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The BBC's Geraldine Coughlin
"The organisers hope to deliver a wake-up call to the world"
 real 28k

Prof. Frank Rijsberman from the World Water Council
"People have been predicting wars over water"
 real 28k

Friday, 17 March, 2000, 18:44 GMT
Naked protest disrupts water forum
Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander appealed for calm
Crown Prince Willem Alexander called for protest to end
Naked protestors have disrupted the start of an international conference on water.

A couple protesting against a Spanish dam stripped and climbed the stage of the Second World Water Forum in the Hague, during an inaugural speech by Egyptian Water Resources Minister, Mahmoud Abu Zeid.

On their backs and buttocks were written "Itois SOS - Stop dams" - a reference to the dam in the Basque country - and "Don't privatise water."

The Egyptian minister's speech was interrupted
The Egyptian minister's speech was interrupted
Another activist scaled the balcony of the conference hall, unfurling a banner, and scattering leaflets.

The forum's president, Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander, called for a halt to the action.

"This is a forum for normal people, for normal discussions. I ask you to sit down," he said.

More than 3,000 representatives from 130 countries are attending the forum to alert public opinion to an impending crisis over water.

The aim is to outline a Plan of Action for the next 25 years to prevent millions of people dying every year as a direct result of lack of clean water.

Water, water everywhere
97.5% of the world's water is salty

Two-thirds of all fresh water is trapped in icecaps and glaciers

Much of the rest wasted eg floods and monsoon

Fresh water available for human use is less than 0.08% of all the water on the planet

In 20 years, human water needs will have grown by 40%
Source: World Commission on Water
The organisers say they aim to mobilise political support to counter global water predicaments with concrete action.

"The vision will project a scenario of how the world could look 25 years from now - if we take action today," a spokesman for the Forum said.

Since the first World Water Forum in Morocco in 1997, the Paris-based World Commission on Water for the 21st Century has been established to put ideas into action.

This week, the UN-backed commission urged a doubling of investment in global water supplies to $180 billion a year.

It said the private sector should provide the lion's share of the money required.

Programme

As a sideline to the forum, Crown Prince Willem Alexander opened the World Water Fair on Thursday.

On Saturday, the conference will focus on water supplies and distribution in the Middle East and Africa - regions where acute droughts as well as floods cause huge loss of life.

According to a study last year from the Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain, the per capita share of water in the Arab world has halved in the last two decades to 1,100 cubic metres a year.

This number is perilously close to the accepted 1,000 cubic metre benchmark, below which human health is harmed.

The climax of the event will be a two-day ministerial meeting, next Tuesday and Wednesday, at which representatives from about 100 countries will adopt a declaration on future water resources.

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See also:

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