WWF condemns governments at World Water Forum

WWF on Sunday condemned governments at the World Water Forum for their failure to commit to a sustainable approach to ensure adequate water supply and sanitation.

Kyoto, Japan, March 26, 2003 -- WWF on Sunday condemned governments at the World Water Forum for their failure to commit to a sustainable approach to ensure adequate water supply and sanitation.

WWF said it deeply regrets that instead of prioritizing the conservation of freshwater ecosystems - the source of all freshwater - the Forum emphasized the need for more water and energy infrastructure to meet the world's growing demand.

The environmental organization said this blatantly disregards the UN Millennium Development goal to halve the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015, because much of this infrastructure will inevitably cause further social, economic, and environmental damage.

"The public has been badly served by their governments at this forum, who have adopted a ministerial declaration that is a backward step from previous commitments," said Jamie Pittock, Director of WWF's Living Waters Programme. "We have to ask how credible a forum like this is when governments do not draw on the 12,000 water specialists gathered together to identify common sense solutions to water problems, but instead continue to promote massive infrastructure as the sole solution to the world's water crisis."

WWF pointed to what it called the "absolute failure" by governments to commit to review dam development projects. The findings of the first ever global research on the effect of dams compiled by the World Commission on Dams contained guidelines for dam developments and can reduce the loss of billions of dollars worth of damage that many large dams have already caused.

WWF's call on governments to commit to using these guidelines went unheeded as pro-dam governments claimed environmental and social impacts of dams could be reduced, but could not agree on how to do so. For example, they were not able to agree to "environmental flows," the release of water from dams to help rivers function as naturally as possible. This is key to sustaining fisheries, floodplain forests and agriculture.
The environmental organization also criticized the governments' failure to acknowledge and commit to action to manage the impact of climate change on freshwater ecosystems and resources.

However, WWF pointed to some positive signals from the forum. There was general recognition that investment is needed to improve environmental health as a source of clean water for people and nature; a commitment to conserve freshwater fisheries upon which the livelihoods of millions of people depend; and recognition that cooperation between countries that share rivers is essential to sustain their water supplies.

"The ministerial declaration could have been a blueprint for averting further human suffering caused by inadequate water supply and sanitation, instead it is marked by reticence to put protection of ecosystems first," said Jamie Pittock. "Governments must make conservation of ecosystems the starting point of any action plan to manage water resources if they are serious about ensuring water for all."
For more information: http://www.panda.org/.

More in Environmental