Experts Call for Firm Political


By Kim Gamel

Associated Press
August 15, 2002

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Water experts on Thursday called for urgent political and financial action to fight pollution, sanitation and other water management problems they say threaten efforts to reduce poverty being highlighted at an upcoming environmental conference.

Several international water organizations welcomed the U.N. initiative to make water and sanitation one of five key issues on the agenda of the World Summit on Sustainable Development being held Aug. 26 through Sept. 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

But, they said, words need to be followed by action by governments and the global community to meet U.N. millennium goals of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, suffering from hunger or unable to reach or afford safe drinking water.

"To meet the Millennium goal of water for the poor alone will require some dlrs 25 billion per year in financial resources," according to an editorial signed by eight organizations, including the World Water Council and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Activists warned that 1.2 billion people still lack access to safe water, 2.5 billion live without proper sanitation and 2 million people, mostly children, die each year from water or sanitation-related diseases.

"We call on Heads of State, and the global community to agree on concrete targets, time bound measures and action plans to change the way the world manages water," the editorial said. "Failure to do so at (the Johannesburg) Summit will be detrimental for billions of people and for threatened ecosystems for decades to come."

The editorial, to be submitted to various publications, was released Thursday at the end of a four-day annual symposium, which drew 900 people from some 100 countries — the last major gathering on water issues before Johannesburg.

Delegates to the conference also agreed on four principles for water management, including the need for more public dialogue, fighting pollution, securing water services in urban areas and integrating water management, land use and ecosystem policies.

But several outstanding issues remained, including a lack of agreement on targets for sanitation, transboundary issues and water pollution, organizers said. "Water pollution is with us already and it is a grossly underestimated problem," said Malin Falkenmark of the Stockholm International Water Institute.

Later Thursday, King Carl XVI Gustaf was to present the dlrs 150,000 Stockholm Water Prize to Venezuelan-American Princeton University professor Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe. Rodriguez-Iturbe was cited in March for his pioneering research on floods, droughts and river basin organization.

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