The International Institute for Sustainable Development (iisd)  presents 



February 24 to March 16, 2004

Compiled by Richard Sherman

Edited by
Kimo Goree 

Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

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Editor's note: Welcome to the ninth issue of WATER-L News ©, compiled by Richard Sherman. WATER-L is a collection of new articles, editorials and research updates addressing the implementation of the water-related Millennium Development Goals, the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the further implementation of Agenda 21. It is distributed exclusively to the WATER-L list every 2 to 3 weeks. If you should come across a news article or have a submission for the next issue, please send it directly to <>. WATER-L News © is an exclusive copyrighted publication of IISD for the WATER-L list and may not be reposted or republished to other lists/websites without the permission of IISD (you can write Kimo for permission.) If you have been forwarded this issue and would like to subscribe to WATER-L, please visit <> or contact our On-Line Assistant, Diego Noguera.

Funding for the production of WATER-L (part of the IISD Reporting Services annual program) has been provided by the Government of the United States of America (through the Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and  Scientific Affairs), the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the  Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL), the  United Kingdom (through the Department for International Development - DFID), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Germany (through the German Federal Ministry of Environment - BMU, and the German Federal Ministry of Development Cooperation - BMZ). General Support for the IISD Reporting Services annual programme during 2004 is provided by the United  Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Government of Australia,  Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry  of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of  Norway, Swan International, the Japanese Ministry of Environment  (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES)  and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (through  the Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute - GISPRI). If you like WATER-L News, please thank them for their support.



1)      ADB READIES $100M FOR RAWALPINDI ENVIRONMENT, SANITATION, Daily Times (Pakistan), March 16, 2004

2)      WATER KEY TO IMPROVED AGRICULTURE, FOOD SECURITY, The Times of Zambia, March 14, 2004

3)      WATER PLAN TO BOOST AGRICULTURE, Daily Times (Pakistan), March 13, 2004

4)      MEKONG LOWER, FEARS HIGHER, IPS, March 12, 2004

5)      DJIBOUTI: CONVOY POPULARISES MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, March 11, 2004

6)      MEKONG DELTA SHOULD RE-PLAN AQUACULTURE AREAS, Vietnam News Agency, March 10, 2004

7)      MALI FACES CHALLENGES IN MEETING WATER NEEDS, Mail & Guardian (South Africa), March 4, 2004

8)      UN MILLENNIUM PROJECT BEGINS, Columbia Spectator (US), March 3, 2004

9)      MAKHAYE LAUNCHES WATER IRRIGATION SCHEME, BuaNews (South Africa), February 25, 2004

10)  WATER CHALLENGES POOR PEOPLE FACE, World Bank, February 24, 2004






15)  NATIONAL WATER WEEK TO FOCUS ON WISE WATER USAGE, BuaNews (South Africa), March 15, 2004


17)  A ROLE MODEL IN CONSERVING WATER, Financial Express (India), March 14, 2004


19)  AMERICANS USE LESS WATER, USA Today, March 12, 2004



22)  WB TO EXTEND ASSISTANCE, HI Pakistan, March 12, 2004

23)  DRY BEIJING TO SHUN WATER-INTENSIVE INDUSTRY, Associated Press, March 11, 2004

24)  PERU WARNS OF WATER RATIONING IN CAPITAL, Associated Press, March 10, 2004

25)  UGANDA: NEGOTIATIONS ON SHARING NILE WATER TOUGH BUT HOPEFUL, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, March 9, 2004




29)  ASEAN'S PLEDGE ON VALUE-BASED WATER EDUCATION, Borneo Bulletin, March 3, 2004


31)  BEIJING TO SET NEW WATER PRICES, China View, February 25, 2004


32)  SATELLITE DATA FOR A CLEANER YAMUNA, Times News Network (India), March 17, 2004







38)  PLANNING FUTURE IRRIGATED AGRICULTURE by Md. Saeedur Rahman, The Daily Star (Bangladesh), March 9, 2004

39)  A DEVELOPMENT SOAP OPERA, Business Standard (India), March 5, 2004


41)  ENVIRONMENTAL REFUGEES: WHEN THE SOIL DIES AND THE WELL DRIES by Lester R. Brown, International Herald Tribune, February 13, 2004 





Daily Times (Pakistan)
March 16, 2004

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is to provide $100 million in the current year as a part of its environment improvement plan for Rawalpindi. The first phase of the plan has already been completed and the second-phase feasibility report for better sewerage and sanitation facilities and clean drinking water to the citizens is underway.

The Water and Sanitation Authority (WASA) and ADB jointly organised the third consultative workshop to discuss and finalise the feasibility report. Environment Minister Major (r) Tahir Iqbal was the chief guest. Punjab Government Advisor Safdar Ali Cheema, senior government officials, local government representatives and non-governmental organisations were also present. Mr Iqbal urged the ADB to extend soft term loans with low interest rate and to accelerate the project approval process because the programme needed to be carried out soon.

“Thousands of people in the city were falling ill because of contaminated water and poor sewerage and sanitation facilities,” he said, adding, “The government will be putting in extra efforts to make the project a success.” The government would pay $ 20-30 million while the rest would be paid by the ADB. $72 million was given to complete the first phase of the plan but it could not be completed before the deadline and the whole amount was not used. The project took nine years to be completed. The Nala Layee bridges were to be constructed in the first phase and they are still underway. $22 million was left from the project budget. The department did not benefit from the soft term loan that was to be paid back in 35 years at only one percent service charges. Mr Iqbal asked the authorities to chalk out strategies and plans to provide better living standards to people. Mr Iqbal also talked about the decrease in the level of per capita water availability. “We are touching the lowest level of water availability,” he said adding, “This situation calls on us to use rain water build more dams.”

Mr Iqbal said the development programmes must be designed to restore the environment. He asked the rawalpindi Development Authority and the Capital Development Authority to raise public awareness among people about how to reduce pollution. He said every citizen must make sure that his or her vehicle does not emit smoke, which has become the environmental pollution factor. Mr Iqbal also said the industrialists must dispose off effluents and waste products properly to avoid water contamination. Tests showed that the water in many areas contained arsenic, he said adding this must be checked by the authorities to reduce diseases. Mr Iqbal said water treatment plants must be installed at different places to provide clean water to people.

ADB representative Dr Shakeel A Khan said most of the ADB projects were to reduce poverty and improve the environment. He said mixing of sewage with drinking water, lack of management to control contamination of water in Rawal Dam catchment areas contaminated tubewells installed besides Nala Layee were major issues. Dr Khan said ADB implemented the Environmental Impact Assessment in all the projects. He demanded revival of Rawal Lake Management Committee and regretted the lack of coordination among government departments. Dr Khan condemned WASA for its deterioration. He said the expenditures had increased while the income had decreased.  “The bank has its own constraints and without institutional reforms any project would itself be difficult to deliver to optimum,” Dr Khan said.

He said the bank took six months to approve a project but the development authorities in Pakistan took much longer to complete short projects. “We are here to help you but there is need for improving your system,” he said. He said at tehsil level, the solid waste disposal situation was worse and proposed to decentralise waste collection to Union Council level. He said the upcoming US$ 100 million loan facility on 4.5 percent mark up rate is not going to put any extra burden if it is properly utilised. Dr Khan said the bank wanted to provide people with basic necessities to improve their living standard. WASA Managing Director Brigadier Pervez Mahmood gave an overview of WASA activities and dwelt on a number of issues regarding better environment and provision of clean drinking water to the people. —APP

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The Times of Zambia
March 14, 2004

AFRICA is indeed a land of abundant resources, water inclusive. It boasts of 17 rivers with a total estimated area of 100,000km, 160 lakes larger than 27km sq. It has vast wetlands and a limited but widespread ground water. In addition, the continent has a huge potential for energy production through hydro-power production. This picture of water in Africa is, however, deceptive as the distribution of this vital resource appears to be uneven and unequal, especially in the sub-region which has been experiencing severe water scarcity. This is despite the sub-region being blessed with numerous rivers and lakes. However, there are natural and man made challenges that have made it difficult to capture the inherent benefits of water resources to support sustainable developments on the continent.

According to a New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) document on water, there are aggravating factors that have made it difficult to address these challenges. Yet these challenges need urgent attention to pave way for a good and sound stewardship of Africa water resources.

Further, these challenges need to be addressed for the sake of Africa's development. Under the NEPAD programme, the three most critical issues concerning lack of access to clean water in Africa include:

  • High rainfall variability and climate change

  • Managing the multiplicity of trans boundary water basins

  • Creating sustainable access to water.

However, even though water may be crucial for a sustained agricultural development, several parts of Africa with the exception of humid and coastal regions, have continued to experience water scarcity. For instance, in North Africa, water resources for agriculture are already over taxed, says the NEPAD document. This is particularly true of underground water resources that have been severely over exploited, resulting in sea water intrusion in some areas there. It is believed that there is scope for a potential expansion of irrigation by about 30 per cent in North Africa.

The NEPAD programme says room for expansion could be as much as 300 per- cent in Sub-Saharan Africa where irrigation is responsible for only about a percentage of the crops produced, compared to about 33 per cent of the crops produced in North Africa. In the wet and Sub-humid areas, water is more abundant and there is an estimated 85 per cent of the irrigation potential that remains untapped. The existence of this potential does not necessarily mean that it is going to be possible to create the needed access to water to meet the needs for agriculture and food security in Africa.

Among the challenges to prividing access to water for agriculture are:

  • Inefficiency of existing irrigation systems, with some having an estimated wastage of as much as 60 per cent of pumped water

  • Climate change and inadequate facilities for predicting the change coupled with limited capacity to fund the costs of adaptation needed

  • The high demands of water by the agriculture sector with regard to municipal and industrial demands uses as much as 80 per cent of allocated water.

These challenges will have to be overcome if sustained access to water for agriculture and food security is to be achieved. When this is achieved, inconsistent food security that has characterised Africa would be a thing of the past.

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Daily Times (Pakistan)
March 13, 2004

ISLAMABAD: A medium-term plan to increase water resources is being undertaken for sustainable development of agriculture in the country. According to official sources, the plan envisages an additional storage capacity of 4.5 MAF of water and cultivation of nearly another million acres of land, creating thousands of jobs. Pakistan has an immensely productive agrarian potential but harnessing it on a sustainable basis has always remained a distant dream. The vulnerabilities to which agriculture is exposed were only brought to sharper focus in the wake of recent drought. Growers face price uncertainty and poor marketing methods, a narrow export base of agriculture value-added largely confined to crop sector and a limited supply of credit compared to actual needs. A financial assistance package for farmers has been drawn up with the help of all public financial institutions to provide funding for water conservation and development.

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March 12, 2004

BANGKOK - The annual dry spell affecting the Mekong River basin this year has brought into relief the vulnerability of millions of rural people who depend on the river for their livelihood when the waters dip to unexpected lows. After all, as recent research has pointed out, eight out of every 10 people who live in the 800,000-square-kilometer lower reaches of the Mekong River depend on water for their two primary occupations, fishing and farming.

This season's receding water level, noticed at three points through which Southeast Asia's largest river flows - Chiang Saen in Thailand, Vientiane in Laos and the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia - has also become a cause for concern among some of the region's water specialists. "The Mekong's water level in Vientiane is the lowest it has ever been," said Robyn Johnston of the Phnom Penh-based Mekong River Commission (MRC). "But the levels at Chiang Saen are similar to the lows seen in 1992."

Reports in Thai media have also described unusually dry stretches of the river at the border of Thailand and Laos, saying that levels at some point were at a 20-year low of 2.6 meters instead of the usual four to five meters during the dry season. Fishermen at Ban Haad Kham village in northeastern Thailand were quoted as saying that the low - and fluctuating - water levels have put their livelihoods at risk.

To prevent the depleting water levels from worsening - consequently drying up the food supply of people living in the Mekong basin - an international research body unveiled a plan here on Thursday to pursue studies aimed at producing more food using less water. This research effort, under the Challenge Program on Water and Food by the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), is also geared at striking a balance between achieving food security and protecting the river's rich biodiversity.

The Challenge Program is funding eight projects focusing on agriculture productivity and the efficiency of water use in the Mekong region, states a background note by the MRC. They include designing farming systems that will serve multiple purposes, such as having a wide variety of crops being grown along with other food sources and fish. Also earmarked is a study to "develop improved technologies for rice-based cropping systems, with the aim of increasing yield without more water use".

To counter the high salinity experienced by Vietnam, CGIAR has agreed to fund a program that seeks to conceive rice varieties and cultivate strategies that "can cope with high levels of salinity" The Mekong River basin project, which is estimated to cost US$10 million, is part of a global exercise focusing on nine major river basins, including the Nile in Egypt and the Yellow River in China, being spearheaded by CGIAR. "The Mekong is the least developed of the nine river basins we are working on," said Jonathan Woolley, the global program coordinator of the Challenge Program.

The Mekong begins in the Tibetan plateau and journeys across 4,880km, snaking through southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia until it flows out from Vietnam into the South China Sea. In addition to being used for agriculture and fishing, the river's waters have been harnessed for domestic use and for the more controversial dams being built to supply hydropower to meet the energy needs of some countries. Between 55 million and 60 million people live in the lower Mekong region, states the MRC in a report, but adds further that the population is expected to increase to 90 million by 2025. This trend itself, along with environmental degradation, puts additional pressure on the region in the form of food-security and water conflicts and could even provoke a tussle between farmers and fishermen, say MRC officials.

Despite being in such close proximity to this abundant body of water, many people in Cambodia and Laos still do not have access to safe water. "Fewer than 40 percent of the households have safe water or adequate sanitation," the report adds. Other social indicators in the river basin are as disconcerting, such as poverty affecting nearly 40 percent of the people from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. For many, fisheries remain a vital source of food and income, a fact borne out by the estimated 1.75 million tonnes of fish caught annually in the basin. This yield, valued at $1.45 billion, amounts to about 20 percent of the annual fish catch from inland waters. "Most of the 12 million rural households in the LMB [lower Mekong basin] fish as well as farm, and fish are the main source of animal protein in most people's diets," according to the report.

Agriculture, it points out, remains the "most important" economic activity in the basin, with rice being the main crop. "Overall, an estimated 75 percent of the LMB population earn their livelihood through agriculture." But in the plans that lie ahead, the CGIAR's program will try to harness the diverse rice varieties in the region produced by local communities, rather than opting only for hybrid varieties that come out of laboratories, Woolley told a press conference here. "But there will be no specific exclusion of genetically modified rice varieties. Every case will be studied," he added. "I don't think you are going to see an increase in the spread of GMOs [genetically modified organisms] in the region." Woolley's assurance comes at a time when environmental and grassroots groups have been critical of the move by agribusiness giants to push for greater use of hybrid crops in the developing world.

The commitment to engage local communities in the plans also marks a shift from the pattern common across the region of governments paying little regard to the people living on the riverbanks when it comes to large national development projects. "In all Mekong region countries there are local systems, functioning more or less well, to deal with allocation and use [of water]," John Dore of the Mekong Region Water Governance Network said in an interview. "As the development decisions scale up, the degree to which local views are factored into the decision-making varies from state to state."

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UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
March 11, 2004

A convoy of 40 people traveling in UN vehicles, two buses and a truck with camping gear drove through Djibouti's five districts to raise awareness about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and highlight the role women can play in achieving these goals. Organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN agencies, the convoy drove through towns and villages, meeting students and teachers, and distributing books with information on the MDGs. It also held meetings with community leaders. "We went camping, sleeping under the stars when it was necessary," Noura Hamladji of UNDP Djibouti told IRIN on Wednesday. "A television crew joined the team, as well as 30 artistes and UNDP staff. The cultural group, Adagio, livened up the nights, explaining the MDG objectives in the local languages."

