MARSEILLE, France, March. 12, 2012 – Former soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev told delegates on the first day of the World Water Forum that if water is well managed, enough exists on the planet for everyone.
He warned that water consumption cannot continue at 20th century rates and that despite accessible fresh water resources being limited, water use for human needs keep rising.
Gorbachev’s speech followed a separate OECD study on global water shortages published last week that suggested water demand could increase by 55% by 2050.
The World Water Council, joint organizers, also warned that one third of the population lives in a situation of water stress. Furthermore, if the current consumption trend continues, it said, between one half and two thirds of the world population will be in a situation of water stress before 2025.
Gorbachev was joined by Jean-Claude Gaudin, senator mayor of Marseille, as well as Benedito Braga, president of the International Forum Committee during the opening session of the sixth Forum.
Event organizers are expecting nearly 160 ministerial delegations and more than 80 ministers to attend, with more than 1000 speakers delivering 1000 hours worth of discussions and debate.
An exhibition has been organized featuring nearly 30 country pavilions yet an increase in the presence of commercial companies and discussion on privatization has provoked criticism.
A report in The Guardian reported that critics said the forum “caters to the interests of big business and gives corporations opportunities to advance their interests by facilitating direct access to high-ranking government officials”.
In response, activists are staging an Alternate World Water Forum (AWWF) to promote alternatives to privatization and “water as a human right”, starting at the later date of 14-17 March.
AWWF said on its website that such alternative gatherings can help “solidify the movement to reappropriate water, a communal resource which belongs to all of humanity”.
It is hoped that discussion from the World Water Forum, action and follow-up of results will be used as an important step on the road to the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, taking place in late June.