Ministerial Segment of the International Conference on Freshwater
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Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen
- I am honoured to be here today at this key conference on Freshwater. I am privileged to address this audience from around the world.
- We are grateful to the German Government for hosting the conference and welcoming us all in Bonn. It is fitting that we are meeting ON the Rhine, to discuss the issue of freshwater.
- Water has always held a central role in the practices and beliefs of many cultures and religions - it is the primary building block of life - the key to sustainable development
- The Koran mentions that all life originated from water and that man himself is created of water
- The Incas believed that Lake Titicaca was the centre of the original world - water was the essential factor in the stability and prosperity of the Mayan peoples - it possibly caused their demise - one theory blames the lack of water, followed by flooding, for the collapse of the civilisation
- The so called "water civilisations" of Egypt and Assyria were based on the ownership and control of water - the Egptians even believed that water was needed for the life after death
- Water's power to destroy is well-recognised - in the Bible floods and drought were punishments sent from God
- The Gikuyu tribe of Kenya believe that drought is a sign that the God is angry-They offer sacrifice and prayer to sooth his anger
- Mankind is always at the mercy of water for survival and development
- Water pollution, poor sanitation and water shortages kill over 12 million people every year. Millions are in bad health and trapped in poverty - much of their energy and time wasted in the quest for clean water
- Without water there is no hope of sustainable development
I challenge you today to answer these questions.
- Have the rich, the decision-makers, the large water-users become the "gatekeepers" of the world's water?
- Are you a water gate-keeper?
- Is your demand for water satisfied? I think it is.
- Do you therefore still see the necessity of finding solutions to satisfy the poor's demand and need for water? - Today the lack of a global and national policies for sustainable management of water resources closes the gate to water - It acts as a barrier to the supply of water for the poor.
- As a German I cannot lecture you in the English language, but I would like to remind you that the word "gate", as well as referring to a barrier which can be opened or closed, has also come to mean "scandal".
Are we all players in our very own FRESH WATERGATE?
A scandal of a very serious nature
We must act
- It would be wonderful if we could (adopt a Harry Potter approach,) wave a magic wand and give the world more water. But we are not wizards - We must take a different approach - an integrated approach which will ensure better use of the available water.
- The earth's water supply is static - The Chinese understood this as early as 500 B.C -however the demand for water is growing
- The world's population is increasing by around 77 million people per year.
- You've all seen the size of the Rhine: The yearly water requirements of 77 million people is roughly equivalent to the flow of the Rhine - that's a lot of water
- Distribution of water in the world is uneven. We have to open the gate to ensure that every citizen of the world has adequate WATER. There is no other option - We have to address a crisis of management and governance rather than a crisis of scarcity.
- Hindus believe that in their "sacred waters" distinctions of caste cease to exist- We too should use water to restore equity
- We, here in this room are in a position to take action to quickly implement the best solutions to one of THE biggest problems facing the world - Sustainable development is dependant proper management of water resources.
- IF water is used in an unsustainable way- less is available to meet the needs of people- people who then remain trapped in poverty
- The solutions are known- We need planning, investment and regulation.
- The solutions urgently need to be put into practice.
- What has been done since Rio? FAR too little.
- National governments and international organisations, including (and especially) the UN must act coherently now- Act to save millions of people from certain death and miserable lives.
- Integrated water resources management is required to ensure:
- Sustainable demand and use
- Supply to all
- The poor rely on as little as 10 litres per capita per day to survive while the rich use as much as 250 litres - a basic daily water requirement is defined as being 50 litres per person per day
- What can be done to remedy the situation? - we cannot take from the rich and give to the poor- The world's policy on water has to change
- In Africa the weather can make the different between life and death. Many Africans still depend on seasonal rains for their freshwater.
- 88% of water used in Africa is for agriculture - some of which is exported to the developed world in the form of flowers and vegetables
- 40 - 60% of irrigation and municipal water is lost through seepage and evaporation-contributing directly to poverty
- Those with access to this water, suppliers and users are gatekeepers of Africa's water (equity must be restored)
How does this affect the poor (where I live)?
- In Nairobi slums clean water is a constant challenge - Waterways are polluted, sanitation is close to non-existent - The cost of water is very high - 20 times the price of water in the better suburbs
- in rural Kenya women spend many hours are walking to collect water - time which could be dedicated to growing food, education of children or earning a living in another way
- The struggle to obtain enough water for survival is a drain on human health, finances and energy - it soaks up assets which could be used to build a better life
- Develop water resources and manage them efficiently - reduce water loss
- Improve the management of water utilities in developing countries - Commercialisation, where profits are ploughed back into the utility, could be useful - e.g. Accra, billing, collection and meter installation have been privatised -increased efficiency.
