Water Privatisation: Ask Boutros Boutros Ghali (Transcript)
Former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali took your questions
on water in Talking Point.
Welcome to Talking Point,
I'm Lyse Doucet, we're broadcasting on BBC World Television, Radio, Online, as well as interactive television in the United
Kingdom. This week we're discussing water. It's a resource most of us take for granted. But
the United Nations is warning that within the next two decades all of us, no matter where we live, will live with a third
less water. And as it is now more than a billion people don't have access to clean supplies.
So what can be done? Last week at the French spa resort of Evian leaders of industrialised nations
renewed a pledge to halve the number of people worldwide that don't have access to clean water and sanitation. The populations
are growing fast and we're using more and more water. Indeed in developed nations ten times more than those in poorer states.
Not surprisingly environmentalists are warning of a global water crisis, one that lies at the very heart of our survival.
We're joined on this programme today from our Paris
studio by Boutros Boutros Ghali. He was the UN Secretary General from 1992 - 1996 and he made water a key issue during his
tenure. He once famously said that the next war in the Middle East would be fought over water
and not politics.
Boutros Boutros Ghali welcome to Talking Point. Do you still worry that there could be a war
Dr Boutros Ghali:
certainly because we have a real problem and I believe that water will be during this century more important than oil. We
will have a problem, as you know, just to give you one example, more than 70 million people die every year due to the pollution
of water. And half of the population of the world has not clean water. So there is a real discrimination between the people
who are able to use clean water and the population who are not able to use clean water.
region of the world is most at danger of going to war or having a conflict over scarce water?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
will have a problem - for example in my country Egypt there is no rain
and hundred per cent of the water used in Egypt is based on the Nile and
the Nile Basin.
My country being a downstream country the sources of the Nile belong to other countries - you have Ethiopia, you have Kenya,
Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo Democratic and the Sudan - represent the sources of the Nile or share the Nile basin.
So we have in Egypt a kind of obsession of security water and how to deal with it in the future because as you know you will
have a kind of growing population in the different parts of the world and they will need more water and more water used in
Ethiopia or more water used in the Sudan will be at the expense of Egypt.
we did in fact receive many callers and e-mails, from the countries who do have to share water along the Nile.
Well Boutros Ghali we had people agreeing and disagreeing with you. An e-mail from Asghar Poorbehzadi in Kahnooj in Iran who says: I don't agree with you Mr Boutros Boutros Ghali,
I think the war over energy will be the problem in the years to come.
And an e-mail from Shadi Fadda in Beirut in Lebanon, she says that the water conflict is already there between Lebanon
and Syria on the one hand and Israel on the other. I think the only way to solve such problems, according to
Shadi, is through a balance of power in the region. Well let's take our first caller, we're going to go to your native country,
to Egypt, to Cairo,
one of your favourite cities, Asmaa Shalabi is on the line, Asmaa what question would you like to put to Boutros Boutros Ghali?
come from the point of view that recently it's been said that countries - third world countries - with resources are more
prone to conflict. I'm looking at it with a reverse psychology point of view and trying to see this as a starting point for
cooperation and communication and maybe solving more problems. I wonder what the likelihood of that is, if you could tell
Dr Boutros Ghali:
agree that the problem of water among countries who share the same rivers will be through a cross border cooperation and only
through a cross border cooperation will we be able to avoid the possibility of confrontation, of military confrontation or
even dispute concerning the distribution of water belonging to the same basin. This is true for the Nile, this is true for
the rivers of Iraq and Syria
and Turkey, this is true in the problem of water inside Israel, this is true with the problem of water between Lebanon
So the problem is that you have to sit around the table to find a compromise, to create an institution
which will supervise the distribution of water. Again we have to agree on what criterion this water will be distributed to
the different countries. So the problem is we must pay attention from now and not postpone the solution of those disputes,
from now we must find a solution. After all in Asia they have been able to find an organisation
which is the Mekon River Organisation. In Europe they have been able to have a common organisation for the Danube.
So there is no reason why we in the countries of the third world we will not be able to agree on an organisation which will
be based on a cross border cooperation.
Shalabi it seems as though it's a political problem, do you agree with Boutros Ghali, do you think your political leaders
can do that?
I don't see any reason why they shouldn't but so far I can only observe that they haven't and I wonder we've failed.
Dr Boutros Ghali:
agree that there is not enough comprehension because this is a problem which is not the problem of today and the leaders of
the different regions, as any political leader, is coping with the problems of today and they are not ready to pay attention
to the problems of tomorrow. But I believe that a real leader must pay attention to the problem of tomorrow and the problem
of tomorrow are problems of water.
