methods use only 3-4 tonnes. Toilets, which account for the biggest domestic use of water, show a similar gain: from six gallons of water per flush in 1980 to only 1.6 gallons in the latest models. Domestic consumers are hardly ever to blame for water shortages. As much as 50% of the water in piped systems is lost through leakage. More important, wherever in the world water is scarcest, which is mostly in developing countries, irrigation for agriculture gobbles up at least 75% and sometimes as much as 90% of the available water. In richer countries, industry and energy use a surprisingly large amount. Domestic users everywhere account for a relatively small share. Any shortages should thus be blamed on farmers and manufacturers, not on swimming-pool owners.
As for the idea that future wars will be about water not oil, it is true that water has played a critical role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and it has sometimes been a proximate cause of fighting elsewhere. But the management of water, especially of rivers, cries out for co-operation, and it has more often been linked to peace than to war. The Indus river partnership functioned through successive clashes between India and Pakistan; the Mekong has been a co-operative venture even though the region through which it flows has been racked by war; and the ten squabbling countries of the Nile basin have signed up to a compact brokered by the World Bank. The critics' hostility to profit and the private sector is equally misconceived. Water delivery and treatment are highly capital-intensive businesses. As Gérard Mestrallet of Suez, the world's biggest water company, likes to say, “God provided the water, but not the pipes.” Wherever that capital investment comes from, somebody has to pay for it: if not users, then taxpayers or aid donors. For the people who now have no access to clean water, what matters is whether water comes out of the tap, not who delivers it. Dams, too, are the subject of a noisy debate. Certainly many have been built with little regard for cost or for the environment. But to revert to the purely natural state that some greens advocate is to ignore the dams and water diversions that have been an integral part of civilisation ever since it began along the lower Tigris and Euphrates (in today's Iraq). The Romans built aqueducts everywhere.
A SOLUBLE PROBLEM
The Johannesburg goals of reducing by half the numbers without access to clean water and basic sanitation are pressing; as Michel Camdessus, a former managing director of the IMF, says, no other development goals can be met without them. At present, millions of poor people (usually women) must walk for several hours a day to get water; or they pay through the nose to private water vendors. Either way, the water's quality is often poor. Inadequate sanitation makes matters worse. As much as 60% of the world's illness is water-related. The surprising thing, indeed, is that more has not been done to improve water access and sanitation before.
Meeting the goals will certainly take a huge investment (so it is unfortunate that Britain's development ministry has cut the share of its aid going to water from 5% in 1997 to 3.5% last year). Yet there is room for argument about how much is needed. In 2000, a group under the auspices of the World Water Council (WWC) and the Global Water Partnership (GWP), two big international quangos, reckoned that investment in water in poor countries was running at about $75 billion-80 billion a year, and suggested that this would have to be raised to some $180 billion. That figure was the starting point for a panel on the financing of water commissioned by the WWC and chaired by Mr Camdessus, which reported in March this year. The Camdessus report was criticised by many lobbyists for promoting privatisation and big dams, and even dismissed as a bankers' panel—though as Jim Winpenny, its secretary, tartly observes, it was meant to be that, because its subject was financing. Other experts put the cost of achieving the Johannesburg targets somewhat lower. Margaret Catley-Carlson, the GWP's president, talks broadly of a doubling of investment. But WaterAid, a respected British-based charity, suggests that an extra $35 billion a year would be enough. Its planning director, Stephen Turner, says that appropriate provision often means standpipes in villages, not piped water to every home; and when resources are scarce, there is little point in treating all water to drinking quality, since much of it is used for cleaning or washing. Sir Richard Jolly, chairman of another quango, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, praises the effectiveness of “VIP latrines” (the acronym stands for ventilated improved pit), compared with far costlier sewage systems. He also notes that simply washing hands with soap is the best single sanitation measure.
Beyond money, the Johannesburg goals require action. To meet the one on sanitation, for instance, will mean bringing service to 400,000 new people every day: a daunting task, especially in countries lacking good government. And, as the GWP's mantra puts it, “Water is a problem of governance, above all.”
Yet despite the difficulties, the Johannesburg targets—and also Mr Camdessus's own professed aim of achieving universal access to clean water and basic sanitation by 2025—are achievable. Delivering clean water and removing waste-water is expensive, but it is not rocket science. Plenty of public and private bodies know how to do it. This is one of the few environmental problems that is, as it were, soluble. And the best way of solving it is to treat water pretty much as a business like any other.
