Third World Water Forum Addresses Global Water Issues
Washington 16 Mar 2003, 03:04 UTC
The largest-ever international meeting devoted to the world's worsening water problems is set to begin in Kyoto, Japan on Sunday. During its weeklong agenda (March 16-23, 2003), the 3rd World Water Forum will bring together more than 10,000 participants from 180 countries, including water experts from government, industry, academia and the environmental community.
The forum will address a wide range of health, economic, and environmental problems associated with the growing global scarcity of fresh water.
Consider these facts: More than one billion people lack access to a reliable supply of fresh water. Two point four billion people, more than a third of the world's population, do not have access to proper sanitation. Freshwater ecosystems around the planet have been severely degraded. About half of the world's wetlands have been lost and more than 20 percent of the world's 10,000 known freshwater species are extinct.
Water experts have come to the World Water Forum not to deliver more technical reports on global water problems but to present ideas for solving them.
William Cosgrove, the vice president of the World Water Council, the international research group that created the World Water Forum in 1997, says a major focus of the meeting will be to act on international commitments like those agreed to at last year's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
Cosgrove:"To move them
[the commitments] a step further into concrete action plans."
Natural disasters claim thousands of lives each year and disrupt the social and economic fabric of many nations. William Cosgrove says the poorest nations "will face hunger if they can not get the resources to import the food they cannot grow."
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Director General Jacques Diouf says water-poor countries must manage their scarce resources better.
He says rural Africa, for example, could benefit greatly from small scale, low-cost initiatives. "I believe that Africa should try to help poor rural communities mobilize their labor with the technical assistance of rural engineering departments," said Mr. Diouf. "I believe that we should also, where there is a temporary or permanent river, help the same farming communities. They could put in small canals of irrigation and drainage, using the local masons, but also using the local labor that is available, particularly after the rainy season until the new season comes again."
The Third World Water Forum is also about raising global awareness of the problem of water scarcity.
A new multi-agency U.N. report on the state of the world's water supplies predicts that close to two-thirds of the world's population could face moderate to severe water shortages by the year 2050. The report says water scarcity will continue to worsen until political leaders muster the will to turn things around.
Ingar Andersson, a water policy expert with the U.N. Development Program, a U.N. agency that contributed to the report, says, as wealthier countries begin to feel the impact of declining water resources, awareness of global problems will increase.
"And that is what is [happening] today, I think," he notes. "We have severe problems in Northern Europe. We have problems in the United States when it comes to water resources management, and many of our resources are over-exploited."
Skirble:"Is this [water]
The World Water Forum runs through March 23.
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