World Bank calls for water efficiency

The global economic crisis threatens to shrink investment in water infrastructure, an already underfunded sector vital to growth and public health, according to the World Bank, the Associated Press reported. Speaking at the World Water Forum in Istanbul, Jamal Saghir, the bank’s director of energy, transport and water, appealed for great efficiency in water management.


Saghir said there were not significant funds targeted to water investment in the stimulus packages of the United States and other countries fighting the current economic meltdown. The situation threatens to overshadow the scarcity of clean water in many poor regions, where inadequate sanitation is a major cause of deadly disease and hampers economic development.


The total cost of replacing ageing water supply and sanitation infrastructure in industrial countries could be as high as US$200 billion per year, according to the United Nations.


“We can do more with the same or even less,” Saghir said at the global conference, which issues recommendations on how governments should conserve, manage and supply water. Key topics this year are waste, sanitation, climate change and a debate over privatisation and government policies on water.


Meanwhile, two activists from the California-based NGO International Rivers were detained pending deportation from Turkey after demonstrating at the forum’s opening ceremony. Ann-Kathrin Schneider of Germany and Payal Parekh of the United States unfurled a banner and shouted slogans to protest the construction of dams that they say destroy communities and the environment.


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