Water Conference to Tackle Growing Global Crisis

March 12, 2000
The Hague, The Netherlands-- The world in 2025 -- a world where there is clean, safe water for everyone, more than enough to drink, bathe in and grow crops. That is the vision experts, politicians and interest groups plan to unveil at an international conference in The Hague which opened last Friday, focusing minds on the worsening humanitarian crisis which today denies billions access to safe water. The six-day Second World Water Forum will outline a Plan of Action for the next quarter century to prevent millions dying every year as a direct result of insanitary water. "This special conference aims to mobilise political support with an eye to countering our global water predicaments with concrete action," the organisers said. "The vision will project a scenario of how the world could look 25 years from now -- if we take action today." Since the first World Water Forum in Morocco in 1997, when governments pledged a "new water ethic" to combat water scarcity around the globe, the Paris-based World Commission on Water for the 21st Century has been established to put ideas into action. This week the Commission, a United Nations-backed body, urged a doubling of investments in global water supplies to $180 billion a year and said the private sector should provide the lion's share of the money needed. Africa, Middle East Problems HighlightedOn Saturday the conference will focus on water supplies and distribution in the Middle East and Africa, regions where acute droughts as well as floods cause huge loss of life. "Africa is plagued with extreme variations in weather. In places like the Congo, water [supply] is increasing, while in other areas it is decreasing -- places like Angola, Mozambique, Namibia," professor Albert Wright, civil engineering and sanitation specialist, said. Wright, who helped draft Africa's presentation at the forum, said the main goal was to raise awareness of the problem and stress the need for help. Middle East experts forecast a worsening crisis as high population growth is compounded by a neglect of water resources. According to a study last year from the Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain, the per capita share of water in the Arab world has halved in the last two decades to 1,100 cubic meters a year, perilously close to the accepted 1,000 cubic meter benchmark, below which human health is harmed. Queen Noor of Jordan, patron of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), will present the group's Vision for Water and Nature, which sees a wider geopolitical role in equitable water distribution. "Though the environment today is a cause of political tension around the globe and likely will become a substantial source of conflict in the years ahead, there also is evidence that the equitable resolution of resource disputes can help promote wider peace," the IUCN said in a statement. The interactive conference (www.worldwaterforum.org) ends on Wednesday, designated as World Water Day. SOURCE: Reuters Limited

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