Nations Development Programme
Mr. Chairman, your Excellency President Chissano, Excellencies, Heads of State and Governments,
Excellency, Mr. Secretary-General, Excellency, Mr. Amara Essy, Interim Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends, It is a great honour to be able to address this distinguished Assembly of Africa on such an important topic at such a critical time. As the UN Development Programme's new Human Development Report that we are formally launching here today makes clear, the world - and Africa - is at a decision point. We have the global means, the know-how and the record of development success here in Africa as well as other regions, to state categorically that if today Africa and the world make the commitment of will and resources, then tomorrow, 2015, we can reach the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty, removing hunger, putting every boy and girl in school and stemming the crisis in our health and environment.
The message of this report is that poverty is no longer inevitable, yet we face a development crisis, with more than a billion people - one-third of them on this continent -- languishing in absolute poverty, most of them without clean water to drink or enough food to eat, beset by diseases from HIV/AIDS to tuberculosis, lacking access to schools and healthcare, and living in an environment that by nearly every measure is rapidly degrading. It does not have to be this way. While worldwide, at least 54 countries got poorer in the 1990s -- largely because location, economic structure, and other unaddressed handicaps kept them from overcoming their development challenges -- at the same time, literally hundreds of millions were lifted out of poverty in other countries. Africa, however, the report warns, is in real danger of being left behind.
Nearly one in every six African children die before age five - unchanged from a decade ago. Overall primary enrolment is still below 60%, and on other indicators too the news is grim. On current trends, the goal of halving poverty will not be met until 2147. But those trends can be changed. For example, several African countries - including Mauritius, Tanzania, the Seychelles, and our host, Mozambique - have achieved sustained GDP growth rates close to the 7-8% needed to meet the poverty targets. Swaziland and Malawi both increased school enrolment by over 20% in the past decade; Senegal and Uganda have shown the way to stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS; Mali improved access to potable water by 12%; Chad improved access to sanitation by 11%; Egypt, the Gambia, Cape Verde and Tunisia reduced child mortality by one-third or more.
So how do we make these success stories not the exception but the rule; how to enable Africa and other parts of the developing world to join in the circle of prosperity? With this report, UNDP seeks to help answer that question. It argues that recent formulas of good governance and open markets are necessary- but not enough.
For most on our watch list of almost 60 "priority countries" -- of which, again, nearly half are in Africa -- lack of progress is not about lack of trying to put good institutions, policies and growth in place. It is about supplementing those necessary steps by addressing deeper structural handicaps such as geographic isolation, undiversified commodity-dependent economies, impractically small, unjoined markets, conflict, exclusion of women and a deterioration of Africa's top soils that is undermining the agricultural base.
This agenda is clearly reflected in the pioneering the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) -- which UNDP has been strongly supporting in areas from communications to the African Peer Review Mechanism -- as is the acknowledgment that the primary responsibility for making this happen clearly lies with the developing countries themselves. And, it is reflected tangibly by the kind of commitment to policy reform and prioritizing social needs that is embodied by our host, President Chissano and his government, who, as the steady, sustained improvement in its Human Development Index over the past decade shows, are transforming what was not too long ago one of the poorest countries in the world into a dynamic model for Africa and the wider world. This approach is now spreading across Africa. And here it is the MDGs good fortune to be underpinned by a phenomenon where Africa has become a leader, with more and more countries holding credible democratic elections. It is these enfranchised millions who are the key stakeholders in these Goals with the power to hold governments to account for their MDG performance. In that way we can rebuild the political debate and the accountability of leaders around development success.
But there is a second side to the MDG compact. At the Millennium Summit, at Monterrey and again at the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development last year, donor countries committed to grow their public investment in and other support to developing countries when developing countries did their part. This is because the kind of structural barriers this report describes are in many cases too entrenched to be tackled by developing countries alone. As Africa discovered during the 1990s, when development assistance plummeted by a third, trade barriers remained high and debt relief elusive, achieving the MDGs without this side of the deal is like competing with one hand tied behind your back. Some donor countries are doing their part. Ireland, whose prime minister on Tuesday hosted the first announcement of this report with the participation of President Chissano, has blazed a trail by growing its foreign aid at over 30% a year and pledging future increases on a similar scale all with a clear focus on the neediest countries, especially in Africa. It is one of three donors, along with Belgium and France, which have committed to specific dates by which to join Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, who have already met the internationally agreed Development Assistance target of 0.7 per cent of GNP.
