Unfurl a banner against privatized water and get a return flight home, compliments of the Turkish government. As water experts, activists, researchers and businesspeople convene for the third day of the 5th World Water Forum, protests and deportations dominate media coverage of the event. Simmering steadily for the past several years, the conversation around whether water is a private good or a public resource seems to have boiled over.
According to Al Jezeera Europe, when 300 people gathered to protest what they believe constitutes the forum’s privileging of private interests over public concerns, riot-police released tear gas and water cannons on the crowd. Two protesters from International Rivers were sent home, deported from the forum in Turkey after displaying banners rejecting the construction of new dams.
The famous – and now perhaps infamous – water forum, held every three years, brings together experts and students from public and private sectors alike to discuss international water issues. As the global fresh water crisis gains traction daily, the recently released third World Water Development Report from the United Nations encourages communication across sectors. Stakeholders must climb out of their respective water closets and work together to prevent catastrophe, it warns.
Still remaining on the World Water Forum’s agenda are sessions ranging from sustainable groundwater use, basin management and water storage, to transboundary cooperation, wealth distribution, desalination and climate change adaptation. The forum concludes on March 22nd, which marks the World Water Day for 2009. Whether this year’s gathering will accomplish its theme – Bridging Divides for Water – remains uncertain.