World leaders call for sustainable development of water

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Istanbul - World leaders signed a water consensus on Monday at the 5th World Water Forum, underlining the importance of the sustainable development of water.

The leaders met during the forum on Monday afternoon, which appealed for concrete action of governments around the world to highlight the role water plays in development and society.

The forum, which aimed to facilitate solutions to the world's water problems and promote cooperation among states and organizations, began Monday in the largest Turkish city of Istanbul under the theme "Bridging Divides for Water."

Leaders pledged in the consensus to show political will for solidarity, dialogue and cooperation with their neighbouring countries regarding cross-border waters, and said the world could be more prosperous and stable by sharing water.

Diplomats said that the consensus would be sent to the G8 countries and the United Nations as a base for more comprehensive international documents.

A record of 28 000 participants from all over the world, including a number of heads of state, more than 90 ministers, 63 mayors, 156 delegations and 148 parliamentarians gathered in the largest water-related event organised every three years by World Water Council (WWC) together with the host country.

South African Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks and a delegation have also arrived in Turkey to attend the forum. The minister is expected to make a presentation and bid to host the World Water Forum in 2012.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul stressed the importance of the vital resource while addressing the opening ceremony, which was also attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, Crown Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands, Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito Kotaishi and South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-Soo.

He said people needed more and more water to attain economic development, prosperity, high food production and improvement of sanitation, urging the international community to remove restrictions and take joint action.

WWC President Loic Fauchon called on all policy makers and international decision makers to shoulder responsibility for the sustainable development of water.

"[The future of the resource] does not only rest on technological progress, but also and mostly on political commitments," he said.

An official of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said at the meeting that the demand for water has been increasing and access to safe drinking water and sanitation remained inadequate in much of the developing world.

"With increasing water shortages, good governance is more than ever essential for water management. Combating poverty also depends on our ability to invest in this resource," said UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura.

Meanwhile, two water-related prizes were awarded on the occasion of the opening ceremony. The Hassan II Great World Water Prize was given to Abdulatif Yousef al-Hamad, President and Director General of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, for his significant contribution to the improvement of cooperation and solidarity in water development and management.

The Turkish Republic Prime Minister's Water Prize, which honours journalists who scored outstanding achievements in raising public awareness on water, was shared by Alison Bartle from Aqua Media International and three Turkish media staff.

The World Water Expo, which is a part of the forum, also kicked off on Monday. The show offered an opportunity for leading companies of water to present their services, products and advanced technologies.

Turkish police managed to remove a Turkish group which had attempted to protest the ongoing forum and detained 17 activists.

The group "No to Commercialization of Water," formed by members of several non-government organisations, rallied in front of the forum's main venue, Sutluce Congress and Culture Centre, to protest what they said was the forum's promotion of water as a commodity.