A documentary is being produced in conjunction with Djibouti Radio and Television to highlight the key points of the initiative. It is based on the two-week tour the convoy made from the south to the north, passing through more than 50 towns and villages. "The people were delighted and able to appreciate the show. They would forget their daily routine during the night to enjoy the songs and dances," Hamladji said. According to UNDP, half of Djibouti's 600,000 peoples are illiterate, three-quarters of them women. While about half of them live in poverty, 10 percent are extremely poor, unable to afford adequate food. Only one-third of children (and only 28 per cent of girls) are enrolled in school. About one in three households lack access to clean water and sanitation.

"The feedback the caravan received from communities shows the expanding possibilities that realisation of the MDGs can bring to all people," Mbaranga Gasarabwe, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, said in a statement. "The caravan has shown us that a participatory approach is the best way to shed light on the human dimensions of poverty and seek ways of ending it."

The MDGs are an ambitious plan for reducing poverty and improving lives that world leaders agreed on at the Millennium Summit in September 2000. Its goals, which have time frames, include eradication of poverty and hunger, to achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Others are to ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

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Vietnam News Agency
March 10, 2004

Mekong Delta provinces should take urgent action to re-plan their aquaculture zones, stabilise production and boost aquatic product exports, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a conference seeking ways to boost fishery development in the region held in Can Tho City on March 10. He also stressed the need for training staff in charge of fishery expansion.

Dung said, this year, the Government has approved investment worth 1,715.8 billion VND for 24 fishery development projects in the Mekong delta, including 660 billion VND from the State budget. Over the past three years, the region has turned 266,250 ha of cultivated land into aquaculture. Last year's seafood output increased 5.7 percent over 2001. Aquaculture output rose 19.8 percent and seafood export turnover increased 38.2 percent. Aquaculture and seafood processing contributed to reducing poverty and improvements in living conditions in remote and ethnic minority-inhabited areas.

With a coastline of 750 km and hundreds of islands, the eastern and western Nam Bo fishing grounds, the region has seafood reserves estimated at 2.58 million tonnes. It accounts for 56 percent and 66 percent of the country's total aquatic products netted and raised, respectively. Also, the region has 1.1 million ha of water surface, accounting for more than 55 percent of the total area. Among 100 Vietnamese seafood exporters meeting the EU standards, 56 are in this region. The exporters last year earned 1.28 billion USD in export revenues, making up 57 percent of the country's total export turnover, and generated jobs for 6 million local people.

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Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
March 4, 2004

“Our country has an enormous potential when it comes to water resources. If we develop these resources properly, they should allow us to try and get beyond food self-sufficiency,” says Mali’s President, Amadou Toumani Toure. He was speaking at an international water conference that took place in the capital, Bamako, towards the end of last month. But despite this optimism, the difficulties of meeting Mali’s water needs should not be underestimated. Two of the biggest rivers in West Africa run through the country: the Niger, for a distance of 1 780km, and the Senegal, for 700km.

Ahmed Semega, the Minister of Mines, Energy, and Water, describes the Niger as the “umbilical cord which links seven of our administrative regions. The lives of several million of our countrymen depend on it.” But, he adds: “This precious engine of economic, social and cultural development is today in danger of dying.” According to Semega, much of Bamako’s daily production of 2 000 cubic metres of dirty water flows back into the Niger. “The flora, fauna and ecosystem are all subjected to this harsh pollution,” he said at the conference.

This has prompted conservation groups like the Bamako-based Karamba Toure Association to call for more stringent controls on the factories responsible for this situation -- particularly those that release chemical wastes into the environment. The group believes a policy of “you pollute, you pay” should be instituted. In those instances where clean water is available, getting hold of it can be a chore. “Everyone knows that it is the harsh burden of women to go fetch water daily in rural areas,” says Traore Oumou Toure, executive secretary of a committee that coordinates the activities of women’s groups and NGOs in Mali. This situation seriously endangers any type of sustainable development, she adds.

Malick Maiga, who is in charge of Mali’s water supply, says 62% of people in the country have access to sufficient water at present. But, says Toumani Toure, “Although progress has been made, there still remains much to do to entirely satisfy potable water needs.” “There are still 2 226 villages, parts of villages and rural areas which don’t have modern water access points.” A further 3 400 villages require more water points than they have at present. Salinity and nitrogen compounds found in the north-east and west of Mali have also presented a challenge to authorities, as these chemicals make some of the water there unfit for human consumption.

All of this has prompted Toumani Toure to press for the speedy adoption of a national plan that will see 10 000 new water points being established within a decade. “Our access plan to potable water is based on the premise that we can surpass the goals set by the Millennium Development Summit to meet half of humanity’s needs in potable water by the year 2015,” says the head of state. This summit, held at the United Nations in September 2000, established eight goals for improving the lives of people living in developing countries. Included in these Millennium Development Goals is the target of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015.

The goals also aim to reduce by half the number of people living below the poverty line of $1 a day. Mali has 10-million inhabitants, 65% of whom fall under this threshold. The international water conference, the first of its type to be held in Mali, ended on February 26. The six-day meeting included a variety of exhibitions and debates that allowed water experts and members of the public to exchange views on water management in Mali. Certain issues raised at the meeting may get a second hearing at another conference that will reportedly take place in April. The Paris meeting, said to have been initiated by French President Jacques Chirac, will be attended by heads of state from countries that share the Niger river basin. Delegates will discuss how the ills that currently affect the river can be dealt with. – IPS

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Columbia Spectator (US)
March 3, 2004

Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia's Earth Institute, just returned from a tour of Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Senegal. But he wasn't on vacation. The trip to Africa was part of the United Nations Millenium Project, a three-year program started by the United Nations. This program's purpose is to research and develop a plan for the implementation of the U.N. Development Goals, a set of initiatives for reducing discrimination against women, poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and environmental degradation by 2015.

"These goals are completely achievable, but we are not achieving them. I know it is an up-hill battle, but I think we can win this battle. ... These problems have been neglected in the world, and there is a lack of focus. But I think that if we especially approach the problems from a business perspective with a concrete plan of action, we can better accomplish [our goals]," Sachs, the director of the U.N. Millenium Project, said.

In Africa, Sachs and his team of researchers and advisers collected field data and information and talked with many influential leaders to further address issues of world poverty. Sachs is a special adviser to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. He is responsible for producing a report concerning policy options and appropriate and efficient strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in June 2005. Much of the project's work is conducted under the auspices of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. "The Millennium Project fits well with the objectives of the Earth Institute. But it's also a collaborative effort with the other institutions at Columbia and with organizations and individuals around the world," Sachs said.

A team of 300 representatives from academia, the public and private sectors, civil society organizations, and U.N. agencies--only a few of whom are permanently employed--is working with Sachs. Many of these experts are Columbia University faculty. "We are combining the best science and technology to help produce a business-like plan to identify the problems facing developing countries and how to finance and structure programs to help elevate these countries from poverty," Sachs said. The research is divided into ten thematically-orientated task forces, each staffed by 15 to 20 people from around the world. Each task force is led by an expert in that field based in the United States and a co-chair based in a developing nation.

Professor Pedro Sanchez, a scientist at the Earth Institute, is one of the co-chairs of the task force on hunger. The group hopes to reduce hunger statistically by half by 2015. Part of their approach involves placing more emphasis on agricultural policy in developing countries. The task force is recommending actions that favor women, since they are the main laborers on farms producing food.

Allan Rosenfield, the dean of Columbia's School of Public Health, is the co-chair for the task force on Child and Maternal Health. His group focuses on issues including infant mortality,  contraceptives, and HIV/AIDS. "Women's and Child[ren's] Health is a very important component of combatting poverty in general," Rosenfield said.

Professor of Mechanical Engineering Vijay Modi is working on issues of energy and transportation, though he is not part of a task force. "The biggest single lesson in energy is that there is a lot to be done, but it can all be accomplished through small quantities," Modi said. Modi visited an Ethiopian town where only a foot path led into the large town in the area. In this situation, Modi saw the need for the construction of a road to create jobs, transport goods, and provide an emergency route. The other task forces are Poverty and Economic Development, Education and Gender Equality, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, T.B. and Access to Essential Medicines, Environmental Sustainability, Water and Sanitation, Improving the Lives of Slum Dwellers, Open, Rule-Based Trading Systems, and Science, Technology and Innovation.

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BuaNews (South Africa)
February 25, 2004

KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture and Environmental Affairs MEC Dumisani Makhaye has launched a water irrigation scheme for the community of amaDungeni in Highflats, on the province's south coast. Mr Makhaye handed over a cheque of R500 000 to emaDungeni Agricultural Forum that is involved in agricultural projects like community gardens. This money will be used to develop the emaDungeni irrigation scheme that will help farmers to irrigate their fields all season.

Addressing the community yesterday, Mr Makhaye said farmers in the area would no longer be seasonal farmers due to the lack of water to irrigate their fields. "As from today there will be continuity in farming in this area. The money will also be used to buy farming implements such as hoes, forks, wheel- burrows and rakes," he said.

This project is expected to yield about 180 job opportunities, which is something highly needed in this community. "This is one project that tackles the underlying symptoms of poverty which is lack of food and unemployment," said Mr Makhaye. The visit to emaDungeni is the part of department's programme to launch poverty alleviation projects in the province. Similar projects have been launched in Babanango, Ntunjambili, Emfithi, Makhabeleni and Sisonke, north of the province. Mr Makhaye appealed to the community look beyond just subsistence farming.

"I am appealing to you to farm not only with an intention of consuming for yourselves but also with an intention of selling and making profit. "From the project we are launching today we must grow vegetables that can be sold to schools, clinics and hospitals. Our department's extension services will always be available to assist you with necessary information to improve your farming," he said.

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World Bank
February 24, 2004Internet:,,contentMDK:20168349~

February 24, 2004—More than 500 water professionals from around the world are discussing how to best improve access to water for millions of people in poor countries this week at the World Bank headquarters in Washington. Water Week is an annual World Bank forum where water professionals gather to discuss issues and challenges related to:

  • water supply and sanitation

  • water resources management and development

  • irrigation

  • hydropower

  • environmental management dimensions of water


Global awareness on the importance of wise water management and development and sustainable water services is at its highest point ever. Making sure all people have adequate access to water is crucial to reach the Millennium Development Goals, a set of internationally agreed goals that aim to halve world poverty by 2015.


The Bank has moved a long way over the last few years in its approach to tackling the challenges of the water sector, said Nemat Shafik, World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure.  "We are now discussing in a frank and open manner issues that weren’t on the table a few years ago. We are looking at how we deal with reputational risk and high risk-high reward projects. We are examining how we reach out to others in the water sector, not only to share our experience with them but also to learn from experiences outside the Bank," she said.


A major issue that participants are discussing at the forum is  "how to build efficient water utilities in a post-September 11, post-Argentina crisis world where international investors are more and more reluctant to invest in emerging economies," said Jamal Saghir, World Bank Energy and Water Director. “The focus has changed from an ideological debate on public versus private provision to finding pragmatic local solutions in which governments, private entities and civil society all play an appropriate role,” he adds. Maria Mutagamba, the Minister of State for Water of Uganda, is one of the notable external speakers who is sharing her country’s experiences at the forum. Uganda has been a leader in water supply and sanitation reform in Africa in recent years.


There is a strong and growing awareness in Africa about the issues and necessary responses to the continent’s water crisis. "Water underpins development initiatives across the African continent – food security, power supply, health, economic growth, environmental regeneration," says David Grey, World Bank Senior Water Adviser. Water supply and sanitation coverage in Africa is the lowest in the world at 55 percent. A least-cost estimate of the investment required to halve the number of people who don’t safe drinking water by 2015 is $1.5 billion per year. This is four times the current rate of investment. “Only 6 percent of hydropower potential in Africa has been developed, in stark contrast to 80 percent of potential that is typically developed in industrialized countries," Grey points out. Ethiopia has about 50 cubic meters of water in artificial storage per person, while Australia, with a similar degree of climate variability, has about 5000 cubic meters As a result, endemic droughts and floods have devastating effects on Ethiopia’s poor.

For more information on Water Week 2004 see:

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March 16, 2004

BERLIN, Mar 16 (IPS) - Water management is set to play a crucial role in the development of travel and tourism industry in Africa in the coming years, according to experts. The United Nations specialised agency World Tourism Organisation estimates that some 77 million tourists - three times the number recorded in 1995 - will visit Africa in 2020. ”These expectations will be fulfilled only if the right conditions are created,” says Karl Wolfgang Menck from Hamburg Institute of International Economy (HWWA). In a paper presented at the world tourism fair ITB in Berlin, Menck says, if this aspect has not been given adequate attention up to now, it is because ”the preferred destinations of visitors to Africa are presently not afflicted by bottlenecks in water supply.”

North Africa, which attracts about 40 percent of all travellers to Africa, ”has comparatively good water supplies”. But the water supply situation in Southern Africa that attracts one-third of the global tourists to the continent is far from satisfactory. Water required for public use has to be pumped over long distances from rivers and lakes, and this involves enormous costs. The situation is aggravated by the fact floods follow on the heels of droughts - underlining the need for adequate water management, says Menck. East Africa that is expected to share 30 percent of travellers to the continent is no better off. Equally precarious is the water supply situation in West Africa that has not yet drawn a significant tourist attention.

Menck's concern is shared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), based in Nairobi. According to Africa Environment Outlook published by UNEP ahead of the World Summit on Sustainable Development late August 2002 in Johannesburg, the continent's share of global freshwater resources is about 9 per cent. These freshwater resources are distributed unevenly across Africa, with western Africa and central Africa having significantly greater precipitation than northern Africa, the Horn of Africa and southern Africa.

The wettest country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has nearly 25 per cent of average annual internal renewable water resources in Africa. By contrast, the driest country, Mauritania, has just 0.01 per cent of Africa's total. Average water availability per person in Africa is 5,720 cubic metres per capita per year compared to a global average of 7,600 cubic metres, but there are large disparities between sub-regions. Giulia Carbone, UNEP's programme officer for sustainable tourism, points out that presently, some 206 million Africans live in water stressed or water scarce countries. By 2025 the number will rise to about 700 million as population continues to grow. Of these, roughly 440 million will live in countries with acute water scarcity - less than 1,000 cubic metres per person per year.

Fifty years ago, there was four times more water for each African than today. ”Now there are acute water shortages for crops and for livestock, for industry and sanitation in the cities, and almost everywhere drinking water is increasingly scarce,” says the UNEP. Caught between growing demand for freshwater and limited and increasingly polluted supplies, many African countries face difficult choices. Finding solutions requires responses at local, national and international levels.

These include community level initiatives to manage water resources better, national water management policies that help not only to improve supply but also manage demand international cooperation. After all, water knows no national boundaries. UNEP expects increasing tourism in Africa to increase pressure on natural resources. ”Therefore the need for responsible and sustainable water use habits and policies is vital to ensure viable growth of one of Africa's most exciting growth-industries.” Although tourism, especially eco-tourism, is not the heaviest water use sector, it has a responsibility and a unique need in Africa to strive towards becoming the continent's flagship water management industry. Menck says: ”Efficient and sustainable use of water resources should be part of all tourism developers' strategies. This includes incentives for all hotel guests, staff and local population to minimise water use through comprehensive education and awareness programmes.”

