5th World Water Forum in Istanbul and water in the Mediterranean area

Press review – week from March 16 to 20, 2009

The 5th World Water Forum was opened Monday in Istanbul and will last until Sunday. On the agenda, the warning against waster waste which contributes to increased demand. Nearly 28,000 people from over 180 countries were expected. The organization of such a forum responds to a simple fact: the world’s population will exceed 9 billion by 2050, water demand will therefore increase by 64 billion cubic meters per year, according to the UN, said La Libre Belgique.

The website of the Blue Plan – Action Plan on Water in the Mediterranean established under the United Nations Program for ecology – reports the work of the “Mediterranean Session » held Thursday in World Forum in Istanbul. The four main themes of the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on water were exposed: the water governance, adaptation to climate change, managing water demand and non-conventional water resources and Financing Water Infrastructure. At the end of this presentation and of a roundtable on the theme « Water and the coastal Mediterranean », a « Mediterranean Message » was adopted to establish a shared vision for the future Strategy on Water in the Mediterranean.

The Turkish daily Hürriyet has expressed concern about violence occurring during the forum and detailed that Ann-Kathrin Schneider from Germany and Payal Parekh from the USA, both members of the NGO International Rivers, who have been arrested by the police, were opposing the Ilisu Dam Project in south-eastern Turkey, a project which has already made around 1,000 people leave their home and destroyed cultures and rivers. A letter from Mrs. Schneider read at a press conference denounced the fact that the organization of the forum did not allow them to express their opinion. The policy director of “International Rivers” has decided to organize an alternative water forum. Turkish and foreign politicians have condemned the violation of human rights constituted by the arrest of pacifist activists by the Turkish police.

Denouncing unfair arrests and lack of freedom of expression, the website of International Rivers stresses that “meeting preparations have been dominated by industry executives and government bureaucrats keen on advocating for more dirty, risky dams and water privatization. Meanwhile, communities affected by these projects and most in need of energy and water services have been left out of the process”.

Moreover, focusing on water issues, the newspaper Hürriyet stresses the example of Denmark in energy savings. The Danish ambassador in Turkey, who attended the forum, said that his country, a leader country in equipment for energy savings, could be a model for the Turkish market. Indeed, Denmark has the lowest energy consumption relative to its GDP in Europe. The Ambassador emphasizes the importance of developing an environmental awareness among consumers and the technologies to lower water consumption. Over the past ten years, Denmark has reduced by 40% its water consumption. Number of Danish companies specialized in this field are also present in Turkey, which only re-use 20% of its wastewater.

For its part, Le Monde raised the issue of corruption which hampers progress related to environmental water. The French newspaper denounced the « big corruption » made of bribes which allows for procurement of infrastructure but also the « small corruption » allowing illegal connections or exemptions. To Le Monde, civil society is the only one able to break this circle of corruption in the fight against pollution.

This meeting echoes the UNESCO conference of May 29th, 2008: « Facing water crises in the Mediterranean basin, what role for the EU? »
The conference had been interested in water as:

• a governance issue (the role of state / private, good governance, international cooperation / decentralized, participation of civil society)
• a socio-economic issue (the distribution of water resources, the choice of economic development, infrastructure financing)
• an ecological issue (water pollution, climate change, loss of biodiversity, desertification)
• an health issue (diseases related to the lack or poor water quality)
• a scientific and technical issue (improving the efficiency of supply, new technologies more efficient water desalination)
• an issue of stability and peace (conflict, food insecurity, migration)

Participants highlighted however that despite the fact that water is a major challenge for the development of the region, it plays a marginal role in the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, dominated by the economic and migration issues. Problems of access to water and sanitation are often considered from the technical aspect, ignoring their social and political dimension.


+ Special Feature on water in the Med.2008 Yearbook of IEMED and CIDOB

Water in the Mediterranean is an issue increasingly addressed by the media and studies whether the water as a finite resource, threatened by pollution or as a source of energy. The Union for the Mediterranean focusing on pollution of the Mediterranean and environment, the six-month French presidency of the EU has experienced several conferences related to the topic.
This is the fifth year that the Fundació CIDOB and the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) publish a directory of the Mediterranean, developing different perspectives and emphasizing the process of transformation of the « Mediterranean ». This year a special issue was devoted to water in the Mediterranean. It revolves around the outlook, the economic value of water, cooperation, conflict, case studies, political participation and climate change in the Mediterranean.


The IEMED file includes articles recalling the seriousness of the situation in the Mediterranean and the urgency to adopt new measures related to water.

