Water declaration vague on main issues



Posted on 22 March 2009  | 
Gland, Switzerland: The world will not lessen its mounting worries over water until it is clearly on track to dealing with the twin threats of water mismanagement and climate change, WWF International Director General James Leape said on World Water Day today.

He said it was good to see climate change impacts climbing up the agenda at the World Water Forum, concluding today in Istanbul, Turkey but disappointing that so little progress had been made in addressing glaring water mismanagement issues around the globe.

“All WWF’s work in this area is showing us again and again that it is the well-managed or restored river systems that cope best with the climate change impacts we are seeing now and those that are yet to come,” Leape said.

“This is clearly an issue of water management, but the ministerial declaration flowing from the World Water Forum is more a collection of platitudes than a plan for action.”

Mr Leape said that, with the World Water Forum having a theme of Bridging Divides on Water and World Water Day a theme of sharing cross border waters over borders, it was surprising that the Ministerial Declaration contained no mention of an existing international agreement on sharing waters that has languished in limbo for more than a decade without enough signatories to bring it into effect.

More than 100 countries participated in an overwhelming vote for the UN Convention on the Non Navigational Uses of International Watercourses in 1997 but only 16 countries, less than half the number needed, have so far signed it.

“It is surprising indeed that with increased conflict over increasingly scarce water expected to be one of the impacts of climate change the forum and its ministerial process did not strongly urge adoption of the only existing global instrument for reducing water conflict,” Mr Leape said.

“We see this global agreement as providing the much needed global framework to drive consistent, equitable and sustainable river basin management.

“But despite efforts to keep the UN Watercourses Convention off the international agenda we are heartened that more and more countries are showing increased interest in moving to adopt it.”

Mr Leape said that the Ministerial Declaration, while not a plan for action, had put on the international agenda the need to preserve environmental flows, the need to ensure participation in water planning and management and the issue of corruption on to the international water agenda

Water availability, quality and predictability are the main ways the majority of the world population will most immediately and most severely feel the impacts of climate change.
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“Obviously, we can become more efficient in how we use water and better protect the natural landscapes that provide most people with most of their water,” Leape said.

“But we also must address the global water crisis with serious global action on climate change.”
WWF is campaigning to have the world’s nations sign up to the emissions and deforestation reductions necessary to prevent unacceptable risks of catastrophic climate change at a crucial UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December. The meeting is tasked with coming up to a replacement international agreement to the existing – and clearly inadequate – Kyoto Protocol.

Hundreds of millions around the world are expected to support the campaign next Saturday night by turning their lights off during WWF’s Earth Hour.

Welsh rugby star Gavin Henson is supporting WWF's work in Wales. Lake Vyrnwy, Wales.
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