But he has also words of praise for African states that have agreed to improve the water management situation with a view to attracting tourists and protect the environment. Within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), African governments have voted in favour of tourism that is ecology friendly. And this is inevitably linked to adequate water management, says Menck in his paper. Menck submitted his paper at the Africa Forum organised by ITB Berlin. The five-day fair that ended Tuesday was joined by travel and tourism operators from 178 countries. African participants included those from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Gambia, Eritrea and Mauritius. (END/2004)

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March 16, 2004

NAIROBI, Mar 16 (IPS) - The delicate topic of sharing the Nile's water is coming under discussion this week in Kenya, at a meeting to find ways of alleviating poverty in countries that lie within the Nile basin. The five-day meeting, which began Monday (Mar. 15) in Nairobi, has been organised by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) - a partnership between countries that the river runs through. The NBI was launched in 1999 with the aim of promoting cooperation between Nile states so that the river could be used sustainably.

The Nile and its tributaries cross 10 states: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. According to the NBI, four of these countries are amongst the world's 10 poorest states, a problem that could be addressed by introducing agricultural projects. "We are going to explore ways in which all riparian (river-side) states will share water, especially for agricultural use," George Krhoda, Permanent Secretary in Kenya's Ministry of Water Resource Management and Development, told IPS.

According to NBI Executive Director Meraji Msuya, the projects will be financed by a donor-supported trust fund to be launched Tuesday (Mar. 16). "The NBI trust fund already has 80 percent of the 136 million dollars needed. This is an achievement, and we are moving ahead to closing doors of poverty in the region," he said. The Nairobi conference follows a similar meeting held last week in Uganda, where delegates tried once again to work out how the Nile's water can be fairly distributed between states that border the river. It comes at a time of mounting tension around this issue, with several countries states calling for a nullification of the 1929 Nile Basin Treaty.

This agreement, revised in 1959, was signed between Britain (on Sudan's behalf) and Egypt. It prohibits the other eight Nile basin states from undertaking projects that might reduce the volume of water reaching these two countries, without getting permission from Egypt and Sudan. This arrangement has proved particularly unfair for Ethiopia, which accounts for over three quarters of the water flowing into the Nile - but consumes less than one percent of these resources. The country is currently suffering from a severe drought, and could benefit greatly from increased irrigation using Nile water. Suggestions of increased water use by Ethiopia have sparked consternation in Egypt, which is heavily dependent on the Nile for its own agriculture sector.

Relations between Egypt and Kenya also hit a low during a meeting of the Nile Basin Council of Ministers held in Ethiopia last December. Kenya's Minister of Water Resources, Martha Karua, stormed out of the talks after disagreements about sharing of the Nile's resources, an action that was termed a "declaration of war" by her Egyptian counterpart, Mahmoud Abu-Zeid. Former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali once remarked that the next major war in Africa would result from the controversy over usage of the Nile waters. Certain human rights groups in Kenya have lined up behind the government concerning its stance on the Nile.

"Kenya should go ahead and use the waters for the well being of its citizens.we should not be cowed down. Besides war on one nation means war on all," Samson Ojiayo, Coordinator of Bunge la Wananchi (Parliament of the People), told IPS. Tanzania, which is also experiencing drought, has already gone ahead with tapping water from Lake Victoria, which feeds into the Nile. Early last month, it embarked on a 27.6 million dollar project to supply the water to dry regions. "We cannot sit and wait while we can save our people from famine. We hold that the two treaties (the original 1929 agreement and the 1959 revision) are not binding because they did not involve us," said a source close to the Tanzanian government who declined to be named. "What we know is that we have equal rights to use the waters, and there are no restrictions."

Nonetheless, officials at the NBI meeting in Nairobi are playing down reports of hostility between Nile basin countries. "The 1929 treaty is not a controversy at all. We are disturbed by the misreporting (in the) media. Since the formation of NBI in 1999, there has been tremendous achievement. People are now talking openly about the Nile even with Egypt, not like it was 10 to 15 years ago when no one could talk about it," Msuya remarked. There were similar words from an Egyptian delegate, Abdel Fattah Mettawie. "Which war are you talking about? There has never been talk of war," he said. "This is handpicked and unresearched information meant to mislead people." Water affairs ministers from NBI countries are expected to make an appearance at the meeting on Mar. 18, when they will conduct further negotiations on sharing out the waters of the 6,700 kilometre Nile - the world's longest waterway. (END/2004)

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Vietnam News Agency
March 15, 2004

To exploit rich natural resources in the Mekong River region, the six countries in the Mekong basin, namely Viet Nam, China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar, have implemented hundreds of cooperation projects in economic development, infrastructure, human resource training, and environmental protection. In 1995, the region established its first inter-governmental organisation, the Mekong River Commission (MRC), for sustainable development cooperation and management of water as well as other resources.

The cooperation also draws great interest and assistance from many international organisations, in particular the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WB), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as from Japan. One of the earliest cooperation programme in the Mekong basin started in 1992, the Regional Cooperation Programme of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), at the proposal of the ADB. The programme has 50 projects on transport infrastructure, now being built or implemented.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), with the aim of expanding economic-commercial ties among member countries, particularly those in the Mekong basin, joined the Mekong basin countries to establish the ASEAN-Mekong Basin Development Cooperation Programme (AMBDC) in 1995. Seventy-two projects, with a combined investment of 4.1 billion USD, are being implemented under this programme, the largest of which is a 2.5 billion USD trans-Asia railway line, running from Singapore to Kunming in China, part of which passes through Viet Nam.

In 1998, Viet Nam proposed a joint scheme to reduce poverty and to narrow the gap in development levels in areas along the East-West Economic Corridor, covering 48 provinces in the Mekong sub-region, including 18 provinces in Viet Nam. At present, 26 projects in trade, tourism and human resource development are operating within this framework. Viet Nam, Laos and Campuchia are actively trying to realise an initiative, put forth in 1999, to set up the development triangle.

In addition to these above-mentioned programmes, there are various cooperation activities at different levels in the Mekong region. Most recently, Japan committed to a 1.5 billion USD grant to help reduce the development gaps among Mekong sub-region countries. For Viet Nam, the Mekong basin is of great strategic importance in socio-economics, biology, environment, security and national defence. The country is positioned at a geographically favourable point, the gateway of many important transport routes in the region. Viet Nam's policies on socio-economic development share common points with the major purposes of the cooperation programmes in the Mekong sub-region. For that reason, Viet Nam supports and actively participates in most of those schemes. The country is mapping out a master-plan on its participation in development projects in the Mekong basin, with the aim of making full use of Viet Nam's advantages, and helping promote those projects' effectiveness.

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Washington File
March 15

Washington -- Over 500 government officials, members of civil society organizations, scientists, engineers and businessmen from the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean will meet March 22-26 in Miami for the "White Water to Blue Water Partnership Conference." The "White Water to Blue Water" initiative emerged from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development principally to promote the international practice of integrated watershed and marine ecosystem-based management. The Miami conference is intended both to offer a detailed look at watershed management issues affecting the wider Caribbean and also to stimulate opportunities for organizations of all sizes to join forces to ensure the economic and environmental vibrancy of the region.

On March 15, the Washington File spoke with Shaun Paul, executive director of The EcoLogic Development Fund about the Miami conference. Paul has been working closely with the U.S. National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and numerous other U.S. government agencies that have taken a leading role in organizing the conference. Paul's participation in this effort reflects his organization's commitment to foster effective public-private partnerships to achieve the greatest good at the regional level. For over 10 years, EcoLogic, a Boston-based non-profit organization, has assisted rural communities in Latin America rise from poverty and become better stewards of the region's natural resources. EcoLogic has done this largely though partnerships, Paul said.

"It was our belief, since our inception in 1993, that we could achieve more by partnering with local organizations -- by providing them with financial and technical assists and with something we call 'accompaniment' or 'acompanamiento' in Spanish," Paul explained. "For us, partnership or accompaniment has meant we clearly articulate shared goals with our partner," he said. "These goals are generally programmatic in nature; for example, stopping the agricultural frontier from advancing into a park by promoting sustainable agricultural alternatives." Paul added that EcoLogic has learned that "to be successful in those goals, we must be ready to assist our partner do whatever it takes to achieve them."

He indicated that, in practice, this often requires helping EcoLogic's partners to assess their strengths and weaknesses. "If they are weak in something like accounting or strategic planning or in defining effective indicators of success, then we will roll up our sleeves and work with them," Paul said. "This is what they came to value in our relationship and I believe it is through those relationships that we were able to achieve our goals," he stressed. In addition to the value of this close cooperation with individual Latin American communities, Paul believes partnerships are equally important to achieve EcoLogic's goals at the regional level. To this end, he volunteered to collaborate with the White Water to Blue Water Initiative following the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

As head of the conference subcommittee on partnerships, Paul advocates that all sectors -- government, private sector and nongovernmental organizations -- ask themselves, "What can we achieve together that we cannot achieve alone?" He emphasized that this collaboration is particularly important when dealing with "the very complex and challenging issues of integrated watershed management, as it affects coastal zone management and the sustainability of use of ocean resources in the wider Caribbean." Paul has been impressed with the level of interest and government attendance expected at the Miami conference. He traces international support for forming broader partnerships back to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. "There was strong consensus on this issue there, particularly among the governments, and I would venture to say by civil society organizations, " he said. "Certainly they have been engaging in partnerships for a long, long time."

One of the challenges Paul envisions addressing at the conference is, "How do we bring together government, private sector and civil society organizations in meaningful ways?" Partnerships, he said, "can provide a context or framework to begin to define how these three sectors can work more effectively together." Paul expressed hope that the upcoming conference will both reinvigorate international development work already taking place in the wider Caribbean and also identify new partnerships for the participating agencies and organizations. In addition to forging new partnerships, capacity building will be an important component of the conference.

In conjunction with his organizing role, Paul said he has also enjoyed working with the Smithsonian Institution to establish the "Institute @ WW2BW," a forum where Paul and over 40 other international experts will be able to conduct workshops during the course of the conference.

The idea of bringing conference participants together outside plenary presentations, panels and practical training units to further enhance their capacity also harks back to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, according to Paul. During the preparation for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, Dr. Leonard P. Hirsch of the Smithsonian Institution introduced the idea of inviting experts attending the event to conduct additional practical training to augment the conference experience. Hirsch implemented this idea by establishing what he described as a mini-university called "The Institute" at a Johannesburg high school near the summit venue.

"We gave 67 different classes that ranged from one to three days in length and to about 1,200 different participants on a whole host of topics ranging from how to negotiate a biodiversity prospecting agreement to how to create a low-polluting transportation hub in a crowded city," Hirsch told the Washington File. The institute was sufficiently successful in Johannesburg that a number of people immediately asked Hirsch if he planned to replicate it at other meetings.

Hirsch indicated that the Smithsonian has been exploring the appropriate scale of activities for large international meetings and during the last year has been working with the U.N. Development Program, which is now a full partner with the Smithsonian, to develop other institutes to take place along side international meetings. "This institute is a natural fit with the Smithsonian," Hirsch said.

For over one-and-a-half centuries the Smithsonian Institution has worked with community partners around the world to be better stewards of their resources, in keeping with the Smithsonian's founding mission to increase and diffuse knowledge, Hirsch explained. "We have actually been doing a lot of work related to sustainable development," Hirsch explained. "We've been engaged around the world in helping to set up national parks or protected areas, and doing basic research on biological diversity." He pointed out that the Institute @ WW2BW will be the biggest institute since Johannesburg. "We will have six simultaneous classes throughout the conference," Hirsch said, explaining that the Smithsonian has worked very closely with the organizers of the themes to ensure the training offered will build on the organizers' efforts. Hirsch indicated the institute will cover such topics as planning a successful mooring program, issues of erosion control, use of graphic information systems (GIP), and development of effective multi-sectoral partnerships.

Complete information on the White Water to Blue Water Partnership Conference, including the Institute @ WW2BW, is available at

For background on the White Water to Blue Water Initiative see

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BuaNews (South Africa)
March 15, 2004

Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Ronnie Kasrils says the focus of this year's National Water Week will be on raising awareness about responsibly conserving water in the country. This year's National Water Week takes place from 22-28 March with the theme "Water Washing away Poverty". It coincides with government's ten years of democracy celebrations and International Water Day on 22 March.

In his statement ahead of the celebrations, Mr Kasrils said the event would also celebrate the success of government's water delivery programme and management during the first decade of democracy. "This is a particularly important achievement given the backlog inherited in 1994," said Mr Kasrils. He said that a decade ago, around 14 million people did not have access to safe drinking water and some 21 million people did not have access to a basic level of sanitation.

In the ten years since democracy, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has provided almost 10 million South Africans with access to clean water," said the Minister.

Mr Kasrils added that South Africa had more than achieved the rate of delivery required to meet the millennium targets set by the Heads of State at the United Nations in 2000. "At that meeting President Thabo Mbeki together with 100 other Heads of State, committed to halving the proportion of people lacking safe water in the world by 2015," he explained. The Minister said although the goal was to eradicate the backlog of access to water (5 million) and adequate sanitation (16 million) by 2008 and 2010 respectively, it was not enough for the government.

"Our vision for the next ten years is to move people up the Water Ladder, from communal taps to the convenience and dignity of water in people's own yards with each household having its own toilet and even, in time hot and cold running water inside their homes," said the Minister.

He said the provision of access to water, particularly for rural communities, was about improving their lives beyond mere subsistence.

"Apart from avoiding the hardship of carting water over long distances there are also other benefits that result directly from having easy access to clean water, improved hygiene and better sanitation, such as health benefits from reduced transmission of water borne and other diseases," explained Mr Kasrils. Mr Kasrils said the "blueprint for survival", the National Water Resource Strategy, which will be launched this year, will ensure that the objectives of the Constitution and the Water Act were met. "South Africa is a water-stressed country and this strategy describes the ways in which the country's water resources will be protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled," he said.

The department has spearheaded the Free Basic Water Policy which, when implemented by Local Government, ensures households receive 6 000 litres of clean water every month free. "Many South Africans, even though they may have access to clean water, cannot afford to pay for a service that is so essential to their health and basic needs. Already more than 27,6 million people are benefiting from the policy," said the Minister. Meanwhile, major events taking place during National Water Week include the Women in Water Awards on Friday, the Johannesburg Water Festival on the 23 March and the Baswa le Meetse (Youth in Water) Awards on 26 March.

The Women in Water Awards honour both professional and community-based women who are involved in water management. It aims to recognise the key role that women play in poverty eradication, education and sustainable development in both the urban and rural context. The Baswa le Meetse awards are presented to schoolchildren or youth, who produce and convey inspiring messages to the public about water and sanitation, through theatre and the arts, such as drama, cultural music, poems, praise singing and drawing.

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March 15, 2004

The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) urged Middle East countries to make better use of the region's water resources. "The problem is not a shortage of water but better use of available resources in the region," director general Jacques Diouf told reporters ahead of Tuesday's FAO regional conference for the Near East in the Qatari capital.

"Solutions to the problems exist, including technical solutions," he added Monday, noting that drought and population growth was increasing demand for water. Diouf also called for neighbouring countries to negotiate on water-sharing.  A week-long series of meetings designed to ease tension between nine African countries and Egypt opened in Nairobi on Monday, with sharing water from the River Nile at the top of the agenda, officials said. Twenty-two of the 32 Near East countries are attending the Doha conference which has focussed on measures to prevent famine, food safety and financing for agriculture, as well as water resources and drought mitigation.

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Financial Express (India)
March 14, 2004

Environmentalists have no love lost for the chemical industry and you cannot blame them for that. After all, most chemical factories release extremely hazardous and highly polluting effluents into the environment. But if you happen to visit the sprawling factory of Kanoria Chemicals and Industries Ltd (KCIL) in Ankleshwar (Gujarat) near Baroda, the first thing which strikes you are lush green surroundings and thousands of birds perched under factory sheds in the complex.

