Seven days of talks have begun in Mexico to try to find new ways of solving the world’s water crises. Experts from more than 120 countries are taking part in the fourth World Water Forum. They are debating how to tackle the UN goal of halving by 2015 the number of people without safe drinking water.
The President of the World Water Council, Loic Fauchon, told delegates it was “unacceptable that a lack of water and its poor quality last year caused ten times more deaths than all of the wars waged across the planet”.
While indigenous people held traditional ceremonies in honour of water, demonstrators slammed the forum as being geared towards rich countries and large corporations. There were clashes between police and demonstrators outside the conference venue.
“We want public and not private companies to be in charge of all water and supplies,” said one protester. “We want water declared as a source of life and everyone has a right to have it.”
Observers say weak profits and protest means that corporate interest has dried up in countries with serious water shortages. They say after pumping billions of euros into water supplies and sanitation in developing countries in the 1990s, many companies have reduced their presence. Organisers of this latest forum agree that relying on private businesses to meet UN goals on water is becoming increasingly difficult and new ideas must be found.