But while new donor commitments - which should, if - and it is a big "if"- pledges are honoured, reach $16 billion by 2006, nearly half of which should come to Africa - it is way short of the $50 billion additional aid that is the minimum needed to meet the MDGs. And the need is more than aid. Making the MDGs a reality also requires we make rapid progress on trade and debt relief, helping break down barriers that keep developing countries out of rich markets and allow them to devote more of their own scarce resources to development priorities rather than repaying international creditors. There is still not a successful solution for debts born of collusion with yesterday's dictators in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia or Nigeria. Nor can there be economic justice in cosseting each European cow with a subsidy two and a half times the income of half your people; what purpose if what is given in aid is taken away in trade barriers? Big Cotton in the United States secures for itself subsidies three times the amount that the US provides in assistance to Africa. Protected cotton markets in the US and EU cost small farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Togo an estimated $250 million a year.
Look at our shared task as a roadmap to be followed in the coming months and years if we are to meet the goal: the new Doha Round of trade negotiations to be focused on development, as promised; a funding meeting, such as the one next week to replenish The Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, brought to success; NEPAD plans for infrastructure and market integration funded and implemented; the national progress in governance, economic management, health and education provision, gender inclusion, agricultural sector investment and private sector development accelerated. And we need progress throughout, both in developing countries and in the donor partners, benchmarked and tracked through national and global MDG reporting. For this Millennium Development Compact is our collective responsibility - and within our collective power -- to achieve. It can unite us all, rich and poor, North and South, developed and developing not in rhetoric, but at an extremely practical level, where we can hold each other to account for shared goals and, together, change Africa and the world. Thank you.
Information Bureau, Government of India
"This is the fifth Bhatnagar Awards function that I have the privilege to address. It is always heartening to be in the company of the most outstanding among our country’s scientists. But today, I have an additional reason to be pleased. For, I see in front of me hundreds of young science scholars, who are participating for the first time in the Bhatnagar Awards function. I must congratulate the CSIR for the ‘innovation’ it has introduced in this event by holding the Bhatnagar Laureates Symposium. This will give the young minds present here an opportunity to interact with the brightest among Indian scientists. I would like to congratulate the Bhatnagar awardees, who have excelled in their respective areas of research. I am happy to note that most of the Bhatnagar awardees of yesteryears have continued to remain and work in India. They have over the years, pioneered new schools of thought, spawned new paradigms for technology, established centers of excellence and won many laurels.
To the new Awardees, I would like to say, "You now have an onerous responsibility. You are the role model for young scientists. You have to set an example to them by your continued pursuit of excellence in science, high levels of ethics in your work, and the larger vision of nation-building that ought to guide the work of scientists as well as all the rest of us in our respective professions." Today as I pay tribute to the achievers – both past and present – in Indian science and technology, I naturally think of those of our compatriots who have gone abroad and whose superior research capabilities are now acknowledged all over the world.
While speaking to DRDO scientists on this year’s Technology Day, I had said that we are proud of the fact that tens of thousands of Indian scientists and engineers around the world are making valuable contributions to the areas of their specialization and to economies of their countries of domicile. Many Heads of State, including those of industrialized nations, have spoken to me praising their contribution. This gives us the hope and confidence that by creating the right environment for learning, teaching and working here in India, our talented scientists and engineers can produce path-breaking discoveries and inventions in our own country.
Here I am reminded of the words of an immigrant scientist in the United States who went on to win a Nobel Prize. "A scientist is like a painter. Michael Angelo became a great artist because he had been given a wall to paint. My wall was given to me by the United States." So, the first thing all of us should together resolve– those of us in Government as well as those of you in Science & Technology institutions – is to provide a big enough canvas to our researchers right here in India. We should further improve the environment for research and development in India. I am told that much improvement has taken place in recent years, especially in areas such as information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. But we need to accomplish much more. The Bhatnagar prize is a national honour. But your ambition should be to benchmark your research with the best in the world and win prestigious international honours. I am happy to see that this year, as many as seven Indians have won the honours of getting elected to the US National Academies of Science & Engineering.
What gladdens me especially is the fact that, although five of them have won the honours for work done in USA, the remaining two – Dr. Obaid Siddiqi and Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar -- have done their entire work in India. I would like to congratulate them heartily. What does their success mean? It means that you can indeed do world-class research in our own laboratories in India, provided you dare to dream, and provided your efforts match your dreams and your ambitions. Apart from prestigious international honours, the other criterion to judge the quality of output of India’s S&T establishment is the number of research papers published in reputed international journals. Perhaps this is an area that has not received adequate attention.