KCIL’s boldness in experimenting with a pathbreaking technology never before used by any company in India for treatment of distillery effluent has paid off. Today, KCIL’s president (Works) BP Agrawal is inundated with so many queries by other distillers across the country who want to replicate the technology in their manufacturing facilities that he had to earmark 1st and 16th day of every month for plant visits by such companies so that KCIL’s own operations do not suffer due to unregulated inflow of visitors. In fact, KCIL’s whole-time director OP Patodia sums up the environment initiative in a simple line: “The presence of thousands of birds in a chemical factory complex is our best certificate to prove how much environment friendly our unit is.” This pioneering and pathbreaking effort in the country is a role model for other distilleries to follow. R V Kanoria CMD, KCIL

KCIL, which manufactures alcohol based intermediates in Ankleshwar factory, is the only company in India to successfully implement reverse osmosis technology for converting as much as 70 per cent of distillery effluent back into usable clean water which is again used in distillery plant. The reward: KCIL today requires only six litres of fresh water for production of a litre of alcohol compared to 13-14 litres used by distilleries in general, says Mr Agrawal. On the whole, the company has cut down its fresh water usage from 1800 kilolitre (kl) per day to 1300 kl/day.

“This pioneering and pathbreaking effort in the country is a role model for other distilleries to follow,” says KCIL’s chairman and managing director RV Kanoria.  Distilleries generally do a two-stage treatment, primary and secondary. After primary treatment, waste water is given a secondary treatment by aeration or the effluent is used for composting.

KCIL installed anaerobic digesters based on the latest technology sourced from Degremont of France and Bacardi of USA. This process produces biogas containing 60-65 per cent methane, 30-35 per cent carbon dioxide and 2.5-3.5 per cent hydrogen sulphide. The biogas was earlier used as a fuel in biolers to generate 10-bar steam but the company discovered that power generated directly from biogas was more viable and also environment friendly.  But to do that, the company had to remove hydrogen sulphide from biogas to prevent corrosion in the engine. KCIL went in for Thiopaq Scrubber Technology promoted by Paques Biosystems BV of Netherlands. The result: sulphur emission has reduced dramatically to 9 kilograms (kg) per day from 900 kgs per day earlier. The sulphur recovered is used as a by-product and raw material for manufacturing bio-compost.

Interestingly, Paques Biosystems won the Dutch Environment Award for industry based on the demonstration of technology installed by KCIL at its plant, says Mr Patodia. The carbon dioxide is recovered from bio-gas sold as a by-product. Generally, the bio-gas generated is used for generation of steam by direct firing into the boiler, which degrades environment and also corrodes the boiler and other components. But KCIL, after separating hydrogen sulphide, utilises the biogas for generation as it give higher economic value compared to generation of steam. The exhaust gases leaving the bio gas engines are also utilised to produce steam through waste heat recovery units.

The high pressure steam generated by the boilers is used for power generation through back pressure turbines at practically no cost and the low pressure steam is then utilised for process applications. The company generates 1700 kw power as against total requirement of 3000 kw through non-conventional sources of energy.

The company has a separate bio-compost plant located nearby which is used as organic manure by farmers. It has developed a bio-diversified green belt in the factory premises where eco-friendly plants and trees are planted with scientific planning.

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Manipur Mail
March 14, 2004

The Thoubal Multipurpose/Mapithel project now under construction under heavy security personnel has been opposed by those affected by the project. The 390 crores project aims to provide water and power and an earthen dam at Maphou is now under construction. The dam will be 66m high and 1074m long. Forty percent of the dam is now completed with the work undertaken by ANSAL and Progressive.

The Citizens Concern for Dams development (CCDD), an open forum since 1999 comprising of People's Movement, Association and organizations and individuals from different communities in cooperation with the International Rivers Network (IRN), celebrated for the 2nd time in Manipur on the 7th International Day of Action for Rivers, water and life, which falls on the 14th March 2004 as a part of the celebration at Louphong a village displaced in 1991. In the year 1991 Louphong villagers were forcibly uprooted & displaced without given proper time to arrange their new houses and were forced to stay in their temporary constructed tent houses. Rehabilitation and resettlement were done without following the approval rehabilitation and re-settlement programmes and policies of the government of Manipur. Construction of houses, granary, latrine etc, were done by the affected and displaced people themselves.

Completion reports of rehabilitation and re-settlement in respect of Louphong village submitted by IFCD is not correct. Muster roll employees who have been serving more than 10 to 20 year are still not regularized. Compensation for land and standing properties were paid unfairly on installment basis. The initial investigation, survey and proposal for the construction of Mapithel dam-Thoubal Multipurpose project were done without the knowledge and prior consent of the affected villagers.

When the dam is completed, 6 villages will be completely submerged while another 3 villages will be partially affected. The initial investigation, survey and proposal for the construction of Mapithel dam-Thoubal Multipurpose project were done without the knowledge and prior consent of the affected villagers.

Foreseeing the possible impacts on their livelihood and culture, the local people bean to protest, but the then government totally ignored and subdued the genuine claims and protest. After much protest, the government and some people's representatives, on 26th June 1993 and signed 'A memorandum of agreement, terms and conditions for rehabilitation and resettlement programmes' for the affected villages and the rate of compensation for the lands affected by the construction of Mapithel dam-Thoubal multipurpose of the government and the effected villagers.

A look at the signed agreement will prove that it was a compromised position on the part of the villagers as the rehabilitation packaged will not be able to restore their previous livelihood base, however as a way make way for the dam the document was signed. Without due recognition of this sacrifice, the government has failed to be transparent and helpful to the affected people and instead violently and in a piecemeal fashion breached the agreement till now. It is to be noted that the cost escalation of the dam has gone up from the initial 47.25 crore to more than 400 crore now, though the compensation to be paid to the affected people has not been even raised since 1993. It is now resolved that since the government has failed to fulfill the earlier agreement it will agreed memorandum of 1993 is reviewed and a new re-agreement is made.

Further, it is sought that the new re-arrangement with the government should follow the recommendation of the world commission of dams recommendations. The demand of the affected people of Mapithel dam is not new. In Manipur we have seen the large scale destruction of not only the environment but also the livelihood of fishing families and agricultural farmers as a result of the Ithai barrage built for the Loktak Multipurpose project. Despite these experiences the government is still continuing with its destructive dams and other developmental projects. About 1181.62 ha of land will be submerged.

The meeting held today at the Louphong church attended by large numbers of people from the affected areas resolved to demand a white paper from the side of the government. It further demanded to review the whole project as it is not acceptable. Solomon the village chief said the government has given false promises to the people of the area. The livelihood of the people will be taken away if the land is taken away. Jonathan Jajo, Chairman South Tangkhul said the issue is not of any particular community. As the people will be displaced a complete demographic change will take place. Salam Rajesh said even in the case of Loktak lake which was completed long ago compensation problem is not solved.  The people should be consulted before taking any project he said. NC Khuman Gen Secy, AMUCO said the people are hypnotized by giving false hopes. Joseph Hinar said the people are not benefited by the dam. Loktak and other dams in the state are conspicuous by their failures. Aram Pamei said all should work together and find out what is the right step.

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USA Today
March 12, 2004

Efforts to conserve water -- from low-flush toilets to more efficient power plants and crop irrigation -- are working so well that Americans use less of it than they did 30 years ago, a report issued Thursday by the federal government says. The flat trend in consumption came even as the USA's population grew and electricity production, the largest user of water, increased. The study from the U.S. Geological Survey says consumption is largely unchanged since 1985 and is 25% less than the 1970s, when it peaked. "It's pretty good news for the nation," says Robert Hirsch, chief hydrologist for the Geological Survey. The agency examined 50 years of water use through 2000.

But some people knowledgeable about water use caution that some of the gains could dry up unless people change their personal habits and farmers who irrigate their crops become more efficient.

For a decade, they say, water that Americans conserved at home has not been a result of voluntary efforts but from measures they hardly notice- low-flow bathroom fixtures and water-saving appliances. Those measures were ordered by a 1992 federal law. And those savings are only a drop in the bucket.

The biggest savings have been by industry. And that is a result of water-saving technology driven by energy-saving and environmental protection laws passed in the 1970s. Utilities that once needed huge amounts of water to cool electrical generating plants in "once-through" fashion now conserve water by recirculating it in a closed loop. The report says the USA consumes 408 billion gallons a day. Homes and most businesses use 11% of that. Nearly half, 48%, goes to power plants. Watering crops takes 34%. The remaining 7% includes mining, livestock and individual domestic wells.

Despite the report's findings, some say Americans still waste too much water. "If there's one word I use, it's waste still," says conservation consultant Amy Vickers of Amherst, Mass., author of Handbook of Water Use and Conservation. She says 15-20% of municipal water is lost to leaky pipelines and other unmeasured waste. "There's a lot more water being used than is actually getting reported."

Americans aren't conserving water outdoors like they are indoors. Many new homes have sprinkler systems for their yards, even in parts of the country where watering rarely is needed. Vickers says yard services contribute to waste. "They want to make sure your lawn is more perfect, and they douse it," she says. Americans will continue to save water as they build homes and install low-flush toilets and water-saving appliances. Conservationists say Americans may need that water as the population continues to rise, demand for energy grows and groundwater is depleted. Farmers are pumping more groundwater. In 1950, less than a quarter of farm irrigation, 23%, came from the ground. In 2000, 43% did. In California, the most populous state, people use 25% less water per person than the rest of the country, an analysis by the Pacific Institute in Oakland found. They are using less because they adopted water-saving devices earlier than most of the rest of the country. Before low-flush toilets, Californians put bricks in the tanks of their toilets to cut water use.

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Independent (UK)
March 12, 2004

The Government gave the go-ahead yesterday for a huge programme of environmental improvements within the water industry which will herald a big rise in domestic bills in the likely run-up to the next general election. Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, sanctioned a wide- ranging programme of quality improvements which will result in total expenditure by water companies of at least £20bn over the next five years. That will feed through to increases in household bills averaging 30 per cent from next April, the likely time for Britain to go to the polls.

In some areas of the country, such as the North-west, bills could rise by as much as 70 per cent over the five-year period. The average household bill this year is £234. This could rise to just over £300 by 2009-10. The water regulator, Phillip Fletcher of Ofwat, had suggested a reduced investment programme of about £15bn over the period 2005-10, which would have involved a cut of about £3bn in spending on environmental improvements. But Mrs Beckett has decided on an investment programme which, if anything, is larger than that put forward initially by the industry. Despite the size of the overall expenditure plan, the environmental lobby said it was disappointed the Government had not gone further. Under the guidance issued by Mrs Beckett to Ofwat yesterday, Britain will still only meet the minimum standards required by Brussels on bathing and river water quality.

Schemes designed to safeguard shellfish fisheries will also have to be scaled back. Only two-thirds of the 4,700 individual schemes proposed by the Environment Agency are to be implemented. "These costs are being deferred, not avoided," said Sir John Harmon, the agency's chairman.

Announcing the spending guidelines, Mrs Beckett said: "I am concerned about the effect of water bills, especially on those least able to pay. Changes to our policies on drinking water and the environment cannot avert increases, but in a climate of rising water bills I have closely scrutinised the need for and benefits of further policies to improve water company standards.'' The programme approved by ministers includes action to tackle sewage overflows into streams and rivers, protect wetland wildlife sites, control water leakage and curb phosphorus levels in lakes such as Lake Windermere, where levels of the chemical threaten serious ecological damage.

The 22 water companies in England and Wales will now submit final business plans to Ofwat based on Mrs Beckett's guidance, and Mr Fletcher will announce in July by how much water bills will need to rise from next year.

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March 12, 2004

Experts from 10 African countries holding talks in Uganda on how to share the waters of the Nile River adjourned their meeting without reaching agreement, officials said. "The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Committee has adjourned the meeting, but the consultations on various issues will go on," NBI Executive Secretary Meraji Msuya told AFP by telephone. Officials from 10 countries -- Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda -- had been meeting behind closed doors in the Ugandan town of Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile. The committee, set up in December 2003, has since Monday been studying controversial historical treaties on the use of waters from the Nile, Africa's longest river.

A Ugandan government source said that 10 to 12 issues sparked disagreement during the talks, particularly a requirement by Egypt that countries to its south notify Cairo if they want to undertake new projects using the Nile and Lake Victoria waters. "The countries have strongly objected to the requirement," the Ugandan source, who requested anonymity, told AFP after the meetings ended on Friday. Egypt clings to treaties it signed with Britain in 1929 and 1959, which restricts other basin states, which were British colonies at the time, from undertaking projects that would reduce the volume of water flowing to Egypt.

When he was president of Tanzania, the late Julius Nyerere declared that all such treaties were nullified by independence.  Tanzania has embarked on a 27.6 million dollars project to draw significant volumes of water from Lake Victoria, prompting threats from Egypt.  Kenya has said it would similarly start using Lake Victoria waters, pointing out that it is most of its rivers flow into the lake.  NBI official Msuya said the meeting will reconvene on a later date and that two other meetings are expected before the countries agree on a new arrangement to use the waters of the world's longest river to develop their region.  Msuya said all the countries will be represented in another series of meetings starting on Monday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Ugandan officials say the Nile Basin countries south of Egypt prefer a protracted negotiation process to give them time to fully understand the whole issue of how to use the waters of Nile, before they sign any agreement. The most hostile position is between Egypt and Ethiopia, whose economies are largely dependent on the Nile.  Egypt's attempt to reclaim parts of its southern desert in the Toshka valley will mean exceeding its water quotas and this has hardened positions in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.  Drought-prone Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile, which joins together with the White Nile from Lake Victoria to form the mighty river as it flows towards Egypt, also wants to use the river for irrigation.

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HI Pakistan
March 12, 2004

The World Bank executive board has decided to extend concessional assistance through the International Development Association (IDA) to Pakistan in infrastructure sector like water and irrigation , power and telecommunications. "The board of directors unanimously concurred with (the bank) staff that the PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper) provides a credible poverty reduction strategy and a sound basis for IDA's concessional assistance", a World Bank statement said. The PRSP will be highlighted at the forthcoming Pakistan Development Forum scheduled to be held here on March 17-19.

At the forum, donors would discuss steps to help Pakistan fulfil its poverty reduction strategy. One of the areas the donors would focus on was infrastructure, which included additional investments in water and irrigation, power, transport, and telecommunications, the World Bank said. The IDA provides long-term loans at zero interest to the poorest of the developing countries. Pakistan does not fall in this category, but the World Bank is ready to change its IDA's terms of reference to extend loans to Pakistan. The World Bank vice-president for South Asia, Praful C. Patel, who visited Pakistan last month, has been making a strong case to authorities to seek fresh World Bank assistance.

Pakistan has told the bank that it is already repaying its expensive debts ahead of schedule and can accept loans which carry only service charges. The World Bank's funding programme to Pakistan is now drying out as Islamabad did not seek any loan programme since the start of Ghazi Barotha Hydropower Project about a decade ago. The bank executive board of also reviewed the joint staff assessment of Pakistan's PRSP conducted by the staffs of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. "The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper tells the story of Pakistan's impressive turnaround," John Wall, World Bank's country director for Pakistan, told the executive board.

"Having taken a steep path out of the debt crisis and re-established its financial credibility, Pakistan is ready for a second round of reforms. This PRSP is the core of this government's economic revival programme. The government's strong ownership of the strategy, its effective commitment to macro-economic stability and significant progress in implementing structural reforms have set Pakistan on a course to significantly reduce poverty", he said. "We believe that the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper is a good plan for improving the lives of the poor in Pakistan", he added.

The presentation at the board of the World Bank followed a similar review at the IMF executive board on Monday.

