Sunday, March 16, 2003


     Kyoto, March 16, 2003 (ANTARA) - Freshwater is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty first century, according to Dr. Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, President of the World Water Council (WWC) which organizes the World Water Forum.
       One in four persons in this world lack access to clean drinking water and one in three lack adequate sanitation, he said in the opening ceremony of the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, Sunday.

     "By 2025, about 2.7 billion people - about one-third of the world's population then - will face a severe water shortage," stated Abu-Zeid, who is also Egypt's Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation.
      He recommended four broad priority areas for action: first, develop new world water ethics; second, establish a world water fund; third, promote water for world peace and security; and fourth, priority focus on developing countries.

        Concerning funding of water projects, he said that governments alone cannot provide efficient and effective water management service optimally. "There is a need to formulate new models for partnerships between institutions, the public sector, private enterprises and members of the civil society," he stated.

        The eight-day Forum attended by around 10,000 people, including about 150 ministers and several heads of state, will have 337 sessions discussing 33 major themes such as water and climate, water and poverty, as well as water and culture.

        Among those giving speeches in the opening ceremony of the Forum were Crown Prince of Japan Naruhito, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, and Prince of Morocco Moulay Rashid.

        The closing ceremony also featured a presentation of the First Hassan II Great World Water Prize by Prince Rashid to Dr.Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, minister of water resources and irrigation of Egypt, and Dr. Jerson Kelman, president director of the National Water Agency of Brazil. Each of the winners received a trophy, a certificate and a sum of 100,000 US dollars.

        The Prize dedicated in memory of the late King Hassan II of Morocco, is awarded to individuals or groups for making achievements in water resources in various aspects including scienctific, economic, technical, environmental, social, cultural and political aspects.

        More people and less water

        According to data from WWC, over the next 20 years, the world's population will increase from six billion to an estimated 7.2 billion, while the average supply of water per person is expected to drop by one-third.

        Seven million die each year of water-borne diseases, including 2.2 million children under the age of five.

        Concerning the impact of climate change, economic losses from weather and flood catastrophes have increased ten-fold over the past 50 years, particularly as a result of rapid climate changes, according to the WWC.

        The rapid climate changes are seen in more intense rainy seasons, longer dry seasons, stronger storms, shifts in rainfall and rising sea levels.

        More disastrous floods and droughts have been the most visible manifestaton of these changes.

        Floods affected more than 1.5 billion people worldwide from 1971 to 1995, or 100 million people per year, including more than 300,000 deaths and over 81 million people left homeless, according to experts.

        The expected climatic change during this century will further intensify and threaten species and crops which will lead to drops in food production globally.

        The United Nations estimates that by 2025 half of the world population will be living in areas that are at risk from storms and other weather extremes.

        The on-going Forum lasting until 23 March 2003, is organized in three cities, namely Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka. The first World Water Forum was held in Marrakech, Morocco in 1997, and the second Forum was in the Hague in 2000. According to the WWC, four countries - Brazil, Egypt, Mexico and Turkey - are running to host next Forum scheduled for 2006. The final selection will be decided next October. (T/f001/B/S012)

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