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[4th World Water Forum]

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4th World Water Forum

Mexico City | March 16-22, 2006

4th World Water Forum Discusses Water for Food and Environment

On Monday, 4th World Water Forum participants addressed the theme of "Water for Food and the Environment," convening in plenary and thematic sessions held throughout the day. They also heard a keynote presentation by Carlos Slim Helú, Chairman of Grupo Carso, and a regional presentation focused on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, a region experiencing the greatest water scarcity on the planet.

Above: Mexican campesinos and other participants attend a keynote by Carlos Slim Helú, Chairman of Grupo Carso, on Mexico's water situation and financial solutions.

Monday, 20 March
Regional Presentation

Chair Safwat Abdel-Dayem, Arab Water Council (AWC), introduced the session on experiences from the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Mahmoud Abu-Zied, AWC President and Egypt's Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, described the region's broad consultative process in preparation for the 4th Forum, highlighting the involvement of scientists and civil society.

El Mahdi Ben Zekry, Morocco's Deputy Secretary of State for Water, introduced the region as being characterized by precarious water resources, low average rainfall and excessive evaporation, and distinguished by a history of great ancient civilizations developed around the exploitation of water resources.
Keynote Address
Carlos Slim Helú, Chairman of Grupo Carso, provided a historical overview of water distribution, the climatic changes affecting it, and humankind's relationship with water. He stressed that in today's services-based economy, there is an urgent need for investments in the water sector and cultural change.

Slim Helú highlighted Mexico's water situation, noting aquifer overexploitation, leading to eventual contamination. He stressed that the water problem is fundamentally an investment problem and to address it, proposed the creation of an autonomous water agency outside the national budget, in the form of a public-private partnership, which would enable it to perform according to the best world standards.
Financing Water for Agriculture

Session Chair Alan Hall, Global Water Partnership (GWP), said financing water for agriculture should focus on meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets on hunger and poverty while addressing macro-economic factors such as population growth, urbanization, changing lifestyles, and trade globalization.

Jim Winpenny, GWP consultant, introduced a progress report prepared by a working group comprised of representatives of, among others, the GWP, WWC, FAO, World Bank and others. He said future needs include modernizing and rehabilitating existing irrigation systems and upgrading rain-fed and groundwater systems, which will require major institutional reforms

Humberto Peña, Chilean Water Directorate, described two new financing mechanisms for agriculture irrigation used in Chile: one mechanism for small water works, for a maximum cost of projects of US$ 265,000, and another one for large water works, as a concession for public infrastructure. He emphasized open, competitive and transparent procedures and risk sharing by private and public funds.
Water Challenges and Perspectives in Megacities

Paul Shoenberger, West Basin Municipal Water District, described water management practices in his municipality in southern California, US, noting a focus on using local water sources and recycled water. He reviewed funding sources and the different uses of recycled water.

Jorge Malagón Diaz, Valley of Mexico Water, outlined water and sanitation challenges in the Valley of Mexico, which holds 20 percent of the population and approximately one third of the country's Gross Domestic Product. He said sustainable management of the Valley's water requires urgent investments in the promotion of rainwater harvesting, infrastructure development and maintenance, and ecosystem rehabilitation.

Duan Wei, Beijing Water Authority, discussed the challenges and strategies used for water resources management in Beijing, China. He described water sources and conditions in the Beijing area, wastewater treatment and water works, water-related legislation and financing. He highlighted as challenges: decreasing supplies of surface and groundwater, increasing water demand, water works upgrading, and pollution.
Improving Agricultural Water Productivity in Dry Areas

Session Co-Chair Adel El-Beltagy, Director General, ICARDA, opened the session by noting that more than a billion people live in dry areas, more than half of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Session Co-Chair Margaret Catley-Carlson, GWP, stressed that science and technology solutions can help to overcome water shortage challenges, but that these can only be successful within an appropriate policy framework.

Pasquale Steduto, FAO, examined water productivity at the farm level. He highlighted the need to consider both the biophysical and socioeconomic components of water productivity, noting that the term has multiple definitions.
Governance as a Key Factor for IWRM in Megacities

Participants at the session on governance heard presentations on regional collaboration, activities of public agencies, and characteristic features of regional governance programs.
Water Education for Children and Youth

Chair Dennis Nelson, Project WET International Foundation, stressed the need for every person in the water sector to be involved in water education.

Rita Vázquez del Mercado Arribas, Mexican Institute of Water Technology (IMTA), described Mexican activities in the framework of the international project "Discover a Watershed," noting that they aim to reach a wide range of stakeholders, and particularly indigenous communities.

Maria Angelica Alegria, Chilean Water Directorate, highlighted youth education components of Chile's National Water Policy and stressed the importance of alliances for effective programmes.
Virtual Water in the Arab Region

Participants in the session on virtual water discussed water used to produce crop commodities, which is traded when countries import crop commodities, and heard presentations on food production and transport.
Struggle for a New Water Culture in Latin America and Europe

Session Chair José Esteban Castro, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, introduced the concept of new water culture that calls for "eco-friendly" and sustainable management of water.

Patrick McCully, Executive Director of the International Rivers Network, noted the importance of a new water culture in helping communities to fight against the renewed trend towards water mega-projects.

Martha Delgado Peralta, Mexican Alliance for a New Water Culture, described the outcomes of the first Latin American meeting for a new water culture in 2005, lauding its broad participation and interdisciplinary debate.
Payment for Environmental Services

Stefano Pagiola, World Bank, explained the concept of payment for environmental services, saying it is based on two principles: users must pay for the environmental services they enjoy, and suppliers must be compensated for delivering them.

Carlos Rodriguez, Costa Rican Minister of Environment, Energy and Mining, warned that unsustainable production and consumption patterns are leading societies toward collapse as natural resources are consumed faster than nature can replenish them.

Juan Carlos Hernández Ramírez, Sierra Gorda Ecological Group, presented on local experiences in Queretaro, Mexico, in the conservation of hydrological and biological resources and the capture of carbon that provided economic, social and environmental benefits to local communities.
Capacity Development Strategies and Social Learning

Jan Luijendijk, UNESCO-IHE, noted that while investments in water infrastructure over the past 30 years have totaled US$ 600 billion, about half of all investments in developing countries have been unsuccessful due to lack of capacity.

Sylvanie Jardinet, Action Against Hunger, presented lessons learned from a project on capacity development for food security in Nicaragua, including: the need to focus not only on technical know-how, but also on social and economic aspects, better research, and ensuring knowledge transfer.

Carlos Garcés-Restrepo, FAO, noted that capacity-building projects are increasingly recognized as full projects in their own right, not just as a component of project funding proposals.
Around the Forum

Children played a floor-sized version of the Ramsar Secretariat's water cycle board game, with t-shirts and other prizes going to the winners.

In the evening, participants were entertained by dancers from the state of Oaxaca.

More Information

4th World Water Forum Site
Conference Program
World Water Council

Related Links

3rd World Water Forum,
Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka, Japan, March 2003
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
Ramsar COP-9,
Kampala, Uganda, November 2005
3rd Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands,
Paris, France, January 2006