40,000 expected at world water meet in Brazil

Brasília: Brazil — the country with the world’s greatest fresh water reserves — hosts an international conference next week on growing fears over the fragility of drinking water supplies in a heating planet.
Under the slogan “sharing water,” the 8th World Water Forum will bring together 15 heads of state and government, 300 mayors and dozens of experts in the Brazilian capital Brasilia from Sunday to March 23.
An estimated 40,000 people are expected to attend, organisers say. Participants will meet against the backdrop of the drama in Cape Town, which until earlier this month was projected to run out of water as early as July, forcing the closing of household taps and extreme rationing.
That crisis has now eased, with the local government saying that a campaign to bring 60 per cent reduction in consumption has done enough to avert the shut-off.
But the drama is a reminder that many of the world’s biggest fresh water systems are under pressure from pollution, overuse, dams and climate change.
“There are more reservoirs, more cars, more industry and more people. Counter measures to protect supplies remain very slim compared to the impacts we’re seeing,” Ney Maranhao, head of Brazil’s National Water Agency, said.
Ricardo Medeiros, director of the forum, which is put out by the World Water Council every three years, said the issue must be seen as more than a purely environmental problem.
“Water has always been seen as something important for all activities, but it has not been the first priority. The important thing not to talk about water just as something vital to life, but as something which creates economic development,” he said.
The first big event at the forum will be Monday when Unesco releases its annual study on the state of the world’s water resources. — AFP