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Associated Press
March 11, 2004

BEIJING — Facing severe shortages, Beijing authorities plan to veto new water-guzzling businesses and reward companies that use water-saving technology, state media reported Wednesday. The plan will block approval of new businesses in the textile, leather, metal smelting, and chemical industries, the newspaper China Daily reported. Makers of beverages, plastics, and pharmaceuticals must meet water conservation restrictions to gain approval, said the newspaper, citing a notice by the Beijing Development and Reform Commission. "Besides banning and limiting water-consuming businesses, my commission also worked out a list of 93 kinds of water-saving and water-recycling products," Zhang Yanyou, director of the commission's industry division, was quoted as saying.

He said the municipal government set up a special fund to subsidize enterprises engaged in water-saving toilets, sewage treatment, and other water-saving technology. Beijing's 3 million flush toilets could save tens of millions of gallons (liters) of water each year if they are converted. "The market for water-saving devices is very large.... The amount of water wasted by leaks every year almost equals to the annual output of a waterworks," said Zhang Shouquan, a water expert with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, quoted by China Daily. Beijing sits on a dry plateau in northern China that is prone to drought. The central government is in the early stages of a project that is meant to move huge amounts of water from China's south to irrigate parched areas of the densely populated north.

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Associated Press
March 10, 2004

LIMA, Peru — Authorities warned on Tuesday that they may begin rationing water in Lima next month in response to lower rainfall in recent months and a predicted period of drought over the next several years. Located on Peru's desert Pacific coast, Lima relies on rains in the Andes Mountains to fill reservoirs that serve this sprawling city of 8 million people. "Our reservoirs are in the high parts at 4,700 meters (15,400 feet) above sea level, and the rains have been at 2,700 meters (8,850 feet)," said Jorge Villacorte, president of Peru's water authority, Sedapal.

Authorities cut off water supplies several times in parts of Lima a month ago after seasonal rains arrived late. Rationing this time — from mid-April through November — would be less severe, and the capital's residents have been warned well in advance, Villacorte said. Meanwhile, total overall water levels in lakes that feed Lima reservoirs have been rising as a result of lower-altitude rainfall from 60 million cubic meters (2.1 billion cubic feet) of water a month ago to 130 million cubic meters (4.5 billion cubic feet) this month. "We hope to reach 150 million (4.8 billion) by the end of April" when the highland rainy season ends, Villacorte said. At that time, the extent of the water rationing program will be clear, he added. The 22 lakes that feed Lima have a capacity for some 280 million cubic meters (9.8 billion cubic feet) of water, according to air force Maj. Juan Coronado, head of Peru's weather forecasting service Senami. The Andean highlands that feed water to Lima appear to be entering a dry period that is expected to peak between 2005-2007, he said.

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UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
March 9, 2004

Delegates from the 10 states that share the River Nile waters were engaged in intense negotiations on Tuesday, but said they were confident agreement could be reached on sharing the river and its potential uses. The high-level technical experts representing each state were meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, on the shores of Lake Victoria, which feeds the Nile, in an effort to flesh out a treaty regulating the use of the waters. The talks were organised by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), an intergovernmental organisation that seeks to achieve sustainable socio-economic development and management of Nile Basin water resources.

"This agreement is vital to the security and peace of the region. Security is no longer just about interstate relations - it is also about the sharing and preservation of our environment," Siraj al-Din Hamid Yusuf, the Sudanese ambassador to Uganda and one of the negotiators, told IRIN.

For his part, the Ugandan director of water development, Patrick Kahangire, said, "We are going through a slow process of negotiations, and of course these don't start where everything is agreed." Meraji Msuya, the executive director of the NBI told IRIN that "the most important thing for everybody is that all countries are genuinely ready and willing to discuss on these issues". Egyptian representatives attending the conference declined to comment.

The talks come amid growing disagreement between countries in the south of the Nile basin, primarily Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, which want to use the Nile waters for large-scale projects that might affect water levels farther down the river, and countries to the north, mainly Egypt, which might be affected by such projects. The centrepiece of the debate is a 1929 Nile Treaty, which forbids any southern country to take any action potentially capable of bringing about a reduction of the volume of Nile water reaching Egypt. East African countries like Kenya say they want the treaty changed, describing it as an illegitimate legacy of old colonial empires. Uganda wants the freedom to construct large-scale hydroelectric projects to solve its energy shortages. Tanzania, for its part, wants to build a pipeline to extract drinking water from Lake Victoria, while Ethiopia wants to launch large-scale irrigation projects using water from the Blue Nile to counter the effects of drought on its agriculture.

"Irrigation is something we must reach an agreement about," the Sudanese ambassador said. "Maintaining a constant flow of water is very important to countries like Egypt, for instance. People will die without it." Egypt is the country with most at stake in the negotiations, as it has virtually no other source of fresh water. Egyptian diplomats have reportedly vowed to contest any attempt to alter or violate the treaty for commercial purposes. But other countries argue that Egypt is not only using the water for agriculture but also for commercial purposes.

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New Vision (Kampala)
March 9, 2004

ENVIRONMENT state minister Lt. Gen. J. J. Odong has urged countries in the Great Lakes region and the Nile Basin to use their water resources carefully if they are to avoid a catastrophe, writes Gersom Musamali. Opening the Nile Basin Water Resources Management Project capacity-building workshop at the Entebbe headquarters on Thursday, Odong said increased desertification and pollution levels of water resources were catastrophic if not handled with care. The project aims at monitoring the River Nile water levels and generating data for forecasting weather patterns in the region.

It is also aimed at monitoring and controlling pollution levels in the river and the lakes that feed it.

The workshop, funded by the Italian Government and supervised by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), drew participants from Burundi, Egypt, Eriteria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. FAO country representative Ajmal M. Qureshi said 160m people live in the Nile Basin that spans over 3m square km, with half the basin countries among the world's poorest. He said the countries were bedeviled with civil strife, drought, hunger, disease, weak institutions, poverty and ignorance. Qurash said the basin offered great opportunity for socio-economic development if there were joint efforts equitable water resource utilisation. He said the workshop would review the achievements so far made.

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March 9, 2004

LONDON - One week after Monday's recognition of International Women's Day comes World Consumer Rights Day. But it is more than calendar dates that tie them together. A leading consumers group is linking women's rights closely to consumer rights, particularly around the issue of water.  Consumers International (CI), which represents more than 250 consumer organizations in 115 countries, says that following International Women's Day it will move to celebrate the powerful role that women consumer activists play in the promotion of consumer protection and basic human rights--especially the right to water.

The theme for its observance of consumer rights day this year is that "Water is a consumer right," and that women are in the forefront of needing and securing that right.  Women, water, and consumer organizations come together naturally, Kaye Stearman from CI told IPS. And the most potent link is poverty. The poor are a lot less likely to have access to clean water and sanitation. And according to UN studies, 70 percent of the world's poorest people with least access to resources are women and girls.  According to another UN report, 1.2 billion people have no access to clean water and sanitation, Stearman said. Clearly women suffer disproportionately from lack of access to clean water.

The link between women's issues and water issues can be a direct one, Stearman said. It is often women who have to go to collect water, and then physically carry it back. In the shanty towns around Lusaka in Zambia we found this to be a great burden on women, particularly because women often have to walk several miles to fetch water, and they are at risk of assault on the way.

The solution is to provide better access to water. That cannot be provided free because the project would then be unsustainable, she said. Nor can it be priced too high. And since it is the women who are affected most, and affected first, women need to be linked to water access and pricing, which is a consumers' issue. A report issued by the CI Monday explains how women, water and consumer interests can come together on the ground. In Senegal women have formed a neighborhood cooperative society to administer local water pumps, lower prices, provide hygiene education and promote consumer rights. The 18-month project funded by the European Commission enabled the construction of 52 standpipes and 600 sewages in poor suburbs around capital Dakar.

The project engaged with women's need for water, and then engaged women in its administrative and pricing structure as consumers, and finally got women involved in administering the project.

Marilena Lazzarini, CI president and coordinator of the Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor (IDEC), Brazil's leading consumer organization says that some of IDEC's earliest campaigns were around water. We tested tap water in different cities and then campaigned for better regulation to ensure safe water supplies. Now we monitor governments and water companies to ensure that they follow those regulations. Women have been the primary beneficiaries of clean water, and consumer watchdogs that involve women actively have made sure the water flows where it should.

High prices for water is an issue that mobilizes women around the world, the CI report says. Women are in the forefront of consumer campaigns against skyrocketing water prices in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, India, Malaysia, Mali, Slovenia and elsewhere, the report says. What women can do as consumers will benefit women as users.  Women understand water issues at their most basic consumer level, as they affect community, household and family health, the report says. Women's traditional role in family welfare and care-giving explains why women consumer activists at the grassroots and community level have focused on water quality and prices.

The report points to some salient facts about women and water:

  • Poor women in Africa and Asia walk an average of six kilometers a day to collect water.

  • Poor rural women in developing countries may spend eight hours a day collecting water, carrying up to 20 kilos of water on their heads each journey.

  • One in ten school-age girls in Africa do not attend school during menstruation or drop out at puberty because of the absence of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools.

  • Every day 6,000 girls and boys die from diseases linked to unsafe water, inadequate health and poor hygiene. Women are the main caretakers for sick children and adults.

  • High prices charged for water, whether by private or public companies, force poor women to buy from vendors or use contaminated or unsafe water.

  • A woman living in a slum in Kenya pays at least five times more for one liter of water than a woman in the United States.

  • Women have an important, but often unacknowledged role in water management, as collectors, porters, storers and users of water, in rural and urban settings.

CI plans to make a difference by campaigning hard through consumer organizations this year on water issues that particularly affect women.  There are many links between the social movements for women's and consumer's rights, the CI report says. Promotion of women's rights has been a powerful force behind campaigns for consumer protection against infant formulas, tobacco, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and sexist advertising, the report says. And now women need to act over their needs as consumers of water. The women's movement and consumer movements both play a prominent role in the global movement to empower civil society, the report says. There have been important successes to show in campaigning for national legislation, public awareness and empowerment of individuals and communities to defend their rights as women and as consumers.

Stearman says that some of the biggest consumer organizations in the West, including the biggest--the Consumers Union in the United States--started their campaigns on issues of rights. CI hopes to direct some of their efforts towards the right to clean water, particularly for women.

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Times of India
March 7, 2004

Egypt will reject any proposal to lower its quota of the Nile water, Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mahmud Abdel Halim Abu Zeid said Saturday, ahead of delicate talks with other countries sharing the African river basin. "The talks will have to comply with one permanent feature: Not to touch Egypt 's historical rights," the minister told a news conference. Abu Zeid will represent Egypt in a new round of discussions to open Sunday in Uganda with the nine other countries party to the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). He said the talks should focus on "the means to benefit from the Nile water which are lost," and not on a review of Egypt 's share.

Of the Nile 's estimated annual allotment of 83 billion cubic metres (2,931 billion cubic feet), Egypt has been receiving 55 billion cubic meters (1,942 billion cubic feet) under a 1929 treaty it signed with Britain , which was representing its East African colonies. The treaty also grants Cairo the right to veto any large-scale exploitation of the water by the other states that could affect the water level of the river. Kenya and Tanzania have openly declared they would not recognise the treaty, since they were not party to it, with the latter announcing a major project that will draw water from Lake Victoria in violation of the treaty. Ethiopia has expressed reservations about the treaty, without rejecting it. The NBI was launched in 1999 to provide a framework to fight poverty and promote socio-economic development in the entire region. Its members are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

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Borneo Bulletin
March 3, 2004

The first day plenary session of the 4-day 39th SEAMEO Council Conference concluded fruitfully with the signing of the SEAMEO Declaration on Value-Based Water Education by all 10 Asean Education Ministers. The endorsement of the declaration at yesterday's meeting supports the Millennium Development Goal and the related target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved services, including access to safe water and adequate sanitation facilities in the region where deprivation of these services is strongly felt.

It also declared Asean's willingness to promote and support regional cooperation on value-based water education as a collaborative effort working towards the realisation of SEAMEO's vision to promote a better quality of life for the people in the region. The Value-Based Water Declaration would thus establish seed fund through ADB and UN-HABITAT to support SEAMEO's strategic implementation of the project in the region.  Among the signatories of the SEAMEO Declaration on Value-Based Water Education yesterday were Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Aziz Umar, Brunei's Minister of Education; Mr Tol Lah Cambodia's Minister of Education, Youth and Sports; Professor Dr Abdul Malik Fadjar, Indonesia's Minister of National Education; Mr Phimmasone Leuangkhamma, Laos Minister of Education; Tan Sri Dato Musa Mohamad, Malaysia's Minister of Education; U Than Aung, Myanmar's Minister of Education; Dr Edilberto C de Jesus, Philippine Secretary of Education; Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's Minister or Education; Dr Audis Bodhara-mik, Thailand's Minister of Education; and Prof Dr Nguyen Minh Hein, Vietnam's Minister of Education and Training.

Chairing yesterday's meeting was the newly-elected President of SEAMEO Council and Chairman of the conference, Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Aziz Umar. He urged Centre Directors and Network Coordinators to do their best to augment the credibility of their respective Centres or Networks and also to enhance the visibility of SEAMEO. "It is also essential that they market the services to both the host countries as well as any other party that requires their specialised services", he added.

Brunei's Deputy Minister of Education, Dato Paduka Hj Suyoi bin Hj Osman, as the head of Brunei's delegation, yesterday underscored that Brunei Darussalam remains a firm believer in SEAMEO's stance in terms of new, current and past action plans, especially from the standpoint of global and regional consideration. Speaking on the increasing challenges of globalisation and liberalisation as well as the more complex and challenging New World Order, Dato Paduka Hj Suyoi hoped the conference will provide them with the avenue to address some of these challenges. SEAMEO should continue to review its vision and programmes in order to ensure sustainable educational development of the regional.

The discussions held at Empire Hotel and Country Club, which wrapped up earlier than scheduled, were said to have a successful conclusion with the Asean senior officials meeting all of the agenda. The meeting took note of SEAMEO activities in FY 2002/2003 which include the report of the 38th SEAMEO Council President highlighting the future relationship between SEAMEO and Asean, the integrated report on the annual accomplish-ments of the SEAMEO Centres/Units, progress report on Assistance of SEAMEO Associate Member/Donor Countries, report on financial matters and on-going programmes/project especially the progress of the SEAMEO-UNESCO Education Congress and Expo.

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World Bank
March 2, 2004

Jeffrey Sachs, the well-known Harvard economist and a Special Advisor to the UN’s Secretary General, urged rich countries yesterday to deliver on their promises of financing for development at the opening session of  ESSD Week 2004, the World Bank’s annual learning and knowledge-sharing event on Sustainable Development. “The United States, Europe and Japan,” said Sachs, “are not fulfilling their financing pledges, and it’s time for them to realize that without that support, countries in the developing world are not going to lift their people out from poverty.” Lack of governance and corruption in developing countries cannot be used as an excuse “for not delivering on the promises made,” he emphasized.

“Rich countries,” he argued, “continue to tell poor countries that they need to find their own way out of poverty, and basically the message is that something is wrong with them.” Jeffrey Sachs, the well-known Harvard economist and a Special Advisor to the UN’s Secretary General. After criticizing the increase in military spending by some rich countries, in detriment of aid flows, Sachs stressed that “if we get serious, we can achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in every country by 2015, especially the overarching one on halving the number of people living in extreme poverty.”

As an introduction to Sachs, Ian Johnson, World Bank Vice-President for Sustainable Development, said that “by 2015, the job will be half done. We need to think about what the middle of the century would look like. By focusing on the long-term, we can align the strategies defined today to the real challenges we will face in terms of technology change, natural resources management, and social balance.”

