Water and the G8: Hokkaido Toyako Summit

climate change, drinking water, drought, economy, general, groundwater, industrial, international, investments

As most have heard by now, the 34th annual G8 Summit is underway in Japan from July 7th to July 9th in Toyako, Hokkaido.



Leaders from eight of the world’s industrialized nations, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States (in addition to the president of the European Union and representatives from fifteen other nations) are busy talking and talking some more about the global economy. Again this year, some of these conversations address environmental concerns which embrace the issue of water.


The agenda for the G8 Summit is prioritized something like this:


  1. Global Economy (Sub-prime Crisis, Rising Inflation, Economic Growth)
  2. Environment and Climate Change (Carbon Reduction, International Cooperation, Global Food Security)
  3. Development in Africa (Development, Water, Health, and Education)
  4. Political Issues (Nonproliferation, Nuclear Safety)

Water is linked to the global economy, a changing climate, food security, and is necessary to consider for future development in Africa, but it is unclear exactly how G8 leaders will tackle the matter of water. Many international organizations have been lobbying delegates of the 2008 Summit to focus on the topic of water. The Asia-Pacific Water Forum encouraged G8 leaders to highlight the importance of water security in the region. Water Aid issued a plea for G8 leaders to provide additional funding for sanitation projects abroad. UNICEF met with G8 leaders earlier in the spring to inform participating nations of the one billion people worldwide without access to clean, drinkable water.





Deliberations on water by G8 nations are nothing new. In 2003, global water was discussed at the Summit in Evian, France. Participants from this Summit produced a G8 Water Action Plan outlining an agreement for better global water management “particularly taking into account the importance of proper water management in Africa…” But indistinct steps have been made towards realization of these goals as evidenced by talks on similar subjects at this year’s Summit and a “reaffirmation” of the G8 Water Action Plan.


So far, the following agreements relating to water (sort of) have been reached at the Hokkaido Toyako Summit:


  • Environment and Climate Change – The world should cut carbon emissions by 50 percent before 2050 with each nation having individual targets.
  • Development and Africa – G8 nations pledge 60 billion dollars over five years to help the continent fight disease. G8 nations reaffirm Millennium Development Goals for water, health, and sanitation in Africa. G8 nations hope to reinvigorate efforts to implement the Evian G8 Water Action Plan from 2003 with a progress report at the 2009 Summit.
  • Global Food Security – Nations in the world with sufficient food storage should release food to the market. Worldwide removal of food export restrictions is necessary.

Repetitions of past/existing goals seem to highlight the 2008 Summit list of accomplishments in the environmental realm. Agreements similar to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol ‘reduction of greenhouse gas’ initiative to a repeat of the 2003 Evian G8 Water Action Plan.


Well, you know what they say, maybe the third time is a charm (or the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh)…

Will water supply concerns overshadow the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing?

agriculture, asia, dam, drinking water, drought, economy, industrial, international, sustainability

Over two million people are expected to visit Beijing this year for the Summer Olympic Games. In August, the population of the metropolis will crest 19 million souls.

The arrival of so many visitors to China’s capital will result in exaggerated water use of 2.75 million cubic meters (2,229 acre-feet) a day or, in layman’s terms, enough water to fill 2000 Olympic size swimming pools each day.

Chinese officials may soon begin to worry as North China is currently enduring a severe drought including Hebei (which surrounds Beijing) and other provinces in the north.

The Chinese Ministry of Water Resources indicates the drought has caused 50,000 wells to go dry, with over 170,000 additional wells short of water. Over 3.4 million hectares of crops have been compromised, and 250,000 people are now short of drinking water in the Shandong, Heilongjiang and Hebei provinces.

China’s answer to this Catch-22 is to pipe water to Beijing via extensive water supply canals, often at the expense of local citizens, businesses, or agricultural practices. China hurries to finish 309 km (192 miles) of canals to draw water from behind several dams in the province of Hebei to serve water to Beijing for the Olympics, as stated on Reuters. These canals are actually part of a larger project China is undertaking to pipe massive amounts of water from the Yangzte River in the south to arid regions in the north, widely known as the South-to-North Water Transfer Project (previously reviewed on WaterWired).

                                                                                                    Central route of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project, courtesy of The New York Times.

Concerns about the colossal diversion project by residents of the area are many. During an interview with the Environmental News Network, one farmer said:

“For the country, it’s a good thing. It will bring water to Beijing so everything runs smoothly,” said Shi Yinzhu, herding sheep near the 100-metre wide canal in Tang county. “But for us here, they had to pump away underground water to dig the canal and we’ve lost a lot of land too … Sometimes you wonder if they need all the water more than us here.”