There seems to be an apparent disconnect between our proven technological capability to harness existing knowledge and unsatisfactory contribution to new knowledge. After all, India has made notable progress in the past two decades in agriculture, space, nuclear energy and several manufacturing sectors. However, this progress is not matched by globally recognized original research in India.
It should be the endeavour of our scientists and researchers in CSIR laboratories, universities, IITs, ICMR, ICAR and other organizations to significantly increase their output of globally recognized research papers.
As history tells us, a nation can progress economically in the short term based on ‘existing knowledge’, but such progress is not sustainable in the long run – especially in today’s competitive conditions -- in the absence of creation of ‘new knowledge’. Thus, we have to be equally adept at both generating new knowledge and applying it to our various national needs.
On this occasion cannot help reiterate my concern over the declining interest in science among students. In 1950s and ‘60’s, the best students chose to go for science education. Today’s bright students seem to be shying away from science. As a result, in few years’ time, all our top research organizations would face a shortage of good science graduates. This issue needs to be addressed effectively, imaginatively and comprehensively. I am happy that Dr. Joshiji has initiated several good measures in this regard, both in respect of technology education and science education. However, it is not enough to attract the best and brightest students to science education. It is equally important to create sufficient employment opportunities for them in our country. I would like the S&T establishment, public and private sector industry, as well as the concerned Government agencies to collectively address this issue. Some international firms have started to set up their R&D centers in India, employing large numbers of PhDs. This trend can be broadened by actively encouraging location in India of R&D activities of big and small corporations abroad. Our aim should be to make India a global R&D hub.
We should also seek the involvement of our diasporic community in this endeavour. I am told that one of the issues that was discussed at the first Pravasi Bharatiya Sammelan early this year was how to synergise India’s scientific talent at home and abroad. I would like this effort to be further strengthened.
I have always looked forward to the Bhatnagar Awards function to share with you my ideas on some of the priorities in India’s socio-economic development and how the S&T establishment can help in meeting these challenges. Today the Nation expects your valuable inputs in many critical areas of development. For example, yesterday the Planning Commission presented to me two excellent reports on promotion of bio-fuels and bamboo. These subjects may sound unglamorous to some, but both have an immense potential to generate productive employment, help millions of artisans and farmers to be liberated from poverty, achieve significant import substitution and earn considerable export revenue. To achieve these goals, we need critical R&D inputs from agriculture scientists, energy scientists, and technologists of various disciplines.
Let me mention another issue of overriding national importance – namely, water conservation. India is blessed by nature with bountiful water – it is amongst the ‘wettest’ countries in the world, yet ‘desert-like’ conditions are now prevalent in many parts of the country. We are fast plunging into a water-emergency era.
Although many parts of India have received timely rains this year, I have appealed to all our citizens and all institutional users of water to conserve every drop of available water. Among other things, this requires low-cost water-saving, water-recycling, and water treatment technologies. Our kisans need to know effective techniques of recharging the sources of ground water. Thus you, my scientist friends, have a great responsibility to contribute to making India ‘water secure’. Let us remember that ‘Water sustains life; and it is now our duty to sustain all sources of water’. I have given only a few illustrative examples. But they show how scientists and technologists can become crucial partners in the Nation’s development efforts. You are already playing this role in diverse fields, and I commend you for your valuable contribution. But a much bigger challenge awaits you. I have full confidence in your ability as well as in your readiness to meet this challenge. Once again my congratulations to Bhatnagar prize winners. Thank you".
East African (Nairobi)
The regional director of the Intermediate Technology Group, ELIJAH AGEVI, spoke recently to Special Correspondent JOHN MBARIA on the raging debate over whether Kenya should privatise the management of water supply.
WHY IS THE DEBATE ON THE PRIVATISATION OF WATER SO IMPORTANT?
Water is a fundamental right. The issue of equity comes into the picture - that the poor need water as much as anybody else. The debate should not be an elitist one nor should it ignore the views of the majority of consumers. There is also a need to take into account what the country should adopt as the best practice. There are examples in the developing world where joint private/public-sector undertakings have been successful, for instance in Brazil. We also need to take into account the fact that globally, competition for the water supply business is unfair since there are only a handful of multinationals - most of them of French origin - which control over 80 per cent of privatised water.
