World Water Forum in Istanbul - should water be 'privatised'?
Violent protests in Istanbul have resulted in clashes with riot police, arrests and deportations. The protesters are demonstrating against... a seven day forum that aims to address the world's fresh water crisis. Our Observers tell us why not everyone thinks the World Water Forum won't solve the looming global water crisis. Read more...
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Image: Obi-Akpere on Flickr.
Violent protests in Istanbul have resulted in clashes with riot police, arrests and deportations. The protestors are demonstrating against... a seven day forum that aims to address the world's fresh water crisis. Our Observers tell us why not everyone thinks the World Water Forum won't solve the looming global water crisis.
The seven-day long World Water Forum, held every three years, is organised by the World Water Council, a multinational platform based in Marseille. The forum follows a report released on 12 March by UN agencies which warns that predicted circumstances such as global warming and a population boom are set to lead to a global water crisis and subsequent "water wars" in the next half century. The world's population is expected to rise from 6.6 billion to 9 billion by 2050, yet even today there are still one billion people without access to safe drinking water, and the majority of the world's remaining fresh water is locked up in glaciers. The conference is certainly crucial, but is it efficient? Hundreds of demonstrators showed what they thought about it when they poured into Istanbul's streets on Monday morning shouting "water is not for sale". Organisations such as Corporate Europe Observatory, which objects to the privatisation of water, and International Rivers, which protests the impact of large scale infrastructure, such as dams, have published critical reports on the forum.
"It’s not just a bunch of people figuring out who gets how much water"
Stuart Orr, currently at the forum, studies global water consumption for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). He's attended talks by UN agencies on water and human rights, the measurement of water, and public responsibility for water use.
These protestors are not always very well informed. They might be right on a ministerial level but on the workshop level no - the people here are passionately fighting for ways to provide water to the world - this forum is not about the privatisation of water! Corporations have to be here if in their country (like France), the government has decided to privatise water delivery. And companies are actually listening to us. I've been attending various water conferences and meetings for several years and I do think that the level of urgency and maturity on this issue is improving. We're looking seriously at small, community-based initiatives, at how to fund water sanitation projects in Africa; at how to manage the declining water levels coming from the Tibetan plateau. It's not just a bunch of people figuring out who gets how much water."
"It’s called a forum but it’s really just a trade show"
Peter Bosshard, currently in Istanbul, works for International Rivers, an organisation which supports community-based water processing initiatives. Two members of the group in attendance at the forum yesterday were arrested and deported after unfurling this banner:
The problem with this event is that it's difficult to access and therefore completely biased. And when we try to raise our concerns through protest we get arrested!
Although the world's water ministers will call for ‘a significant increase' in investment flows for water infrastructure, their favoured model of development, which emphasises large dams and irrigation canals, does not address the needs of people who have no access to water, sanitation, and irrigation. Smarter, softer, more ingenious solutions which invest in the skills and resources of the poor are available - at low cost.
There's no question that private initiatives are not interested in investing in developing countries. They're always going to expand in more profitable areas. The reason France is targeted is because has a very active watch on that industry; and it's a French company, Vivendi, which is one of the ones we hear about the most. Let's hope with the financial crisis they realise they realise that privatising water is not the solution."
The protesters meet riot police
Video published on LiveLeak.