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Stockholm meeting to stir global water crisis debate

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 19 Aug 2011 09:19 GMT
Author: Julie Mollins
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LONDON (AlertNet) - More than 2,600 humanitarians and policymakers meet in Stockholm this week to hash out ideas about how to tackle escalating problems surrounding water scarcity and access to sanitation, particularly in urban environments.

World Water Week delegates are seeking long-term sustainable solutions, which will transform how water resources are managed. The goal is to try and improve the lives of almost 900 million people who lack access to safe water, and more than 2.7 billion who lack access to basic sanitation, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) statistics.

Growing pressure on resources and amenities is a key concern as urban populations increase. 

“Governments pay a lot of lip service to the needs of the poor, but have very little to show in demonstrating investments and strategies,” said Sheela Patel, chair of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). “While the state subsidises the elite, water for the poor is sold at a much higher rate.”

For many delegates, World Water Week will be about networking amid preparations for the high-level Rio+20 United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.

A report on a U.N. water resources document being prepared ahead of Rio+20 will assess the way legal and institutional frameworks have affected the development of water resource management.

“We are trying to monitor how different agreements and water sector reforms have been adopted,” Joakim Harlin, senior water resources advisor for UNDP, said. “We also want to see where this has led – the outcome and impact.”

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a framework of global targets set in 2000 by the U.N. to be met by 2015 to try and alleviate poverty, will also in be in focus. 

Measures to improve water and sanitation are incorporated into MDG 7, which aims to ensure environmental stability. The goal is to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

A key message that WaterAid, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO), will try to relay is one of equity and inclusion -- how to make urban sanitation safe and fair while preventing the creation of mass slums, and spurring debate over climate change concerns.

Daniel Yeo, senior policy analyst at WaterAid, said he hopes for discussion on the severe drought which is creating famine in the Horn of Africa, and the linkage to food security. 

“It’s a humanitarian crisis now, but the long term crisis is still there and it hasn't been solved.” 

World Water Week, hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute, has been held in Stockhom each year since 1991.

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