“Agriculture and rural development play a central role in this poverty reduction effort,” Johnson added. “In poor countries an average of one-third of their GDP is generated by agriculture.”

Sachs elaborated on this point. “We need to scale up investments on basic needs such as soil nutrients, infrastructure, and water services. The majority of poor people in developing countries are farmers. Due to population growth, subsistence farming has collapsed. Slash and burn farming is no longer possible. We’re talking about liberalizing agricultural markets. These farmers don’t have markets, they don’t participate in markets. They live in villages without paved roads, electricity, fertilizers, and modern medicines. First, and foremost, they need these basic services. We should help them be able to produce three tons of maize per hectare – today, they produce one per hectare. A small amount of money would be enough to help these farmers,” Sachs said.

A public debate on Tuesday will challenge the prevailing view on agriculture, which is the focus on increasing productivity. Dr. Vaclav Smil, a Distinguished Professor of Geography at the University of Manitoba, Canada, will deliver a lecture at the World Bank questioning traditional thinking on agriculture development. The Ugandan Minister of State, Grace Akello, will draw on her experience as a policymaker to respond to Dr. Smil’s assertions, and will highlight the primary issues that policymakers in developing countries deal with when adopting agriculture policy.

On Wednesday, leaders of major environment groups will debate face-to-face how to fight poverty and protect the environment at the same time. They will address the latest global politics and concerns about the environment, and explore ways to ensure development is sustainable.

The debate is sponsored by the Environment Department of the World Bank, and features Claude Martin, Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF International); Steve Sanderson, President and CEO of the World Conservation Society; Christiana Figueres, Founder and former Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Development in the Americas; Steve McCormick, President of The Nature Conservancy (TNC); Tim Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation; Jonathan Lash, President of World Resources Institute (WRI); and Kathryn Fuller, President of World Wildlife Fund US (WWF).

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China View
February 25, 2004

BEIJING, Feb. 25 (Xinhuanet) -- To prevent water shortages in Beijing from worsening, municipal authorities have decided to set quotas on residents' water use and adopt a progressive water pricing system. Under a progressive fee system, residents pay one price for water up until a certain amount is consumed. After that, the price goes up. Chen Lintao, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Water Conservation Office, said water price hikes may be the most effective alternative to encourage people to save water. The policies for the city where 13 million people live, have been in the works for years. Experts say the demand of water will drop by 20 per cent when the price is doubled.

Several big cities in China have moved towards progressive fees for water. For instance, Dalian, a coastal city in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, charges 2.3 yuan (US$0.28 ) for every cubic metre of water if a household's monthly water consumption is under eight tons. But the price soars to 10 yuan (US$1.2) per ton after that. However, Chen said the implementation of progressive pricing in Beijing would be more complex than that in Dalian, or other cities, due to the city's huge population and varied conditions of different social strata. "Moreover, if progressive charges are based on households, the same basic amount of water would be quite tight for a six-member household compared with a two-member family," said Chen.

He said a recent survey conducted by his office and the Municipal Commission of Development and Reform showed that around 60 per cent of the respondents support the move towards progressive water pricing. "We plan to open the draft of water price hike measures and solicit public opinions and suggestions," said Chen. Wang Hao, head of the Water Resources Research Institute, said 40 per cent of the water used in Beijing goes to the personal needs of residents. People in the city use more water than industry. "I think the implementation of progressive charges will produce noteworthy results to ease the city's water shortage," said Wang during an interview with the China Central Television (CCTV).

Wang said Beijing has been facing a severe water shortage. The situation has deteriorated after five consecutive years of drought since 1999. However, not everybody in Beijing, including Zhen Zhen, a native of North China's Shanxi Province who just came to the city for work, have realized that Beijing is facing a dangerous lack of water. Instead, Zhen Zhen even felt a little excited when she discovered she can get tap water at any time. In her hometown, water is usually supplied at fixed times. "I had to use various containers, such as basins, pails, kettles and vats to store water during the late evenings. It's horrible." said Zhen. But she did not know that her province had diverted 50 million cubic metres of water last year to thirsty Beijing. "Beijing needs to build a water-saving society and promote the use of water-saving devices," said Zhang Shouquan, a senior water expert and also a deputy to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Beijing Committee. "Saving water is a fundamental strategy for Beijing's sustainable development," said Zhang, who put forward 10 proposals on water saving to the annual session of the CPPCC Beijing Committee. "Besides increasing water prices, the government should consider introducing some more compelling methods to enhance people's awareness of saving water," said Zhang, "For example, people can get some subsidies if they choose water-saving commodes."

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Times News Network (India)
March 17, 2004

NEW DELHI: The ‘‘Save Yamuna’’ campaign seems all set to go high-tech. Satellite imagery is likely to be used for studying the quality of the river’s surface water and the quality of water in ponds in its flood plain. Taking a cue from Union tourism minister Jagmohan’s plan to beautify the Yamuna flood plain, the School of Environment Management (SEM) of the Delhi government’s Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University is also gearing up to use satellite-based data to suggest means for cleansing and beautifying the ponds along the Yamuna. ‘‘We may use aquaculture technology — introduction of fish or plants— in the dirty ponds. It w ng the quality of water in these ponds will be the next step,’’ she said.

The project along the 22-km-long stretch of the Yamuna flood plain will require satellite data as there are hundreds of ponds along the stretch. Kaur said the project will also be integrated with a plan for sustainable management of the flood plain. ‘‘Officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will also be involved in lifting samples from the ponds,’’ she said. Apart from the initial focus on ponds in the flood plain, the SEM students will also test the quality of groundwater in the plain. ‘‘Preliminary reports suggest that mercury and arsenic levels in the groundwater are more than the permissible limits,’’ Kaur said.

The studies on the groundwater quality are aimed at augmenting the water supply in the parched city. ‘‘The flood plain has potential areas for groundwater development and augmentation of raw water, but disposal of domestic and industrial waste in the river increases the chances of its pollution. This is why it has not been exploited to its potential,’’ said environment scientist Nasim Akhta. Studies by the SEM students have revealed that in the groundwater samples collected from the flood plain, nickel, chromium, cadmium and lead are either absent or present in very low concentrations where as manganese and iron are present in almost all the samples. In 12 per cent of the samples, mercury has exceeded the limit as has arsenic in 6 per cent of the samples.

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Associated Press
March 16, 2004

COCHIN, India — American soft drink giant Coca-Cola suspended production at a south Indian plant on Monday, following a government order to stop using groundwater until monsoon rains start in June, a company official said. Coca-Cola has issued notices to its employees and the state government saying that it would be "left with no option but to close down its factory at Plachimada," the official said on condition of anonymity. Last month, the Kerala state government told Coca-Cola that villages in the area were facing acute drought and the soft drink company should not use groundwater until June 15. Plachimada is 95 miles north of Cochin, southern Kerala state's main port city.

The Perumatty village council, which controls several villages, including Plachimada, says the Coca-Cola plant draws 400,000 gallons of water daily through dozens of wells, leaving local farmers with parched fields. Last month, Vijay Bhaskar Reddy, a Coca-Cola communications manager, described the state government's decision as discriminatory and noted that a lawsuit is in the courts. A top court in Kerala in December ordered the Coca-Cola plant to stop using groundwater and arrange to get water through other sources. The company has challenged that order, and the case is pending.

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New York Times
March 14, 2004

KIRMASHIYA MARSH, Iraq - Poling and steering his wooden skiff between thick clumps of reeds, Kadum Abdullah took one hand off the pole and held up his hand for a visitor to see. Two fingers were permanently bent in unnatural positions, broken years ago in a Baghdad prison by torturers who accused him of conspiring against the government, he said. "I left the marshes in 1992 and went to prison the same year," Abdullah, 40, said as he stood barefoot near the stern of his boat. "Some of my friends were executed, some released, some spent years in prison."

That is just a sampling of some of the fates met by the displaced dwellers of these marshes in southern Iraq, once among the largest wetland ecosystems in the world. In the early 1990s, in a move that transformed the very face of nature in this country, Saddam Hussein ordered the 7,700-square-mile area drained and its residents attacked to force out Shiite Arabs he suspected of resisting his rule. Last spring, local engineers began breaking dams and levees upriver to reflood the area, and Abdullah says he now uses his twisted hand again for what it was meant to do -- poling his boat, cutting reeds and casting fishing nets. But what seemed a simple matter of reflooding the marshes has turned into an endeavor as tangled as the aquatic plants taking root here.

In the largest and most complex wetlands restoration project being undertaken by the U.S. government, scientists and engineers are grappling with problems ranging from dismal water quality and an absence of health care to uncertainty over whether residents here can sustain themselves through fishing and the selling of reeds and dairy products. The dam-breaking last spring brought some early success. The swamp is teeming with renewed life. Water buffalo lumber through floating algae, and ducks paddle along the surface. It is an environment in which Abdullah's people, known as the Marsh Arabs, have been living for 5,000 years, since the dawn of Sumerian civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. "It was like a street here after the marshes were drained," Abdullah said while a neighbor carrying a duck-hunting rifle floated by in a small boat. "We need more water. Our lives are connected to the water. If we get more, we'll be content."

The U.S. Agency for International Development has budgeted $4 million for the restoration effort. This month, dozens of Iraqi and foreign scientists met in southern Iraq to begin putting together a plan, looking at everything from medical needs to the types of fish re-entering the ecosystem. The central concern is how to reintegrate the Marsh Arabs back into the wetlands environment.

In June and July, researchers counted 83 settlements, or about 73,000 people, in the marshes, down significantly from estimates of up to 250,000 in 1991, but more than recent tallies of 40,000 or so, said Peter Reiss, a social anthropologist leading the team. Since that survey, thousands of people have returned from all over Iraq and from refugee camps in Iran, where some still remain. Noble savages they are not. Many clamor for electricity and paved roads, and some say they prefer concrete or brick homes to the primitive reed houses scattered throughout the marshes. One of the biggest complaints voiced by the Marsh Arabs is over the poor quality of the water. They regularly beseech visitors for bottles of mineral water or soda. Reiss said almost everyone here suffered from diarrhea. Many carry giardia, a waterborne parasite.


Water purity plummeted during the draining, and scientists are now trying to determine whether the reflooding has brought in too much salt. "We can't drink this water," Zael Hashim, 42, said as she stood near a reed home her family had recently built. "I think the Euphrates side has too much salt. Before we left, the water was good, but now it's too salty." Some of the families who stayed in the area through the 1990s say they would like to hold onto the dry-land farming they have developed rather than return to an existence dependent on fishing and water buffalo. Local engineers have slowed the reflooding for fear of displacing those families. Many homes had been submerged by the destruction of dams and levees over the summer. "The original situation will be almost impossible to re-create," said Jonathan Greenham, the agricultural officer with the USAID in Iraq. "In terms of preserving the culture, I think that is probably a forlorn hope."

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China View
March 11, 2004

BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhuanet) -- China will take measures to further crack down on enterprises heavily polluting the environment, including factories polluting source areas of drinking water. Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan made the remark here Thursday at a seminar on stopping illegal polluters. Despite the remarkable achievements made in national environmental protection, problems of river and lake pollution, acid rain, noise pollution, electronic waste, dangerous waste and toxic chemicals are salient in China, Zeng said. In 2004, China will put the focus on punishing illegal activities polluting the environment, and on solving ecological problems deeply concerning the public, he said. The government will shut down polluters threatening the safety of drinking-water source areas, punish noise polluters disturbing residents' ordinary life, clamp down on business venues causing smoke pollution and strictly supervise urban discharge of pollutedwater and garbage, he said.  Any construction project violating environmental laws or regulations should be stopped immediately, and the waste dischargeto major drainage areas and reservoir areas should be strictly controlled, he said, calling for the development of a recycling economy and clean production.

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Associated Press
March 11, 2004

BANGKOK, Thailand — A development group on Wednesday announced an ambitious program to ensure water from the Mekong River is used efficiently to sustain food supplies for the tens of millions of people who live along the mighty Asian waterway. Introducing the Challenge Program on Water and Food at a news conference in Bangkok, the Mekong River Commission said it aims to find ways to grow more food using less water to improve the lives of around 55 million people who live along the river, while protecting the environment.

The commission is an intergovernmental body that coordinates development in the Mekong Basin, which runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. "There is tension between the need for agricultural production, which requires more water and fisheries production, which relies on the natural annual flood cycle in order for fish to reproduce," said Dao Trong Tu, who heads the commission. More than 80 percent of the people living in the basin make a living from fishing and farming, according to the commission. More than 41 percent of the land in the heavily populated Lower Mekong Basin is used for agriculture, which accounts for 90 percent of all water use.

Critics have charged that massive dams in China obstruct water flow on the Mekong sufficiently to disrupt the river's ecosystem and harm agriculture and fisheries in the lower basin. But Dr. Robyn Johnston, a natural resources planner for the commission, said the factors putting the most pressure on people living and working in the basin are the fast-growing population and the ongoing destruction of the natural habitat, including water pollution and land degradation. She said she believed the Chinese dams have less of an effect on downstream areas than some suspect, adding that water flows are heavier from the highlands of Laos and Vietnam than from China.

The most noticeable effect from the Chinese dams may be an increase in water supply during the dry season, which offers potential advantages, she said. The commission plans to launch eight projects under the program, including one to design systems that can simultaneously support agriculture and fisheries and another to develop technologies for rice-based cropping systems which would increase yield but use less water. The Challenge program is being conducted by universities, agricultural research organizations, nongovernmental groups, and specialized river development agencies around the world. The program will also undertake projects in basins along the Nile, Limpopo, Volta, Sao Francisco, Karkheh, Indo-Gangetic, and Yellow River, plus a network of river basins in the Andes.

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March 4, 2004

A new initiative to restore the Nairobi Dam and its waters back to health will be launched tonight by H.E Hon. Moody Awori, Vice President of Kenya, Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and Mr. Paul Andre de la Porte, the resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The project, called the Nairobi Dam Trust Initiative, aims to raise up to $600,000 to clean up the reservoir so that it can be again an important source of clean and healthy drinking water as well as a magnet for water sports enthusiasts, fishermen, picnickers and bountiful bird life.  Mr Toepfer and Mrs Tibaijuka said the new Trust was part of a wider initiative to clean up the Nairobi River: The Nairobi River Basin Project, launched in 1999 and supported by UNEP, UN-HABITAT and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been helping to improve the water quality and environmental health of this most vital of river systems. Its Trust Fund, established by UNEP, has attracted considerable support with the Government of Belgium having contributed $400,000. We are also grateful to the Government of France for contributing $65,000.

However, it is clear that the Nairobi Dam presents a particular problem. We congratulate the newly formed Friends of the Nairobi Dam for launching this new Trust Initiative and call on all actors, including the private sector, to wholeheartedly back the scheme, said Mr. Klaus Toepfer.

Cleaning up the dam and the water sources of Nairobi will directly benefit the urban poor, said Mrs. Tibaijuka. However, it is important to realize that successful completion of the project will require a commitment by all stakeholders to slum upgrading and to providing decent shelter, adequate sanitation and clean water to the poor, especially those living in Kibera.  Currently, 3.6 million people living in informal settlements in Kenya do not have adequate water supply and sanitation utilities. They rely on water kiosks, water vendors and natural sources of water.

The water scarcity in Kenya is due to an increase in population, an increase in pollution, imprudent management of the water resources and degradation of river catchment areas as a result of such factors as illegal and unsustainable logging of forests. It is estimated that this poor water management is costing the Kenyan economy almost US$ 50 million annually. From a national perspective, Kenya is classified as a chronically water-scarce country with only 650 cubic meters per inhabitant per year representing only 24% of the water that is available to an Ugandan, and 22% of the water available to a Tanzanian. The Nairobi Dam, 356,179 square meters and carrying capacity 98,422 cubic meters was commissioned in 1953 as reservoir for potable and emergency water supply. The population of Nairobi at that time was about 10,000 and it was already evident that the existing water resources had to be harnessed for the growing population.

