March 18, 2009

A Bridge over Troubled (and Scarce) Water

“Bridging Divides for Water” is the motto of the Fifth World Water Forum, currently taking place in Istanbul, and the biggest divide of all seems to be between those who see water as business and those for whom it is a human right.

This conflict was highlighted by protesters who clashed with Turkish police, activists demanding an end to water privatization, and advocacy groups that staged their own sidebar conferences.

These include the Istanbul Water Tribunal and the Alternative Water Forum, Al Jazeera reports.

According to the United Nations, more than half of the planet’s six billion people don’t have adequate access to water, with climate change and population growth cited as two leading reasons why demand is outstripping water supplies.

Then there is the issue of war and water. According to SwissInfo.org, Bruno Riesen of Amnesty International claimed: “Water played a key role in 37 wars during the last 60 years.”

Experts anticipate still more conflict in the years to come, especially in the arid Middle East.

When war breaks out, access to water and sanitary living conditions are among the first things to go. A Red Cross report mentioned Iraq, Gaza, Sri Lanka and Somalia as places where water supplies and public health have been impacted by conflict.

According to Reuters, one out of every six people worldwide don’t have safe drinking water, while an estimated 2.5 billion live in unsanitary conditions, where open sewage pits and trenches bring a huge economic and human toll.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, U.N. officials acknowledged they are really not sure how bad the problem of access to water really is, because they don’t have adequate access to water data.

The same report noted that a U.N. initiative on corporate accountability is not working because businesses are underreporting their environmental footprints.

–Ronnie Lovler/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“NGOs sound alarm over water conflicts”
SwissInfo.org, March 16, 2009

“World water forum diary”
Al Jazeera, March 17, 2009

“U.N. urges action on water policies”
Al Jazeera, March 17, 2009

“Experts say days of easy water are over”
Voice of America (U.S. gov’t funded), March 17, 2009

“Ballooning global population adding to the water crisis says UN report”
United Nations, March 16, 2009

“Fifth World Water Forum: war victims need better access to water and sanitation”
International Committee of the Red Cross, March 15, 2009

“Shame over sanitation hampering development: NGOs”
Reuters, March 17. 2009

“Riot police quell protest as water forum opens”
Agence France-Presse, March 16, 2009

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