Posted by: r.m. | March 18, 2009

water and water – but for whom and how?

The Fifth World Water Forum began two days ago and will continue until this Sunday.  It is held in Istanbul. 

The World Water Forum is the main water-related event in the world, aimed at putting water firmly on the international agenda. A stepping stone towards global collaboration on water problems, the Forum offers the water community and policy-and-decision-makers from all over the world the unique opportunity to come together to create links, debate and attempts to find solutions to achieve water security. It is organised every three year by the World Water Council, in collaboration with the host country.

At the opening ceremony, thousands of delegates heard that “global demand for water is greater today than it has ever been and demand will increase in the future … Driving the demand for water are population growth and mobility, rising living standards, changes in food consumption, and increased energy production by hydropower and biofuels finds a new assessment of the planet’s freshwater resources by 26 United Nations agencies.”

With increasing shortages, good governance is more than ever essential for water management. Combating poverty also depends on our ability to invest in this resource,” said the Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura, who presented the report to the Forum on behalf of the United Nations.

The report finds that corruption in the water sector may account for a rise of almost US$50 billion in the cost of achieving the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation. These eight goals, to be accomplished by 2015, were agreed in 2000 by all the world’s countries and major development institutions.

Typical examples of corruption include falsified meter readings, favoritism in public equipment purchases, and nepotism in the allocation of public contracts.

But wait? Can anyone go? Can anyone with a vested interest in water demand and supply and distribution attend and participate? uh… It costs 100 Euro a ticket So who is left outside?

And for those who can afford a ticket and get inside, speaking the wrong way can get you deported or arrested.

As the opening ceremony began, International Rivers’ South Asia Director Ann-Kathrin Schneider and climate campaigner Payal Parekh unfurled a banner reading “No Risky Dams” in protest of what they believe to be the World Water Forum’s promotion of destructive dams. They shouted slogans as the chair of the World Water Forum and government dignitaries were about to take the stage.

As she was being detained, Parekh said, “Large dams have left a legacy of lies and loss. Continuing to build destructive dams will bring unacceptable risks to people and the planet.”

Schneider said, “The Ilisu Dam in Southeast Turkey is a symbol of outmoded water and energy policies which destroy communities and the environment. We call on the participants of the World Water Forum to embrace smarter and cleaner solutions which are readily available.”

While some Forum participants applauded the protest, the police detained the two protestors. Meanwhile, outside the conference center riot police used water cannons and tear gas against 150 protestors who shouted “water for life, not for profit” in opposition to what they view as the World Water Forum’s agenda of water privatization and river destruction. Seventeen protestors were arrested.

Which leads to another question: who gets to distribute water? Is it available to be owned? Should it be?

UN water elder-stateswoman, Maude Barlow, then offered her views on the corporate world’s relationship with the dwindling water supply.

“Water must be a public trust and belong to everyone. No one should be allowed to appropriate it for private profit while others are dying for the lack of it.”

The issues, she said, were conservation and water justice.

“If you are in the ‘water business’, you cannot move towards those two goals,” she said.


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