The dam gradually became a major attraction for recreational activities such as sport fishing, sailing, diving, picnics and other water sports. Unfortunately, heavy pollution emanating from the high-density population of the Kibera informal settlement has stimulated growth of invasive plant species, especially Water Hyacinth and Parrots Feather which have infested the water body since 1998 and have curtailed recreational activities. Invasive aquatic weeds and solid waste dumping have completely altered the aquatic ecology and flow regimes of associated rivers.

Other problems of the dam have been as a result of lack of proper waste management, solid waste, liquid waste and industrial waste. Water samples from the dam have consistently registered very high coliform counts which indicate a high degree of sewage contamination. This and other pollutants have rendered the water in the river system and the dam totally unusable and hazardous to human health.

One of the immediate roles of the Nairobi Dam Trust Initiative will be to mobilize financial resources to meet the investment needs in the rehabilitation and restoration of the Nairobi Dam, and the Kenyan water sector in general.  Contributions and donations from bilateral, multilateral and private sector players will be directed towards the support of the Nairobi Dam Initiative.

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The Daily Star (Bangladesh)
March 9, 2004

Md. Saeedur Rahman is Chief Engineer, Coastal Embankment Rehabilitation Project, BWDB

Like many other Asian countries, farmers in Bangladesh are among the poorest and food insecure population. Seventy five percent of the Bangladesh's populations are directly or indirectly dependent on the agriculture. In 1999-00 a total of 4.03 million ha was under irrigated agriculture compared to only 0.49 million ha in 1970. Out of 7.6 million ha of irrigable land about 4.3 million ha are presently under irrigation, 70 percent of which is served by tube wells technology and the rest is by surface water irrigation schemes. Agriculture is still contributing about 60% employment opportunities of rural population.

The draft National Water Management Plan estimates of irrigation expansion forecast a virtual saturation by 2025. About 5.3 million ha of land already have some form of flood protection. It is envisaged to increase controlled flood area and increase irrigation facilities through surface water projects by 0.70 million ha and 0.30 million ha respectively in the next five years. Groundwater resources are fast depleting due to it's over exploitation in the dry season irrigation. Arsenic contamination of the shallow aquifer has set back past successes in bringing safe drinking water supply to the rural population in particular. It has also raised a concern regarding the use of groundwater sources for the continued development of agricultural produce in the country. Large portion of this country seemingly to continue to remain in poverty, if the agriculture sector does not get the critical source of nourishment i.e. irrigation water. Irrigated agriculture is because a powerful medium for the economic development.

Irrigation development and management in Bangladesh, as the lower riparian country, is closely interlinked with and largely dependent on 57 transbourdary rivers having shared basins with the neighboring countries. The non-navigation treaties between Bangladesh and neighboring country for international water courses over the decades remain weak for lack of water allocation, poor water quality provision, lack ofmonitoring/enforce-ment/conflict resolution mechanisms and failure to include all riparian states. The water sharing agreement/treaty between the Govt. of Bangladesh and the Govt. of India in assessing their relative merits in terms of the dry season water availability in Bangladesh has been so found that the dry season flow at Hardinge Bridge has dropped significantly after commissioning of Farakka Barrage in India with a sharp declining trend in the flow reaching Hardinge Bridge since 1975; the year of upstream withdrawal. The actual post Farakka flow from 1975 to 2003 has been found to be less than the simulated flows as per the 1977 Agreement and the 1996 Treaty.

A study revealed that the lowest average monthly discharge of the Ganges was found to be 316 m3/s in March 1993 against the pre-diversion average monthly discharge of 2213 m3/s for the same month. During the year 1992-93, the lowest average monthly discharge was found 544 m3/s in February 1993 against the pre-diversion monthly average of 2519 m3/s for the same month and again 430 m3/s against 2008 m3/s in April 1993. It is also observed that due to diversion minimum discharge has reduced to as low as 270 m3/s in April 1993 as against a minimum discharge of 2081 in April 1974. The water level has also been recorded as low as 4.22 meter in April 1993 as against a minimum value of 6.70 meter in March 1974. Another analysis undertaken to compare discharges in various years at Hardinge bridge utilizing 1956 to 1987 further revealed that the averages of the highest annual discharge (August-September) before and after 1975 are 46998 m3/s and 55570 m3/s respectively. On the other hand the averages of the lowest discharge (March-April) before and after 1975 were found to be 2006 m3/s and 809 m3/s respectively. This showed that average peak discharge has increased by about 12% compared to average peak flow before 1975. On the same basis the average annual low flow had decreased by 60%. Similar result has been reported by FAP-4 studies (FPCO 1993). The average post-diversion flow will decrease even more unless the sharp declining trend is reversed.

Consequently, dry season flow of the Gorai, major distributaries of the Ganges, has also been seriously affected due to low flow in the Ganges since diversion by Farakka Barrage. Due to reduction of flow in the Ganges during lean flow season, the Gorai is gradually silting up at the off take. An analysis conducted on the discharge entering into the Gorai from the Ganges on a monthly basis before 1975 and thereafter showed that significant reduction of discharge has taken place in the Gorai especially during January-March period. Before 1975, percent of discharge entering into the Gorai was (during January-March) some 8 -12% of the Ganges discharge. This gradually further shrank and reduced to about 0.15% during the last few years for the same period; necessitating dredging of the river with little increase in flow in the recent time. Dry season flows had been cut off completely by 1992 and has it been possible to partly restore only through substantial dredging in 1998.

The Ganges by itself is noted for massive discharge and sediment load. Changes in flow and sediment load have induced sediment deposition in the reach within the territorial boundary of Bangladesh. Sedimentation as high as 3 meter at some places has been found. The sediment flow in the Ganges showed a decreasing trend. The excessive lowering of the discharge due to upstream diversion during low flow season has reduced the depth of flow hampering navigation and accelerated the silting up of the bed. The hydraulic geometry of the river has undergone significant changes creating problems in the distribution of sediment load. As a consequence, the shifting character and meander parameters has also changed.

The Ganges-Kobadak Irrigation Project widely known as 'GK Project' conceived in the early nineteen hundred fifties pioneered the modern irrigated agriculture in Bangladesh. It is the largest lift-cum-gravity irrigation system located in the southwestern part of the country and was taken up for implementation in 1954. Net irrigable area is about 125,000 ha. Phase-I consisting of about 42,000 ha was implemented during 1954--70 and Phase-II covering an area of about 83,000 ha was completed during 1969--83.  At least a 4.5 meter high water flow in the river is required to keep 3 big and 12 small pumps of the project operative, but water in the river flowing far below the minimum required level with silted up intake canal bed has been seriously impeding sourcing the irrigation. The water shortage is being augmented by installation of about 10,385 shallow tubewells abstracting the groundwater within the project area.

Withdrawal of Ganges water during the dry months resulted serious adverse effects on environment, agriculture, industries, fisheries, navigation, river regime, salinity contamination in the surface and groundwater etc. in the southwestern and western areas of Bangladesh covering almost 20% of country's area equaling 30,000 sq. km inhabited by about 30 million people.

Similarly, the use of Teesta River water for irrigated agriculture had been conceived back in 1935 and rolled down till the Govt. of Bangladesh and the Govt. of India in its 25th meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission on 20 July, 1983 reached an adhoc allocation agreement according to which India was to get 39 percent, Bangladesh 36 percent and remaining 25 percent was to be reserved for reallocation later, after further study. Without having this agreement in place, the amount of dry season waters on Bangladesh side gradually decreased and ended up in getting only 59 m3/s in January 1999. The dry season water flow now varied from 22 to 34 m3/s in January 2001 against the requirement of 227 m3/s to irrigate 540,000 ha. of irrigable land. During dry season every year, the barrage at Gojoldoba at the upstream in India is kept closed for diverting the water to Mohanonda River for irrigation. This has turned the mighty river Teesta into a virtual streamlet causing emergence of numerous shoals bringing changes in its hydraulic characteristics. The riverbeds of Teesta have turned into crop lands. The unilateral withdrawal of water from Teesta River at the upstream has been causing havoc in its basin in Teesta project area, severely affecting the ecology and economy.

Between 1984-95, share of agriculture to GDP declined from 41.77 percent to 32.77 percent while the share of the manufacturing and services sectors went up. The composition of GDP on agriculture has further declined to 21.9 percent in 2002 from 50 percent in 1970 resulting corresponding reduction in rural labor employment in agriculture. The eco-migration of agricultural labor at this point of declining share is of concern. At this point the Indian River Linking Plan aims to connect 30 rivers in the country for diverting water from surplus river basins to water-deficient areas. The basin transfer of river waters will affect Bangladesh in terms of loweravailability in the down- stream, which is pivotal to planning future irrigated agriculture in Bangladesh.

The first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 where 180 countries agreed on a broad framework known as Agenda-21, for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development. The second Earth Summit in Johannesburg in 2002 came out with plan of implementation for integrated water resources management for eradication of poverty and protecting the world's environment needs. At this backdrop it is necessary to bring in mind that the Ganges Brohmaputra - Meghna (GBM) region is endowed with huge water and natural resources that contains almost 40% of the world's poor. A rationalized utilization of these water and other resources of the region in integrated manner and coordinated approach may substantiate the regional economic growth and reduce poverty while the water transfer schemes will monster all the past achievements of Bangladesh in water sector and planning future irrigated agriculture including other water dependent/related development efforts.

The discussion indicates that water sharing has a significant role in water resources management as a whole and thus forth sourcing water, in particular, for irrigated agriculture. Sharing water of the irrigation source is directly linked with the irrigated agriculture that guarantees the farmers for their initiatives and investments. Integrated basin wide development and management of water resources is undoubtedly the major option for future development of the Ganges, the Bharamaputra and the Meghna basin to cater for all the needs. Firm political commitment from the governments of China, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh is required to undertake joint actions towards the integrated approach in the water resources management in the region. All the water needs for environmental protection, economic uses, energy generation, navigation, food security through irrigated agriculture and aquaculture, safe water supply and sanitation in the region could have met and millions of poverty-stricken population in the region would have enjoyed a better life if we working together to foster close and meaningful cooperation amongst the countries of the region. Meanwhile, the national level water professionals with supports from policy makers are required to scour into the different potentials for protecting the nation's interest in planning future irrigated agriculture in Bangladesh.

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Business Standard (India)
March 5, 2004

Is there a conspiracy against the poor?” This is what the Asian Development Bank (ADB) asked at the start of its second Water Week confabulation in Manila last month, attended by some 350 experts from all over Asia. “Why is it,” it questioned, “that after concerted efforts spanning decades, the poor still don’t have access to safe water? Have conventional mindsets stymied progress in this direction?”

Like ADB, we wonder too. For years, we’ve been talking about water for all. We have world water forums meeting at regular three-year intervals. We have the Global Water Partnership, the World Water Council, the World Commission for Water in the 21st Century, and any number of non-government organisations that make water their business. And we have governments who swear by their commitment to eradicating poverty and whose leaders are always travelling to international forums to make that commitment known. Yet, over 1.1 billion of the world’s population still lack access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion still don’t have sanitation.

Recent studies indicate that, by 2025, two out of every three people in the world will face water shortage. In Asia, 19 per cent of the population goes without safe water and 52 per cent without sanitation. The problem will only get worse. If the demographers are correct, Asia’s urban population — with it, urban poverty — will double in the next 25 years. Not that we don’t have targets. In 2002, at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, the international community pledged to reduce by half — mark that — the number of people who don’t have safe water or basic sanitation by 2015. Full water coverage, in all its aspects, is supposed to be realised only by 2025. But what does it imply? According to the World Panel on Financing Water Infrastructure, even the modest 2015 target would require several hundred thousand new water connections to be made every day. Is that possible? In a country like India, where most of the world’s poor live, is that even feasible? If we couldn’t do it in the past 56 years, can we do it in the next 10?

We also have an idea of the cost of meeting this target. The World Panel says we would need to invest at least $ 100 billion every year in addition to what our budgets normally provide for. But where will this money come from? Governments are always broke while among international organisations, to quote the World Panel again, “water is surprisingly an orphan.” There’s not even enough reliable information to define a strategy. When India claims 92 per cent of its urban population and 86 per cent of its rural population have access to water supply, how do we know it’s the truth? Has there been a ground check? And what kind of water do people have access to? There aren’t any ponds and rivers in India that aren’t polluted. And what about the water that the municipalities supply through pipes? Well... Would you, honestly, drink it off the tap?

Conspiracy or not, all this is surely a nice arrangement and suits a lot of people. Conferences are called, commitments are made, slogans are raised, reports are published and everybody feels happy that something is being done.

Then more conferences are held, creating more travelling opportunities, to renew old commitments and make new ones. And so the cycle goes — on and on. It just has to. If the problems are solved, what happens to the problem solvers?  Remember Education for All? Back in 1990, at a world conference, governments committed themselves to make quality basic education available to all by 2015. How are they following it up? A good example comes from Bangladesh. The Primary and Mass Education Division of the government constituted a National Assessment Group, which appointed a Technical Sub-Group for Education for All, which constituted a Core Group for Preparing an Assessment Report, which organised two national workshops to review the draft of the assessment report. Then a government delegation travelled to Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000, to present a progress report at the World Education Forum.

Meanwhile, universal primary education remains a distant dream. Gender discrimination persists, especially in south Asia. The urban-rural gap keeps widening. Illiteracy is still large (it’s 60 per cent in Bangladesh). Dropout rates are high. And all too often, the quality of education remains unacceptably low. Now there’s a new twist to this development soap opera. The private sector is getting increasingly into the act, with official encouragement, to do what the governments can’t, and the private sector is not a charity. Thus, we have a fine situation indeed — no or little service on one hand, and costly service, getting costlier, on the other. Somewhere in between this lurk the poor, left out of what everybody says is their basic right, like a safe drink of water.

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February 25, 2004

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, a member of the Nowar Collective and author of Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004).

Over the past two decades the struggle against dam projects that threaten the right to life and livelihood for the people of India's Narmada valley has grown into one of the world's largest non-violent social movements. Activist Medha Patkar has been at the center of these struggles, gaining worldwide notoriety for sharp analysis and courageous activism that has included long fasts, police beatings and jail.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) has tried to pressure the Indian government and foreign investors to stop dams that submerge huge sections of the valley and displace hundreds of thousands of people. The NBA has won some victories, most notably in 1993 when the World Bank expressed concern about human-rights problems and withdrew its funding. But the Indian Supreme Court – which at one point had stayed construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the centerpiece of the Narmada project – ruled in October 2000 that the project could go forward.  (A similar project in China, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze, has sparked similar opposition. Three Gorges, which will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world when completed, could force the displacement of as many as 1.9 million people.)

Though the NBA has been unable to halt construction, it has challenged the Indian government's claims that such projects will provide water and hydropower to people most in need and that people displaced by the project are being properly relocated and rehabilitated. The NBA continues to challenge the dams and the ongoing attempts to raise the height of them, while at the same time working to help the displaced people find justice.

NBA also is working to stop a new plan of the Indian government for "inter-linking" of rivers – the long-distance inter-basin transfer of water. The government claims that such a project would reduce the regional imbalance in the availability of water in different river basins, re-directing water that would otherwise flow into the sea to areas of the country that need it. Critics point out that such a capital-intensive and technology-intensive project will – like the big dams – undermine democratic planning, benefit a few, and wreak social and environmental havoc.  Beyond the specifics of these projects, the NBA also has challenged the reigning "development paradigm," the idea that these large-scale projects are always beneficial to ordinary people. Patkar argues that while such projects generate large profits for a small number of people, they also bring social and environmental devastation to those who are in the way of "progress." She and NBA activists put forward an alternative vision of how people can take control of their own lives and guide economic development in the interests of the vast majority of people, not of the wealthy and the corporations.

