Nearly 20,000 people from 149 countries met in the 4th World Water Forum March 16-22, affirming the importance of fresh water to sustainable development, and the importance of hydropower projects in helping secure that water.
Delegates adopted a ministerial declaration calling on world governments to make concrete commitments to secure adequate water for all people. The document declared that a substantial increase of resources from all sources is necessary if developing countries are to meet goals for safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
“We note with interest the importance of enhancing the sustainability of ecosystems and acknowledge the implementation and importance in some regions of innovative practices such as rainwater management and the development of hydropower projects,” the declaration said.
World Bank Vice President Katherine Sierra said the bank has learned from past mistakes and has begun to support developing nations in efforts to build socially and ecologically sustainable infrastructure.
“The belief that the development of water infrastructure is ‘intrinsically harmful’ for the poorest of the poor and for the environment has become an obstacle to water development,” Sierra said. “Nevertheless, the debate at the 4th World Water Forum has made it clear that the international water community has moved beyond this debate.”
Special session explores water-energy relationship
One of the forum’s 205 sessions focused on the fundamental relationship between water and energy. Session Co-chairman Anita Utseth, Norway’s deputy minister of Petroleum and Energy, noted hydro’s role in sustainable development.
“Electricity from hydropower was the key factor in transforming Norway from one of the poorest countries in Europe a century ago to the industrialized and wealthy nation of today,” Utseth said.
Methods of ensuring sustainable development were identified, including the sustainable development criteria advanced by the International Hydropower Association, a participant in the session.
The Water and Energy session also acknowledged the recent African Ministerial Conference on Hydropower and Sustainable Development. It was noted the African declaration emphasized the role of multipurpose hydropower schemes in promoting water security and recognized the value of hydropower in an optimum energy mix.