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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 13:32 GMT
Water forum declaration 'vague'
An international conference on the future of the world's fresh water supply has ended in Japan with delegates criticising the lack of specific agreement.

Demonstration, AFP
Some pressure groups accused the forum of being dominated by private corporations
The Third World Water Forum issued a declaration saying that water is the driving force for the development of nations.

But many delegates said specific action was needed, rather than a vaguely worded pronouncement.

"Prioritising water issues is an urgent global requirement," the statement said.

The conference also urged better co-operation among nations sharing water resources and called for the UN to take a mediating role in the water sector.

However, representatives said the meeting failed to consider controversial issues such as environmental damage and the construction of large-scale dams.

Reference to water as a basic human right, which was approved in November by the United Nations, was also omitted from the declaration.

Rosemary Rop, a member for Kenya's Water for Everyone, said: "Without direct references to the rights issue, I am not sure how we can ensure that governments will make water issues and serving the poor their priorities."

No watchdog

Also left out was a call for a global watchdog to monitor progress made towards the UN goal of halving to one billion the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015.

The nature conservation group WWF said the declaration failed to prioritise fresh water ecosystems.

"The ministerial declaration could have been a blueprint for averting further human suffering caused by inadequate water supply and sanitation; instead, it is marked by reticence to put protection and ecosystems first," a WWF representative said.

Water child
Delegates say specific action is needed
Lesotho's Minister of Natural Resources, Monyane Moeleki, added: "I think we should not be apologetic. We sound very half-hearted and unsure."

Some pressure groups accused the forum of being dominated by private corporations who favour large projects such as dams, instead of simpler technology.

The week-long forum in Kyoto attracted more than 10,000 delegates from 150 countries.

"It is a good opportunity that, during such a conflicting time, representatives from 165 countries could come together and discuss these issues," Belgium's Minister of Territory Management, Michel Foret, said.

The former Japanese premier Ryutaro Hashimoto who chaired the forum's steering committee said he hoped non-government organistaions would "continue to participate in passionate discussions about water".

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