KYOTO – Participants at a special session of the ongoing World Water Forum voiced satisfaction Monday that Africa’s water crisis is firmly on the agenda of the Group of Eight industrial nations.
They also agreed that the continent desperately needs both public and private investment to provide clean, safe and inexpensive drinking water, along with modern, efficient sanitation systems.
The consensus of African delegates at the confab came as the multilateral gathering entered its second day — the Day of Africa — at the Kyoto International Media Forum.
A special daylong session was dedicated to the myriad problems faced by the continent.
According to the World Water Council, which is sponsoring the forum and comprises the World Bank, the African Development Bank and French and American water supply companies, nearly 300 million of Africa’s 680 million people lack access to safe water.
Due to a host of natural and man-made factors, the average amount of fresh water per capita now stands at around one-quarter the levels recorded in 1950, the council said.
Water is viewed as being closely linked to the continent’s poverty.
Following the previous World Water Forum, held in The Hague, Africa announced a package of 10 measures. These include reform of agriculture, which accounts for between 70 percent and 80 percent of Africa’s freshwater usage, improved sanitation and increased funding.
The measures are scheduled to be completed by 2025, with midterm goals set for 2005 and 2015.
David Grey, a World Bank official and expert on Africa, noted during a seminar Monday that to realize these plans, considerable funding from both public and private sources is essential.
“In order to meet one of the goals, which is to reduce by 2015 the number of Africans without safe water by 75 percent, an estimated $12 billion is needed,” Grey said. “Eventually, perhaps as much as $300 billion will be needed for water security in Africa.”
It remains to be seen, however, where this money will come from, as much of the developed world is experiencing an economic slowdown.
Despite these problems, delegates noted with satisfaction that water is now firmly on the political agenda of industrialized nations.
French President Jacques Chirac has promised to make development in Africa, including water resource management, a top issue at a G-8 summit in France this year.
“We are at the end of a long journey with this water forum,” said Halifa Drammeh, deputy director and U.N. Environment Program expert on African water issues. “This is a very happy ending, because water issues in Africa are now on the political agenda.”