The world’s attention will soon be on Beijing, China for the Summer Olympic Games.

Will the world’s attention also be on the many people currently affected by drought conditions and difficult times in North China?

NEWS UPDATE 

In China, the State Flood and Drought Relief Headquarters has just updated statistics showing currently 5.9 million people face drinking water shortages, more than double that figure of 2.43 million published on Feb. 24, throughout the entire country.

and

China Diverting Major River to “Water” Beijing Olympics – National Geographic

Inner Mongolia Desertification (report by Circle of Blue)

asia, climate change, desertification, drinking water, drought, groundwater, industrial, international

Three million acres of sensitive grassland becomes desert each year in northern China and Inner Mongolia. This process of desertification causes water-tables to drop, groundwater sources to become salty, and dust storms to become more frequent. People from all walks of life are challenged by deterioration of these grasslands (often referred to as Steppe). Nomadic people of the area can no longer graze animals on the land and dust from storms is noticeable as far away as Japan, Korea, and the United States.


Above Photo: Kurt Friehauf.

The non-profit organization Circle of Blue has just released a comprehensive multimedia report on the desertification of Inner Mongolia called Reign of Sand. This inclusive and sensitive picture of Inner Mongolia (on the Circle of Blue website) features articles, an interactive map, a slide show of photographs, and videos. The collection examines linkages between climate change and rapid industrialization of north China to desertification and water unavailability in Inner Mongolia.

See the report on Inner Mongolia by Circle of Blue, REIGN OF SAND.

World Economic Forum 2008 Wraps Up with Water

agriculture, asia, climate change, drinking water, economy, industrial, international, technology, united nations, water trade

Water was a major topic of conversation at the World Economic Forum 2008 (WEF) now coming to a close in Davos, Switzerland.

At the forum, according to the Environmental News Service, Bill Gates announced a grant of $306 million dollars for development projects to help boost yields of crops for farmers in developing countries. It is unclear whether a portion of this money will be devoted to water conservation practices in conjunction with agriculture. Also discussed was implementation of a cap and trade system for water supplies and the importance of market forces in water allocation.

Leaders at the forum pledged renewed support for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, of which one goal is to increase access to safe drinking water.

Created as a venue for dialogue, research, and networking among economic and political leaders, the WEF is often criticized for more talk rather than action, a membership majority of industrialized countries (primarily USA, Europe, and Asia), and limited media access to specified plenary sessions.

While members of the WEF did review the importance of water in the coming age, no definitive plan was drafted to move our global society in that direction. However, maybe discussions during the event will leave lasting impressions on these economic leaders. And gradually, they will come to the realization that water is more than a commodity, but a necessity of life.

Be sure to check out other blog posts on this issue… our friends at WaterWired give additional perspective on how water was incorporated into the WEF agenda.

Webcasts from this forum are available on the Podcasts, Video, and Web-Mediapage on this blog, as well as on the WEF website.

For an insiders look at the WEF 2008, check out this NPR story: The Wacky World Economic Forum.

Coca-Cola Encouraged to Close Plant in India

agriculture, drought, economy, groundwater, india, industrial, international

Research has just been released that suggests Coca-Cola (Coke) should close a bottling plant in water scarce Rajasthan, India. The Energy and Resources Institute of New Delhi issued the report on January 14, 2008. This report was completed in response to research last year showing high pesticide levels in Coca-cola drinks in India.

The assessment looked at 6 of the company’s 49 bottling plants in India, but highlighted conditions at the Kaladera plant in Rajasthan. The plant’s presence in this area would “continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around,” it said. The company should find alternative water supplies, relocate or shut down the plant, the report concluded.

The New York Times

Atul Singh, director of Coke’s India division, avows Coke will not be shutting down the plant anytime in the near future. Instead Coke declares they will review water conservation measures to be employed. Truth or good PR? I am more inclined to believe the latter given the history of this corporation in the international sector. Coke has a track record of egregious human rights and environmental violations in many countries.

The organization KillerCoke (known as such because of numerous assassinations of unionized employees in Columbia) hosts a campaign to encourage Coke to clean-up its act. The group proposes actions as simple as sending a letter to The Coca-Cola Company requesting an end to human rights and environmental abuses to cutting business contracts with the company. Several universities have already drafted resolutions calling for an end to Coke’s poor practices abroad including Rutgers School of Law, the University of Illinois, Hofstra University, and York University to name a few.