Brussels, 31 Mar 2003
The recent World Water Forum fleshed out the international community's commitment to supply safe drinking water to its poorest citizens, and the EU promoted its sustainable water development policies.
Water is such a basic element that people fortunate enough to have it on tap often take it for granted. Yet 1.2 billion people do not have access to a safe water supply and 2.4 billion live without secure sanitation. Water-related diseases kill 5-7 million people annually, including 2.2 million children under the age of five.
More than 12 000 water experts, government officials, companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from 182 countries gathered in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month to hammer out practical solutions to the global water crisis, and exchange knowledge and expertise. It aimed to move the world closer to delivering on its Millennium Summit's objective of halving the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015.
"Water demand is increasing three times as fast as the world's population growth rate, which will make the (Millennium) goal… all the more difficult to reach," World Water Council Vice President William J. Cosgrove told delegates.
Although the forum ended with over 100 new commitments from governments and international organisations to tackle some of the most urgent water matters, NGOs expressed their concern over, for example, the environmental sustainability of giant dam and pipeline projects. "We have to ask how credible a forum like this is when governments… continue to promote massive infrastructure as the sole solution to the world's water crisis," complained Jamie Pittock, director of the World Wide Fund for Nature's Living Waters Programme.
Research helps 'Water for life'
The EU held a special Europe Day at the forum during which it charted the progress of its 'Water for life' initiative. First launched at last year's Johannesburg Summit, it is a comprehensive partnership designed to help partner countries achieve sustainable water and sanitation targets. In Johannesburg, the Union sealed specific agreements with Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is currently negotiating similar deals with the Mediterranean and South America.
The EU also discussed its new Water Framework Directive on developing an integrated approach to managing water resources, and explored ways of improving the efficiency of existing financing mechanisms.
Sound research is key to the development of sustainable water policies. That is why the European Commission has made the water initiative a key priority in its research programme. Towards that end, it has just published a report, entitled 'Water for life', setting out how successful European scientific and development co-operation can help address these issues.
Source: EU, official and news sources