Experts: Water Management Key to Survival in Face of Potential Food Production Crisis

Water management is fundamental to averting a potential crisis in global food production, according to world experts who met in Beijing for an international forum that concluded on Sept. 18.

The meeting of the International Commission on Irrigation & Drainage (ICID -- http://www.icid.org) highlighted the urgency of promoting greater attention and discussion of water management impacts on food security and environmental sustainability, during a weeklong session of ICID's 19th International Congress and 56th International Executive Meeting.

In light of the urgency of continuing dialogue on these issues ICID also reinforced its commitment to participating in the 4th World Water Forum (WWF) to be held in Mexico City next year in March.

"Participation in the 4th World Water Forum, is an important step in seeking solutions for development with due care for the environment. These are among the most urgent issues facing the international community today. The world population is still growing rapidly and it is important that we take appropriate measures now to ensure the survival of various communities throughout the world," said M. GopalaKrishnan, secretary general of the ICID.

"By 2025, 2.7 billion people, 1/3 of the world's population will be facing a severe water shortage, with the majority of water scarcity occurring in the southern hemisphere, the upcoming World Water Forum will be an important opportunity to share with a variety of stakeholders the current challenges and the 'local actions' that are an important part of exploring innovative solutions to these concerns," said Dato Ir. Hj. Keizrul bin Abdullah, president of ICID.

Discussions in Beijing focused on topics such as meeting the food needs of more than eight hundred million people by 2025 estimated to be underfed. Despite an apparent sufficiency in the world food production, inequity and the problem of malnutrition in Least Developed Countries persists with about 20 percent of the world's poor people starving or underfed.

The ICID meeting brought together experts from all over the world to focus on one of the most important uses and applications of water. The large pressures faced due to population growth, limited areas of arable and useable land and the demands of changing lifestyles and strain on resources, makes the applications of land and efficiency of water use crucial concerns for the future.

The overarching theme of the World Water Forum (http://www.worldwaterforum.org/home/home.asp) is "Local Actions for a Global Challenge." A local action is defined as any activity or group of activities focused on solving a problem related to the management of water resources, the benefits of which are tangible at the local level. These could be structural or non-structural actions that have an impact on local administration of water. The main aim of a local action is to seek options for the sustainable development of a community or a region, without compromising the preservation of the local ecosystem.

"By sharing the experience from these local actions and recognizing the necessity of adapting unique approaches from across the globe to meet local community needs we are able to meet the challenges of water resource management and create projects that take into account multiple stakeholder and environmental concerns, providing a more integrated approach," said Dr. Luis Rendon, chairman of the Mexican National Committee for the ICID.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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