For this work, Patkar and her NBA colleagues in 1991 were given the Right Livelihood Award (often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize), and in 1992 she won the Goldman Environmental Prize. Patkar has served on the World Commission on Dams, an independent global body, and currently leads the National Alliance of People's Movements, a network of more than 150 political organizations across India. As a featured speaker at the World Social Forum in Mumbai (Bombay) in January 2004, Patkar focused on the threat to "the very life-supporting resources of the world" posed by corporations and the so-called "free market" of the neoliberal economic program, which bring "displacement, destruction, disparity." Patkar linked the goals of the movement to challenge corporate globalization to the longstanding struggles of the adivasi (indigenous, or tribal) people and dalits (the "untouchable" castes) in India to control their own lives, saying, "Without community rights, no human rights can be sustained in the face of corporatization, criminalization, communalism and corruption."

In this interview conducted during her speaking tour in the United States at the end of 2003, Patkar elaborated on these themes.

RJ: There is a well-known quote from India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who called dams the "temples of modern India." Does that historical connection of dams with progress make NBA's struggle more difficult?

MP: Nehru said that in 1955, but three years later he described big dams as "a disease of gigantism" that we must withdraw from. Even Nehru, within a short time, realized that approach to water management was not going to work. But unfortunately, the textbooks have the first quote but not the second one.

RJ: How are the big dams being sold to the Indian public?

MP: This is done by exaggerating the benefits and underestimating the costs. In India, almost all of the 4,000 large dams that have been built have been sold as the means to common good by emphasizing the benefits – drinking water, irrigation, flood control, and hydropower. The social and environmental costs are never really assessed. Before all those costs are adequately studied, the clearances [to build] are granted. And with those clearances, the planners claim they have taken care of everything.

The social costs are underestimated because only the so-called "directly affected people" are included, but even that number is underestimated because land records are never updated, especially in the case of indigenous people and rural communities. For example, in the case of Sardar Sarover, just one dam: When the tribunal was set up to resolve the inter-state conflict, working from 1969-79, it estimated the number of affected families as below 7,000. Today the official figure is about 43,000 families, and the actual figure is somewhere near 50,000. And over 25 years, only 25 percent of those people have been taken care of in any way, though not necessarily receiving all their entitlements. That's only the reservoir-affected people of one dam project. There also are another 23,500 families affected by the canal system. The colonies and sanctuaries also affect people, especially the indigenous forest-dwelling communities. More than 100 villages are affected by the sanctuary in the case of this one dam. And all of it is not included.

And then there is the cost to the culture of the loss of the common property resource; all that is not included. Only the titled land is recorded by the government. But there are maybe 1,000 hectares of grazing land occupied and used by traditional society that are not on record as "owned" by the community.  There is new legislation that has come up in the past decade that provides for self-rule of the tribal community, which gives the right to the whole village community and not some small body, to decide about any project that may affect their resources. And without their consent, the project cannot go ahead. But this is not followed. In practice, the underestimated costs and claims of compensation push the project ahead.

RJ: What about the environmental questions?

MP: On the environmental side, the downstream impacts of the big dams are never studied. The waterlogging and salinization that will occur, even in areas said to benefit from irrigation, is studied very late. All these voluminous reports come out, either simultaneously or post facto, but by then the project is considered a fait accompli.

RJ: You've talked about how costs are underestimated. Are the benefits overestimated?

MP: It is at the tail end of the canal system [to deliver water] that the drought-affected areas lie. In the case of Narmada, it is the Kutch, which is quake-affected and drought-affected. We're told the people there will be helped. But that doesn't take into consideration the political pressure, the demands of the cities and industries that are on the way to that tail end. The water is not going to go through some kind of express canal to get to Kutch. The already developed areas, especially in Gujarat, will take much of that water along the way. The actual distribution is going to be very skewed, and it's most likely that the tail-end regions will be left high and dry. So, both the valley and the tail will suffer, while the main benefits will be to the "haves" in between. Even if there are marginal farmers, small industries, or the poor who may get something, the benefits will go mainly to the large cities and industries.

And at the same time, the cost ends up being many times the original estimate. It is 10 times the original estimate in the case of Sardar Sarovar, as we have calculated from the government's own documents. The per-hectare irrigation turns out to be 10 to 20 times the cost of small irrigation projects, for the same kind of benefit. So, if the farmers can't afford it, the water will go to industry, and that will then seem justifiable. And the whole vicious cycle continues. One group will suffer in the name of helping another group that is suffering. It is offered as a people v. people issue, as if the state is very neutral. The term they use is the "right to development," which is the World Bank concept, language that is used very effectively by our politicians.

RJ: Do the international lenders play a role in this?

MP: Once the financing is taken care of, the scientists, technocrats, contractors, and much of the public presumes the project has all the necessary clearances. The foreign capital legitimizes the process. Lenders like the World Bank bring their own credibility, among the elite and planning population, and then people say, "Who are you to know better than the World Bank." That becomes part of the propaganda. So, even if the rest of the financial plan is not ready, the international contribution pushes the project ahead.

So, in the case of Narmada, before the minister of the environment could clear the project, the Bank had cleared its aid, and so the minister's clearance had no relevance. The ministry pushed its conditional clearance, but the conditions were not fulfilled. The ministry said the clearance had lapsed, and even today that is true. The clearance has lapsed. Institutions like the World Bank undermine the process of community participation within the country. The politicians are at least accountable to the voting population, but the bureaucrats and technocrats are not accountable to anyone except the bankers.

RJ: Do you see these issues as fundamentally international in scope?

MP: Development issues cannot be contained within national boundaries. In India, even though there is hardly any land to relocate people onto, the projects are on the fast track, and those decisions are being made not just in Delhi and Bombay but also in Washington and Geneva. When there are more and more such projects going forward, the people's sovereignty over natural resources and human rights are bypassed. So, it's essential that we reach the global centers of power to fight not just centralized planning, but privatization-based planning. We have had to fight that at the local and national level. We have to ally with friends across the world to know the companies and challenge the companies, we have to have joint plans and action. The same is true of the struggles of people in Mexico, the Philippines, Pakistan, South Africa, or within the United States and European countries. They also need to know the linkages between the nation-state governments and multinational corporations.

RJ: What role can people in the United States play?

MP: We all have to challenge these forces, conveying to them that we who resist are not just in nooks and corners of the world. We are together. A decade ago no one could have imagined we would be in Seattle (protest of the World Trade Organization in 1999) or Prague (protest of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in 2000) in such numbers. But it has to be not just a one-time demonstration on the street, but continuous strategizing and action on multiple fronts that can challenge these forces, which are otherwise very arrogant and secretive. People in the United States can have a confrontational dialogue with U.S. companies, and convey to them our views. And it's important for us to get information about these companies – about lawsuits against them in the United States, for example, or about those companies' interests – so that we know what companies are being ushered in by our government, and then we can mobilize people in India more effectively.

The whole development paradigm can be better challenged if we join hands. Otherwise, it is seen as the poor and displaced people raising the questions for their own interests. There has to be a micro-to-macro linkage, to put ourselves forward as political actors. For example, the World Bank is going into, in a big way, water and hydropower, not only through large dams but also in the inter-river basin transfer projects, and even some large dams in the northeast of India. This is threatening the water rights of many communities in India. And they may be into the interlinking of rivers, which is a project proposed as a fait accompli, based on a Supreme Court judgment. But in reality there is no project and no plan because the preliminary studies are still going on. But it's being discussed in the corridors of power, among technocrats and consulting agencies, and I'm sure in the World Bank and other bilateral agencies. This interlinking of rivers will lead to privatization of our rivers, and groups in the United States can help us by challenging the institutions there that are involved.

RJ: Some say "You want to keep people poor" or "You romanticize peasant life." You've heard those criticisms. What is wrong with their development paradigm? What is your vision of sustainable development?

MP: We've made it very clear that we are not against development per se, if that is defined is a change that is desirable and acceptable within our value framework. And our framework is not an individualist one. It is the framework of the Indian constitution, values of equity and justice. Sustainability has to mean justice to the population beyond one generation. That can come only if the priorities are set right. Our priority is the basic need fulfillment of every individual, and that cannot happen unless the planning process is really democratic. Otherwise, the elites – the haves – take their own big share of the cake, and the voices of the marginalized people – their vision of development, even their valuation of their own resources – are never really heard and are not included in the cost-benefit analyses of the planning agencies. Equitable and sustainable development presumes that the natural resources will be used. But in the choice of technologies and the priorities of goals and objectives, the preference should be given to the most needy sections, not to those who already have.

If you have to submerge the land in an agricultural area, you are not only displacing people but also affecting the core of the economy, and hence that decision needs to be taken carefully, to avoid displacement as much as possible. The government does not have the alternative land to rehabilitate people. If we don't give priority to community needs and instead focus on taking water to distant populations, then we invariably encroach on the community rights. These are the rights of the people who are the core sector of the Indian economy. They are still playing a major role in feeding the population. So, submerging their land doesn't lead us anywhere. It leaves the displaced populations in the slums and shanty towns, and also affects the major natural resource capital, which claims to be developed through these kinds of projects.

RJ: How should development go forward?

MP: We must have decentralized management of resources, whether it is water, land, forest, or fish. Rights should be granted first to the smallest unit of population, and the benefits should first take care of that unit, moving upward. That doesn't mean that no exogenous source of water should be used. The same can be said of minerals. Unless you grant rights to the people living on the land under which you find mineral resources, you deprive the local population of that resource.

Our view of development is supportive of labor-intensive technologies that would not create unemployment but would create livelihood opportunities for people when the resources are used. We are for that technology that will not spoil, pollute, destroy our natural resources, which still are rich enough and still in the hands of rural communities, which are simple-living, non-consumerist communities. Development shouldn't benefit the small, heavily consumerist groups. That is where the lifestyle questions matter to us, because the choice of technology is invariably related to the kind of living standard and lifestyle one visualizes as a part of development. Simple living, which would bring in more equity and justice across the world, among countries and within countries, is what we value. Technologies can bring in some comfort, but we shouldn't go to the other extreme of not using the human body and human power, creating sicknesses and unemployment.

The existing development process is skewed; in the name of development, it leaves a large majority of our population out of the real benefits of this growth model. The process has to be decentralized and democratic, which is more than simply allowing people to participate in some consultations – it's allowing people to have the first right to their resources and to say yes or no to a plan proposed by some outside agency.

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International Herald Tribune
February 13, 2004

The writer is president of the Earth Policy Institute  

WASHINGTON In mid-October 2003, Italian authorities discovered a boat carrying refugees from Africa bound for Italy. Adrift for more than two weeks and without fuel, food and water, many of the passengers had died. At first the dead were tossed overboard. But after a point, the remaining survivors lacked the strength to hoist the bodies over the side. The refugees were believed to be Somalis. We do not know whether they were political, economic or environmental refugees.

Failed states like Somalia produce all three. Somalia is an ecological basket case, with overpopulation, overgrazing and desertification destroying its pastoral economy. Although the modern world has extensive experience with people migrating for political and economic reasons, we are now seeing a swelling flow of refugees driven from their homes by environmental pressures.

Modern experience with this phenomenon in the United States began when nearly three million "Okies" from the southern Great Plains left during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, many of them moving to California.

Today, bodies wash ashore daily in Italy, France and Spain, the result of desperate acts by desperate people in Africa. And each day hundreds of Mexicans risk their lives trying to cross the U.S. border, many after abandoning plots of land too small or too eroded to make a living. Another flow of environmental refugees comes from Haiti, where the land is denuded of vegetation and the soil is washing into the sea. America's Dust Bowl refugees were early examples of environmental migration, but their numbers will pale compared with what lies ahead if we continue with business as usual. Among the new refugees are people being forced to move because of wells running dry.

Thus far the evacuations have been of villages, but eventually whole cities might have to be relocated, such as Sana, the capital of Yemen, or Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. The World Bank expects Sana, where the water table is falling by six meters (20 feet) a year, to have exhausted its remaining water supply by 2010. Quetta, originally designed for 50,000 people, now has 1 million inhabitants, all of whom depend on 2,000 wells pumping water deep from underground, depleting what is believed to be a fossil or nonreplenishable aquifer. Like Sana, Quetta may have enough water for the rest of this decade, but then its future is in doubt.

Most of the nearly three billion people to be added to the world's population by 2050 will live in countries where water tables are already falling and where population growth swells the ranks of those sinking into hydrological poverty. Water refugees are likely to become commonplace. Villages in northwestern India have been abandoned because overpumping had depleted the local aquifers and villagers could no longer reach water. Millions of villagers in northern and western China and in parts of Mexico may have to move because of a lack of water.

Spreading deserts are also displacing people. In China, where the Gobi Desert is growing by 10,400 square kilometers (4,000 square miles) a year, the refugee stream is swelling. A photograph in Desert Witness, a book on desertification by the Chinese photographer Lu Tongjing, shows what looks like a perfectly normal village in the western reaches of Inner Mongolia - except for one thing. There are no people. Its 4,000 residents were forced to leave because the aquifer was depleted, leaving them with no water. In Iran, villages abandoned because of spreading deserts already number in the thousands. In the vicinity of Damavand, a small town within an hour's drive of Tehran, 88 villages have been abandoned. In Nigeria, 3,500 square kilometers of land become desert each year, making desertification the country's leading environmental problem.

Another source of refugees, potentially a huge one, is rising seas. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a study in early 2001, reported that the sea level could rise by nearly one meter (3 feet) this century. But research completed since then indicates that ice is melting much faster than earlier reported, suggesting that the rise may be much higher. Even a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate half of Bangladesh's rice-growing land, forcing the relocation of 40 million people. Other Asian countries with rice-growing river floodplains, including China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, could bolster the mass exodus from rising seas to the hundreds of millions.

The rising flow of environmental refugees is yet another indicator that modern civilization is out of sync with the earth's natural support systems. Among other things, it tells us that we need a worldwide effort to fill the family planning gap and to create the social conditions that will accelerate the shift to smaller families, a global campaign to raise water productivity, and an energy strategy that will cut carbon dioxide emissions and stabilize the earth's climate.

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March 11, 2004

Geneva, 11 March, 2004: The failure to achieve safe water and sanitation is the biggest mistake of national and international development efforts over the last fifty years, so says a new publication from the WSSCC entitled Listening. Billions of dollars have been spent in an unsuccessful search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; yet the most deadly biological weapon of mass destruction ever known, is human excrement - shit - which, along with a lack of safe water, is the worlds number one health problem. The problem has been around, and known, for decades.

So why has so little progress been made? Why does a lack of safe water and sanitation continue to kill 6000 children every day and cause half the worlds poor to be sick at any given moment? These and other questions are addressed in Listening, which the Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) will launch on World Water Day 2004, 22nd March. Listening includes contributions from people who have been working on the ground in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, South Africa and Uganda. People who work with communities in poor neighbourhoods. People who have experienced the frustrations and failures of the old ways of doing things. People who have helped pioneer new approaches that could bring rapid progress. People whose voices are not normally heard on the international stage.

Listening will be launched officially on 22nd March, World Water Day, in London, Dakar, New Delhi, Islamabad as well as on 26 March in Pretoria during the South African National Water Week.

Hard copies of Listening will be available at the media briefings and official launches; electronic copies will be available on 18 March on the WSSCC website

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