GC Spain, together with the Seville City Council and Emasesa-Metropolinta, held the 4th International Dialogue on World Water Crisis 20 -21 November in Seville. Spain with the focus this year being on water management in Eastern Europe and the new opportunities for cooperation including the incorporation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The Dialogue featured Eastern European water management experts illustrating the current situation in Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey on their way to integration.
Of the 877 million people living in Europe today, 140 million do not have access to a sufficient water supply and almost 20 million do not have adequate sanitation, with the problem being mostly centred in Easter Europe. The countries with the largest water problems are Romania, where only 54% of the population has a water supply, and Bulgaria, where 20% of the people have water cut off during the summer. On the other hand, other countries that have been able to ensure a steady water supply to a large percentage of its citizens have experienced increased water fees due to privatization of the resources. This is the case in the Czech Republic, where the increase in water fees has decreased the consumption of water by 50% and Poland, where rising water fees has led to social conflicts.
The EU Water Framework Directive is was also touched upon at the Dialogues, where new EU members have been more successful in incorporating the Directive than old Member States, due to the fact that new Member States had to make more changes to join the EU and those changes have allowed them to introduce the administrative needed changes easier than in the older Member States. However, it should also be noted that Eastern Europe water access and sanitation problems are more serious in rural areas. For this reason, there is a discussion regarding European funds in order to solve these problems correctly.
Along with the current situation in Eastern Europe, the fact that 2008 is the International Year for Environmental Sanitation was also highlighted. There are more than 2.5 billion people around the world who do not have adequate sanitation and of those around 20 million live in Europe and more than 100 million in the pan-European area. The lack of adequate sanitation affects people’s dignity, can lead to death, limits a communities’ development and impacts in ecosystems.
The experiences of the Spanish productive sector in Eastern Europe were also analyzed, demonstrating the important role of technology in water management. On the other hand, the role of civil society was also explored as a vital component of good water governance. Various communication and educational projects were shown in order to analyse the role of the media in providing water management news.
The Dialogues closed with a mandate for Green Cross, together with other organizations, to call for a global, common and coordinated water policy through the establishment of a Framework Agreement on Water at the World Water Forum in Istanbul in March 2009, in order to highlight one of the biggest deficits on water policies: lack of coordination on the policies developed by each country.