Monday, March 16, 2009

Water Works in Turkey

Twenty thousand strong of the world's most water delegates filed into Istanbul's host facility to debate the use misuse of one of Earth's most precious resources, blue gold, known as water. From 18 March through the 22March, the fifth World Water Forum (WWF), sponsored by World Water Council is given the watered down sobriquet of Bridging the Divides for Water for the approximate 150 countries, principalities, kingdoms and nations in attendance. The conference name does not paint a dire enough image for the mind's eye to the degree of disease and devastation that is happening from the lack of fresh water, the lack of toilets, the lack of media attention on a crisis just as severe as the world fight to fend off potential global financial bankruptcy. That just might be because the forum sponsors is a business think tank that provides corporations procuring water rights, like Nestlé, with research papers. (photos AFP)

A UN report, released to coincide with the forum, paints a grim future for the planet's fresh water supplies.

The forum will also host an increasingly determined opposition movement which is questioning international water policies and warning of the dangers of private, corporate control of the world's water resources.

"Water is a political issue," said Daniel Zimmer, the associate director of the World Water Council, an international body representing the water industry, and the organisers of the forum.

"But politicians need to understand why they should care more about water," he said.

A report from the UN, "Water in a Changing World", delivers a punch to the stomach and leaves the throat quite dry clearly stating that 50% of the world will live in an area of acute water shortage by 2030. Water is everybody's national security nightmare and the tinder blocks are set in motion for the problem to grown exponentially. This is not a UN official event even though Prince Albert of Monaco, Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, are attending.

Tension is high at the forum in Turkey, because the forum's mission is under attack - is it about conservation or exploitation of the existing water supply, especially since distribution and the control of it is up for grabs in so many areas. There are counter-forums and panels, like those from the Polaris Institute, within the forum setting that make it clear group think will not be the issue. Turkey is sensitive to the topic after experiencing a severe drought over the past year. No surprise that protests and subsequent arrests by Turkish police after using tear gas marked the first day of the forum. The UN's point person on water, Maude Barlow, objects to the mantle of the UN being improperly used to tout the forum or as she calls it, the tradeshow, for water companies to peddle their wares to politicians and others. She sides with the protesters even with armored up police.

By 2050, population estimations are to go to 9 billion people. Currently with a count of 6.7 billion, people and businesses are pitted against each other in whether water is a human right or a Darwinian capitalistic tool to be manipulated by the markets. Exploitation of aquifers,irreplaceable underground water, is pushing the world to peak water. There is no more once those are empty and they are being drained like swamps the world over. T. Boone Pickens perfected the exploitation process with the munificent ancient Ogallala Aquifer in the US and its rampant in Bangladesh and India. Mix in more droughts and flooding in populated areas as well as farmland and a sense of urgency to address water holistically is profound. The point of view from which this conference emanates is what is causing massive suspicion acted out in protests. Maybe its fitting that the brand new refurbished facility,Sütlüce Culture and Conference Centre that is hosting the business conference on water is a former slaughterhouse.

Not shy about profound criticisms, water activist Maude Barlow spells it out in crystal clear terms what is happening with the water supply and the businesses that are trying to control it as commoditized profit production in Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

No comments: