KYOTO — Representatives of citizen’s groups in Japan and abroad gathered here Saturday to raise awareness of worldwide water issues before the start of the Third World Water Forum, which begins Sunday at three venues in Kansai.

At the Saturday gathering, which attracted about 120 people, speakers from seven countries reported on their activities and water-related problems. Topics included mercury poisoning in a Brazilian reservoir, water sanitation efforts in Indonesia and water privatization in Sri Lanka.

Some speakers also pointed out issues to be discussed at the water forum and voiced concerns over efforts by businesses and international organizations to privatize the water sector in some countries. Other speakers discussed large-scale development projects, such as dams and large hydroelectric power stations.

Patrick McCully, director of the International Rivers Network in the United States, claimed that big water projects will not bring water to people in rural areas, who are the ones who actually need it.

“Mega projects will not supply the unserved,” he said, adding that water for all can be achieved through introducing low-cost technologies that are suitable for local conditions.

An estimated 8,000 people from 180 countries will attend the Third World Water Forum. About 350 sessions under 33 themes — including water and poverty, water and governance, water and energy and financing water infrastructure — are scheduled to take place.

Organizers hope the forum will enable participants to exchange information and then take specific action to solve water problems in their respective fields.

According to a United Nations study, one in five people in the world are without access to safe drinking water, and 2 million children die annually due to diseases caused by unclean water.

Privatization of the water sector is one of the more controversial issues on the agenda.

While the trend of privatization is occurring in both developed and developing countries, opponents argue that privatization makes water less accessible and more expensive for low-income communities.

Ministerial meetings will take place on the last two days of the forum and a declaration will be adopted on the final day.

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