- Good governance at national and international level - put in place regulation and institutions which support and can sustain integrated water resources management
- E.g Laws passed by the Spanish in Mexico as early as the 1600s - set out rules to ensure that ALL were equally treated in the distribution and use of water - irrigation should not deny water to others
- Capacity building for improved management of water resources - Transfer of knowledge from developed countries and environmental agencies, such as UNEP- South: south sharing of experiences
- Raise awareness at every level - put into practice the least-cost (often simple) solutions for sustainable water conservation (e.g. roof rainwater collection, leak location, recycling and reuse)
- E.g. Project to rescue ancient Mayan water systems to assist water management in Guatemalan villages
Solutions should be designed for the villages and slums of regions in need
- All planning, management and education should take account of climate change and the unpredictability of weather patterns. Help people and the land to cope with drought as well as excessive heavy rains.
- Demand for water is of course heavily influenced by cost. In Ancient Rome each Roman was supplied with around 1,000 litres of water per day. In Rome today the average Roman's demand for water is more modest - it is influenced no doubt by cost
- There is a need to change water demand - pricing could drive the water "gatekeepers" to find new technologies - technology which would lower their water demand
- Water-pricing should reflect the true cost of the resource -It should take account of the economic social and environmental value of water - encourages more efficient use and discourages waste by the water "gatekeepers"
- Water for the poor should be affordable - they are willing to pay for clean water (income can be used for water infrastructure and management)
- Push for abolition of subsidies for large-scale water users (promotes waste and irresponsibility)(e.g Kenya breweries in Nairobi consume up to 5% of the total city supply, mainly for washing purposes)
- Subsidies on agriculture encourage increased production - leads to inefficient water use and increased pollution -(examples Africa, EU, N. America) -remove subsidies on agriculture- lower cost of cleaning up the environment e.g Aral Sea
- Introduce progressive tariffs (e.g South Africa)
- Funds available, including aid (re)directed to projects which have taken account of all costs and benefits (promote integrated water resources management)- e.g. irrigation investment might have higher value in another part of the economy-Promote different land-use - Promote the use of least-cost water supply.
As well as satifying the world's demand for water we must also ensure that the water is CLEAN (polluted water is useless)
- Both the Koran and the Bible mention polluted water as a punishment from God
- The sanctity of water is important to Zoroastrians - It is laid down that people must not urinate, spit or wash their hands in a river.
In spite of all teachings and knowledge:
- 90% of sewage and 70% of industrial waste in developing countries is dumped untreated into surface waters
- In industrialised countries pesticides, fertiliser and manure run-off from intensive farms pollute water - industrial waste also contributes to the problem
- Recognise the scope of the problem (at all levels)
- Develop projects to clean up water and raise awareness, especially of the solutions
- (e.g. Project for the Prevention of Accumulation and Disposal Measures for Obsolete Stockpiles of Pesticides in Africa
- Water for African Cities - Lusaka: Environmental impact assessment, community based approach to aquifer management, education and training
- Yemen: implementation of appropriate wastewater management strategies and National programme of action
- Apply polluter pays principle
- Water has to be brought to those who need it (distribution should not stop at the "gates" of affluent suburbs or prosperous large commercial farms)
- Human energy should not be wasted walking hours to the nearest water supply (6 -8 hours per family per day) -women could spend this time on more important matters
- investment in supply infrastructure (least cost most effective technology, UNEP studies available)
e.g - The amount of water the world's reservoirs can store is falling by one percent a year - Mud, silt and soil is building up in these structures - I can assure you that the UN's Dams unit will work to find a solution to this problem
- Involve communities in the delivery decision-making
- education in the better management of available water (especially women)
- Remember solutions are not always complex and costly
e.g. the Hippo Roller, a plastic barrel with a handle, which can be filed with water and pushed along like a wheel barrow. Women using it in South Africa can roll four times as much water as they used to carry on their head.
- Integrated concrete action will ensure
- Sustainable demand and use
- Supply to even the poorest slums
- We, the gatekeepers, have the power to open the gate- the power to take action - the power to put in place the policies which will release the water to those in need
- Instead of FRESH WATERGATE let us ensure that we will pass through the gate of horn, the gate of Greek legend from which true dreams come, our dream will be clean, affordable water for all.
- avoid 66% of the world's population living in water-stressed conditions by 2025 -
ensure sustainable development and poverty reduction
- Water is a very good servant, but it is a cruel master." C.G.D. Roberts , Water should serve all mankind and assist the future prosperity of the entire world
- I am convinced that this conference can develop practical solid guidelines for implementation of solutions. Solutions which can form a key component of WSSD.
- If we all make a commitment to act, then together we can save lives in the future. We can give the poor a chance to live a better life -a life free from the slavery of water and poverty.