Resources and water demands forecast for the future of water in the Mediterranean, Mohammed Blind

In his article, Mr. Blinder says that water in the Mediterranean is characterized by uneven distribution and its management in this area is currently characterized by unsustainable production and consumption, without taking into account the long term with policies principally oriented offer. Therefore, the recommendations of the regional workshop organized by the Blue Plan and its partners, adopted by the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development (May 2007), then by all Mediterranean countries and the European Community at the 15th Meeting of the Parties to the Barcelona Convention (January 2008) have emphasized the need for management of water demand to the level of national strategic priority, to ensure the promotion and’coordinate declination, monitoring and evaluation in the various sectoral policies especially in agriculture, energy, tourism, environmental and land use.
Read the article to learn more:http://www.iemed.org/anuari/2008/aarticles/EN71.pdf
Water management in the Mediterranean countries of the European Union, Juan Cánovas Cuenca

This article highlights the legal angle with which the EU approaches the issue of water.
Indeed, the Treaty establishing the European Union focuses on the legal system on water in its territory. The title XIX on environment refers to natural resources, including water. Article 175.2.b gives the Council the possibility to adopt on a proposal from the Commission and unanimously, initiatives related to the quantitative management of water resources, after having previously consulted the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. The European Directive on water considers water as a service of general interest, which requires a special effort by the Community institutions and Member States to ensure that this service be provided with sufficient guarantees. The term « supply » means adequate provision of water, surface or groundwater quality appropriate to each demand of the social and economic actors.
Read the article to learn more:http://www.iemed.org/anuari/2008/aarticles/EN81.pdf
Water and cooperation: what future?

Water as a source of conflict between states may also be a source of cooperation and dialogue. The records of the various cases IEMED address management of water sharing.

Management of shared basins (conflict against cooperation): the Nile, a case study, Tarek Majzoub

According to Mr. Majzoub, the challenges of increasing population, rapid urbanization, industrialization and environmental degradation, transform the management of shared basins into conflicts management. He is particularly interested in the case of the Nile which is a crucial resource for the ten States of its basin are among the poorest in the world and its basin of interest for about 300 million people, of whom 160 million are directly dependent on its waters. The framework agreement on cooperation of the Nile basin, concluded on the 15th ordinary meeting of 2007 Council of Ministers of water resources of the Nile Basin (Nile-COM) in Entebbe, marks an important step in the strengthening of the Nilotic cooperation: Once ratified, this agreement will be the first grouping all states of the Nile basin and serve as an example for resolving other conflicts in the Mediterranean. In the 1990s, Egypt has promoted cooperation on the Nile waters, but has suffered many failures. At the meeting in February 1999 in Dar es Salaam, the nine states in the Nile-COM gave birth to the Nile Basin Initiative with support from the World Bank and United Nations Program for Development. This initiative has resulted in the development of many projects aiming at facilitating investment, the development of cultural networks, the involvement of authorities and civil society and especially a newfound confidence among stakeholders.
Read the article to learn more:http://www.iemed.org/anuari/2008/aarticles/EN133.pdf
Management of shared basins, opposition or cooperation: Israel-Palestine: a case study, Julie Trottier

The Israeli-Palestinian case study by Ms. Trottier makes the vision of another type of conflict related to water. She explained that the water situation in the region is characterized by a highly centralized management in Israel, an institutionalized system since 1950, and a highly decentralized management in the Palestinian territories. When attempts to agreements related to water management in the region have been made, only the quantitative dimension was discussed, ignoring the limited nature of this resource. Between the drought, environmental degradation and water quality, a growing water demand in Israel with no share with Palestinians, we can envisage a situation more tense in the region.
Read the article to learn more:http://www.iemed.org/anuari/2008/aarticles/EN140.pdf
Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Water strategy?, Iván Martín

In this article Mr Martin is considering developing a Euro-Mediterranean Water to address the current situation, recalling the context of 30 million inhabitants of the Mediterranean partner countries without access to drinking water and 35 million without access to sanitation facilities. The forecasts are not optimistic since the United Nations Development already advance that the Arab countries will not realize the Millennium Goal for Development of « halving, by 2015, the percentage of the population which has sustainable access to safe drinking water. » The issue of water must cease to be approached as a simple environmental problem: it is an essential factor in economic development and also a social issue first. In 2007 and 2008, the debate on the proposed Union for the Mediterranean has put the question of water as a political priority. A mandate was given to the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Water in October 2008 in Amman to define a « Mediterranean Strategy for Water » capable of promoting the preservation of water resources, diversification of supply sources and water efficient and sustainable use of water. According to experts, the three basic elements of a Euro-Mediterranean Water strategy should be the following: an institutional rationalization, a consistent policy of investment in infrastructure desalination, distribution, sanitation and irrigation and a policy of integrated water management.
Read the article to learn more:http://www.iemed.org/anuari/2008/aarticles/EN147.pdf

For more information :
–  « La Méditerranée, environnement et développement durable » un numéro des Cahiers de l’Orient (n°91, juillet 2008)
– Website of the Blue Plan : http://www.planbleu.org/indexUK.html