Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Riot police quell protest as World Water Forum opens
Riot police quell protest as Water Forum opens
The World Water Forum, a seven-day arena aimed at addressing the planet's deepening crisis of fresh water, was launched here Monday amid a violent protest broken up by riot police using tear gas.
The forum, held only every three years, will address growing water scarcity, the risk of conflict as countries squabble over rivers, lakes and aquifers, and how to provide clean water and sanitation to billions.
Anti-riot police dispersed some 300 demonstrators against the forum as they headed to the venue buildings, detaining at least 15. The protesters, whose rally had been called by unions, environmentalists, and leftist organisations, responded to tear gas by hurling rocks and beating officers with sticks.
They chanted slogans such as "water is people, it's life, it's not for sale," and "we want to crush this forum which wants to take our water". Heading an appeal for the globe to husband its water resources, Loic Fauchon, president of the World Water Council staging the conference, said humanity was squarely to blame for wasting the precious stuff of life.
"We are responsible," he said. "Responsible for the aggressions perpetrated against water, responsible for the current climate changes which come on top of the global changes, responsible for the tensions which reduce the availability of freshwater masses so indispensable to the survival of humanity."
He added: "At this very time in the history of water, we are faced with a major challenge to use more water resources but at the same time to protect, enhance the value of and even reuse these waters."
The world's population, currently more than 6.5 billion, is expected to rise to nine billion by mid-century, placing further massive demands on water supplies that are already under strain.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicts a rise in the number of people living under severe water stress to 3.9 billion by 2030, amounting to nearly half the world's population. Most of these will live in China and South Asia.
That tally does not include the impacts of climate change. Global warming may already be affecting weather patterns, changing the time and place where rain and snow fall, say some experts. Around 2.5 billion people today do not have access to decent sanitation, defying one of the targets of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
Hydrologists say the crisis is rooted in excessive irrigation, leakage of urban water supplies, pollution of river water and unbridled extraction of water from nearly every type of source.
The need for better management of water "is becoming more urgent," the head of the OECD, Angel Gurria, warned in a report to be issued on Tuesday.
"We witness increasing pressure, competition and, in some regions, even conflict over the use of water resources. Poor governance and inadequate investment are resulting in billions of people not having access to water and sanitation services." Tens of billions of dollars are needed annually to fix the world's water systems, but policies to address the global financial crisis could help meet the target, the report says.
Gurria admitted in an interview that the world's economic crisis cast a shadow over the ability to muster such huge sums, including in development aid. But, he said, hope lies in the plans set by the United States, China, European countries and others to spend massively in infrastructure to steer their economies out of the path of recession.
This is the anger bubbling to the surface. This is the very scenario we should never ever wish for. I do not believe in violence but in peaceful protest. Beating police officers with sticks solves nothing in making the point. However, I can absolutely sympathize with the anger of the protesters in light of the global corporate grab of our water resources taking place, and vigorous attempts by predatory investors and greenwashers to commoditize our water thus taking it from a public trust to a private way to not only control water but lives.
As drought continues to spread across the world more pervasively and persistantly as waste, mismanagement, and now climate change contribute to its ever evolving scarcity we must not lose sight of what is at stake: the very existence of our civilization.
These water forums are supposed to address this, but of late as with climate change conferences we get agendas, initiatives, but little real action. Matter of fact, it is companies like Nestle, Coke, and Pepsi that actually sponsor these conferences so of course it is no surprise that people are concerned about what is really going on behind closed doors.
Most of the work to provide potable water and water equality globally is done by NGOS, not governments. And also as with the climate crisis, the global water crisis is not covered by the MSM nor are the repercussions of the current 'food crisis' coupled with economic crisis correlated to the fact that much of it could be averted with adequate water management and conservation as well as equal access not only to water but to food and addressing population growth in a humane way.
I suspect this is not the last we will see of protest regarding our water resources and I believe we may fight at least one war over water this century because human nature is such that we have been conditioned for far too long to think the well will never run dry. There is no more time for that train of thought.
We are now part of a defining century in the history of our civilization and that is not something we should take lightly. Water is life, and to preserve it for the future we must become more aware of its importance, its use, our activities regarding that use, and doing all we can to protect it from the interests that only see it as a commodity for profit. That will require a determination, passion, and global vision never seen before. And it starts with declaring water a global human right.
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