At the Rio Dialogues, civil society and business showed through their online votes and panelist speeches increasing leadership when it comes to water issues. And interesting enough, the right to water was not the number one recommendation passed on to the heads of States.
The first speech focused on access to water for local and indigenous communities who very often suffer from discrimination, pollution of their water, transformation of their land into a protected area, and finally privatization of water. This reopened the debate of the role of the private sector with water.
The discussion continued around the nexus water-agriculture: a Malawian representative of an association of farmers stressed the importance of integrated water policy that includes agriculture, energy, economic, and household use.
“There is nothing beyond water, we must relearn to respect it,” said Jeff Seabright from the private sector. “Water is this irreplaceable stuff touching health, crisis management, gender, society and ecosystems. To address this challenge, a collective approach is necessary, including public-private partnerships.”
“If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together,” stated Ania Grobichi. “Two dimensions must be taken into account: availability of water for households and agriculture, as well as its management for climate change and the landscape. Let’s remember the Millennium Development Goal to reduce by half the number of people with no access to clean water by 2015.”
To achieve this objective it is essential to focus on traditional ways to clean polluted water as well as develop affordable technologies for the global South. Water and sanitation must go together. Sanitation is even more important than water: two billion people have no access to sanitation today.
India, where 17% of the world population live has only 4% of the world’s water resources. It will experience an 89% increase in water demand and a 44% decrease in water supply available in the coming years, which increases the need to strengthen the public sector to respond to this challenge.
“This discussion rather successfully captured the complexities of water,” concludes Dr Mark Smith, Director – IUCN Global Water Programme.
By Jérôme Duberry, Global Communications
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