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Water is Endangered and So are We


by LoÔc Fauchon

 

LoÔc Fauchon, president of the

World Water Council, delivered

this address to the opening session

of the 4th World Water Forum on March 16, 2006.

 

Mexico City, Mexico, March 17,

2006 On behalf of the World Water Forum, co-organizer of this Forum, please allow me to address my kind regards to the 11,000 participants

registered in this Forum and also to express my gratitude to all the working teams,

here in Mexico city, at the Council Headquarters in Marseilles, and everywhere in the world, which have contributed over the past two and a half years, to the preparation of this Fourth Forum.

 

To know how to bring together men and women, as we are doing today, is a pressing duty, especially when the future of mankind is involved, our future, the future of our children and the future of our childrenís children.

 

Water, which has brought us together here, is a topic of major subject of concern, a subject of worry, and sometimes even a subject of discord.

 

Water is endangered, and with it, so are we.

 

For the situation made for water in the world is unacceptable.

 

Unacceptable is the lack of water or its poor quality which, last year, caused 10 times more deaths than all the wars waged on the planet together.

 

Unacceptable are the hundreds of millions of women and children who, each morning, must walk many hours in search of water that is too scarce, distant or contaminated.

 

FauchonFauchon addresses the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico City, March 16, 2006.

 

Who can submit to accepting this? There is certainly much water on our Earth. Sometimes too much, as we know. But year after year, per capita resources are steadily decreasing. And many people throughout the world still only have barely 20 liters of water per day for

food and hygiene.

 

What is responsible? We all know: uncontrolled demographic growth and its uncontrollable and sprawling megacities. There, more than anywhere else, overcrowding, water shortages, lack of sanitation, lead to malnourishment, disease, ignorance, poverty and inequalities of every kind.

 

Increasing pollution, deforestation, soil degradation and salinization is also responsible. This all threatens the balance and sometimes even the survival of land and fresh and sea water ecosystems.

 

Climate changes that take time to understand are also to blame. They reinforce extremes, bringing increased rainfall in some places and long droughts in others.

 

All this is devastating, all this causes ruin, all this forces us to make costly efforts to safeguard against natureís extremes. No country can escape these excesses, nor these imbalances that man, through his inconsistency and lack of foresight, has himself engineered and provoked.

 

All of us here today, ladies and gentlemen, and many others throughout the world, only wish for one thing: that man again becomes a friend to water. The task is immense, you will tell me. Undoubtedly, but it is necessary. We need time, you will tell me. Undoubtedly, so letís pick up the pace, letís speed up. For we must no longer speak of a priority, but about an emergency, an extreme emergency. So let me speak to you of this emergency.

stream
 

First, yes, letís give back to water

its crucial place in our culture, for

water is one of the foundations of

the worldís heritage, and that asks

for and deserves respect. To do this, letís finally stop wanting to solve the

issue of access to water for based

on theoretical macroeconomic               Free running stream in North England 

reasoning, on abstract mathematical

models, or on inhumane reorganization plans. Certainly water necessitates intelligence and reason, but above all, it calls for heart and solidarity.

 

Yes, let us assert unambiguously that the right to water is an indispensable element of human dignity. Let us etch in the constitutions of each state, let us engrave this right in the facade of each national and municipal palace, let us write this right in our childrenís notebooks in every school, where civic responsibility is learned.

 

Yes, letís offer those in need in rich countries the guarantee of a minimum daily amount of water sufficient for meeting their essential needs.

And for the others, for all the rest, the poorest, the weakest, the "condemned of the earth," letís bring money. Much more money. Today, only five percent of public aid is allocated to water. That is charity. Today, only five percent of investments are dedicated to water. This is a major economic error. 

There are too many rifles and cannons in the world, but there will never be enough faucets.

 

Yes, ladies and gentleman, at the risk of angering, we must say it strongly - mobile telephones, that we always have, are fine, but drinking water is better.

 

Yes, letís finance infrastructure for the 50 countries most in need and the 20 poorest megacities through a more intense donation policy, but which is infinitely better controlled. And letís break the loan-indebtedness-debt cancellation spiral in favor of intelligent, balanced and socially sound tarification strategies.

 

Yes, let us decide, let us be concrete and let us impose. Let us demand that a large share of infrastructure building programs be dedicated to the maintenance of the networks, dams, and treatment plants.

 

To this end, let us figure out how to educate more men and women prepared to carry out these daily tasks.

 

FauchonLoÔc Fauchon of France has been president of the World Water Council since March 2005  

 

In this perspective, the World Water Council is

ready, together with the international community,

to immediately support the creation of regional maintenance schools. For the world requires

each year tens of thousands of technicians and managers that are capable of operating public irrigation, distribution or sanitation services.

 

Yes, let us demand a fairer distribution of progress. Of all progress, and especially technological progress, which, today, is reserved to too few.

 

Desalinization and treatment of saline waters, pumping of deep ground waters, transfer of water over greater distances, and even thoughts on virtual water, every contribution of human intelligence must be shared.

 

While research and development programs are of course necessary in Berkeley, Amsterdam, and Osaka, they are also even more greatly needed in Bamako, Bucharest and Quito.

 

Yes, let us ensure the democratic obligation so that management may match with decentralization. Proper water management requires authority, legitimacy and honesty. Proper water management requires a public authority that maintains the power to set rates and to determine investments in any circumstances. Only then can a local community be surrounded by public or private, but competent, managers.

 

watering holeHerdsman waters his cattle in Chad. Conflict, population displacements and inadequate rainfall have resulted in a precarious food and water situation in several parts of the country. 2005
 

 

Finally, let us provide security. Shortages are more frequent, natural disasters are more numerous. This is a duty of public assistance. Let us share our experiences, our prevention, relief and reconstruction capacities to populations and to make risk management a new reality of this century.

All of this - the right, the money, the knowledge, the institutions, risks prevention - pave the way to water access.

 

We must fight for this goal, we must engage in a long and difficult battle. Rest assured, this battle does not lead to war. On the contrary, it is a battle to build peace, a battle to enhance solidarity, a battle to strengthen cooperation. And to enable year after year, billions of men and women to continue living where they were born, where they grew up.

 

We must be aware that if we cannot have water, electricity, health, education, these men and women will continue to embark in frail vessels to cross the straits, these men and women will continue to cross the deserts in unstable trucks, to end up running into walls and fences built hastily and shamefully by the rich.

Yes, we definitely want walls of water rather than walls of indifference and contempt.

 

Yes, we definitely want men, women and children in any situation and from any continent to be born with an irrevocable equal right to access water.

 

Let us leave on the side of the road the vain quarrels, the sterile controversies and the old debates. Let us know how to listen to the cry of thirsty children. Let us listen to the whisper of mothers defeated by fatigue and humiliation.

 

Water, ladies and gentlemen, deserves bringing together our capacities and intelligence. It deserves tending hands, gathering hearts, and merging minds.

This 4th Forum is the opportunity for an open debate, for a respectful dialogue to strengthen the idea that there is no development without water. The World Water Council is ready for that.

 

Let us come together to move forward. Together, we will be respected. If we are respected, we will be heard.

 

May I wish you all a beautiful and peaceful Forum, a Forum filled with tolerance and solidarity. Thanks to your contribution, thanks to your determination, this Forum, I am sure, will allow water to flow for a long time, now and forever, in the direction of peace and prosperity.

 

Long live Mexico, and long live the cause of water!

 

Find out more at the World Water Council:

www.worldwatercouncil.org

 

Reprinted by permission

 


 

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