IS THE CURRENT OPPOSITION TO THE PRIVATISATION OF WATER SERVICES JUSTIFIED?
Yes. Given the reality on the ground, I consider the current clamour to privatise not well thought-out. We need to know what private companies would be bringing to the existing supply, apart from claims of being efficient. The government should also realise that a most global private water undertakers will not be interested in providing water infrastructure to the poor without getting tax concessions. With this awareness, the government needs to consider what good it would do the country if public and local private undertakers are provided with these concessions instead. Secondly, a lot of water supply and management contracts in the developing world are made in environments of corruption. There are cases in the United States and France where water and sanitation companies have been indicted for engaging in corrupt deals.
But evidence shows that public institutions, be they local authorities or national water corporations, are inefficient and have failed to stop massive waste and illegal connections.
Inefficiency in the supply system, illegal connections and leakages are not enough justification for bringing in multinationals. We can sort out leakages in the supply system without necessarily bringing in a multinational to do it for us. For instance, ensuring efficiency in the meter reading and billing system would not require millions of dollars in investment, but a change of attitude by public officials and members of the public. Why can't we, as citizens, say once and for all that we have had enough of corruption in water supply, since this is what is responsible for shortages? Then, we also need to decentralise the supply system so that we can have small residential neighbourhoods managing their water supply and billing. We need to give people responsibility in management, to engage them in conservation, water harvesting and in a campaign that would engender in people the need to pay for water and not to collude with meter readers. To me, this is a win-win situation. The debate should focus on self-regulation in supply and consumption and on how best to conserve the country's water catchment areas.
WHAT LESSONS CAN KENYA LEARN ON WATER MANAGEMENT FROM OTHER DEVELOPING COUNTRIES?
In some parts of western Uganda, things are not working despite privatisation. In India, public/private sector partnerships in water supply and sanitation have better track records. In other developing countries, there have been mixed fortunes as far as water privatisation is concerned. However, we should not selectively pick on success cases elsewhere to make the case for Kenya's privatisation of water. Naturally, the social, economic and political situations in such a country would be completely different and far removed from what we encounter here. We need to know how to localise relevant success cases.
WHAT PERCENTAGE OF NAIROBI RESIDENTS ARE COVERED BY THE CONVENTIONAL WATER SUPPLY?
The statistics provided are quite misleading. For instance, UN-Habitat says that over 80 per cent of Nairobi residents have access to water. But most of the informal settlements -which house about 60 per cent of Nairobi's population - are not covered by the conventional supply system. Then, in areas like Karen, the supply system is poor. So, it is safe to say that less than 40 per cent of Nairobians are served by the conventional system. Thus, Nairobi needs massive investment in water reticulation. But Kenyans should not expect such investment to come from multinationals because their primary interest is to merely manage systems already installed through public funds. It would be sad if the government were to invite multinationals merely on the grounds that such companies would manage our supply system better. We have professional managers and technical experts in Kenya's private sector who should be given the chance to manage such systems.
There are those who say that the destruction of water catchment areas is a more potent and immediate threat.
The extensive logging of the country's forests and cultivation of areas close to most water catchment areas in Kenya has left them exposed, allowing all manner of pollutants to flow into our surface water systems. The problem is compounded by the fact that many settlement areas lack proper waste disposal systems. As a result, such extremely toxic material as used battery cells are finding their way into drinking water reservoirs, while sewage leaks are the order rather than the exception. In a nutshell, we have serious water, air and soil pollution in this country. What we really need is comprehensive land use planning that would spell out clear guidelines not only on how to manage water catchment areas but also on what uses different categories of land should be put to. We also need a consistent national awareness campaign that not only sensitises Kenyans on the dangers of reckless use of land but also inculcates a sense of individual and collective responsibility.
WHAT ROLE SHOULD ORGANISATIONS SUCH AS YOURS PLAY IN ENSURING THAT SAFE WATER IS SUSTAINABLY AVAILABLE TO MOST PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY THE POOR?
ITDG's strategy in uplifting the material status of the poor has been to advocate and demonstrate the importance of the use of appropriate technology. We have been involved in water supply and sanitation projects in Kibera and Embakasi areas of Nairobi. In rural areas, we have been working in Marsabit district in a water supply scheme whose maintenance, billing and record keeping functions are all managed by members of the relevant communities. We have also been involved in water and small-scale power supply to rural households in the Chuka area of Eastern Province together with UNDP and the Department of Renewable Energy in the Ministry of Energy.
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