3rd World Water Forum Opens. Climate Change, More Floods and Droughts Coming

Released from Kyoto, Japan

The 3rd World Water Forum opened Monday in Kyoto, Japan, with Dr. Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, President of the World Water Council and Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, “saying “the world’s attention and eyes are focusing on us today.” Other speakers vowed that global commitments to solve the water crisis must emerge from the international down to the village level during the 8-day conference.

More than 1.2 billion people lack access to safe water and more than 2 billion lack adequate sanitation, numbers that are only going to get worse as the global population rises dramatically during the first half of the 21st century.

The Crown Prince and Princess of Japan, the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands and the Prince of Morocco were among the dignitaries who opened the World Water Forum, which is held every three years in a different host country.

“On a global scale there is enough water to provide ‘water security’ to all, but only if we change the way we manage and develop it,” said the Prince of Orange, who chaired the previous 2nd World Water Forum at The Hague in March of 2000. “In this International Year of Freshwater, we should appreciate the efforts of water managers to resolve the world water crisis. At the same time, however, we must recognize that their efforts need to be doubled and accelerated.”

Japan has had an unprecedented response as host of the Forum, with more than 10,000 participants signing up, as well as more than 1,300 journalists. The opening session took place before a packed auditorium of more than 1,800 people, with an overflow audience of 1,000 watching on closed circuit television outside the main hall and throughout the venue, the Kyoto Convention Center.

“After every thing is said and done, what shall we say to the poor and what shall we say to the thirsty and hungry?” asked Dr. Abu-Zeid of the World Water Council, a main convener of the Forum. “What can we say to the mothers and fathers who lost their children to water borne diseases? When shall we see the long awaited change of the promised Blue Revolution?”

Nearly 340 separate sessions will be held through March 23rd. On the opening day, a major report was presented to the Forum on nearly 3,000 separate water projects that have been initiated in recent years, many by people acting without government assistance, in response to the global water crisis. A major theme of the Forum is that the entire world community must be educated that people on their own are coming up with solutions, and they can as well.

“We need to build bridges between all of us on this planet to promote the true principles of cooperation and peaceful co-existence,” said Dr. Abu-Zeid. “We need to work together harder and smarter than ever to catch up and compensate for time lost and failed efforts of the past. Water is precious, every drop counts and your participation is valuable, every opinion is important and has its weight.”

Another major session dealt with climate change and how it can affect the world’s water situation.

“The costs of disasters increased dramatically over the past 40 years,” said William J. Cosgrove, Vice President of the World Water Council. “We are facing droughts, floods and storms on a scale never seen before. Each year it is going to get worse.”

Most vulnerable will be low-lying islands and coasts and the world’s megacities, speakers said. “Almost all countries are vulnerable” Mr. Cosgrove warned.

The countries that will be most severely affected by the worsening global climate change contribute little to the emissions of greenhouse gases, several speakers said.

“The most populous and wealthiest of the world face a moral challenge greater than colonialism or slavery,” said Lionel Hurst, the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States, in his speech. “The skies do not belong to the countries of North America or Europe – they belong to all of us.”

The King Hassan II Global Water Prize was awarded to co-recipients Dr. Abu Zeid and Dr. Jerson Kelman, Director President of Agencia Nacional de Auas (ANA) of Brazil.

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