Asmaa Shalabi thank you for taking time to call us from Cairo.
We had some e-mails from people in countries along the Nile. From Ahmed, who's from the College Station in the United States says: What do
you think the chances are of a nation like Ethiopia or an autonomous southern
Sudanese region cutting off Nile water to the north? Is Egypt willing to use force to resolve the situation?
And from A.S. in Cairo he says: As an Egyptian I worry that one
day one of the countries along the Nile may decide to block our access to water. Are we prepared
to go to war over this? So interestingly these two, in fact more of the e-mails, they're thinking the only way to resolve
this is the possible use of force.
Dr Boutros Ghali:
let us have a more optimistic approach. I don't believe that any country will dare to cut the water because the water of the
Nile, water from Egypt, is essential.
The national security of Egypt is based on water, on the sources of the
Nile. So I don't believe that this will happen. But the reason is that this is why we must
pay attention from now to have a common organisation. And may I mention that there is a different organisation which has been
When I was minister of state for foreign affairs I created in 1983 the global group Save the
Dam - for the Nile basin - integrated a independent commission which was created in 1990-96 - the technical cooperation commission
for the promotion and the development of the Nile which was created in 1992. The Nile
Basin initiative created in 1998 and it is financed by the World Bank.
So I want to say that there is an awareness today that it is important to find a solution to the problem of the Nile Basin and the distribution of water in the Nile Basin.
while we have a number of people who want to ask you about Egypt's
point of view. On the line now from the Netherlands
is Asnake Kefale, Asnake what would you like to ask Boutros Ghali.
what I want to ask is the role of Egypt?
First to give a perspective to my question to the former Secretary General, my view about Egypt concerning cooperation on
the Nile is very much I think they're guilty from a total perspective because in 1979 Egypt and Sudan signed a treaty which
apportioned the water between themselves without the consent of the other downstream countries and the role of Egypt in all
of Africa has generally a policy of destabilisation. The status quo is not to the benefit of the countries of Ethiopia and others.
The way Egypt
uses the water is sometimes not sustainable. For example, the diversion of the water to the desert - is not even environmentally
sound. And we'd rather the situation like in 1979 President Sadat said Egypt
next time goes to war to protect this water. In 1985 you did state the next war in the region will be for water, these types
of attestations for us are like - we consider them like a threat because Ethiopia
is not allowed to use the waters of the Nile despite a series of droughts and famines. Ethiopia is not in a position to gain financial assistance from institutions like the World
Bank because of Egypt.
hear the answer now.
Dr Boutros Ghali:
you see the problem is when you have a dispute you have certain incomprehension coming from both sides. On the Egyptian side
there is an obsession on water security because there is no rain. In the case of the Sudan,
in the case of Ethiopia, in the case of Uganda,
in the case of Tanzania there is a difference
between the main agriculture is based on the rain. So already they have less problem of water in those countries.
But I say that the simplest way to solve this problem is to create an institution which is already
there trying to do this, is to create an international organisation which will take care about those problems and will solve
those problems peacefully - through arbitration and through certain rules. It means the distribution of water must be based
on different criterion. A country which has rain, which can use rain in its own agriculture then they must receive a quantity
of water which is less than the quantity of water given to a country which has no rain at all.
sounds very rational and very conciliatory Boutros Ghali. Thank you very much Asnake for calling us. And I have to say Boutros
Ghali that there are a number of Ethiopians who don't seem to have a very positive view of Egypt's generosity. Tafere Hailemariam who now lives in the United States e-mailed us to say: What is your opinion of Egypt's
use of the Nile which ignores the growing needs of Ethiopia which is a
major source of the Nile but which, year after year, faces the threat of starvation? Of course
there are nine countries which are sharing the Nile water, so let's go from the concerns from Ethiopia
to the concerns of Sudan. On the line
from Kenana is Omer Elfarouk Mirghani, Omer welcome to Talking Point, what would you like to put to the former Secretary General?
Omer Elfarouk Mirghani:
afternoon. The Jonglei Canal
project has created a forum on many experts citing its adverse effect to the environment and the consequences. With the prospect
of peace settlement in the southern Sudan,
do you think there is resumption of the canal works is viable?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
the Jonglei Canal
began in 1979 and it stopped in 1983. It is a canal which is of 360 kilometres between Bor and Malakal and what is important
that this canal will give us five billion cubic metres per year - those five billion cubic metres will be shared between Egypt and the Sudan.
This is the first element. So the Jonglei Canal
will stop the cause of the civil war in the south of the Sudan.
But the Jonglei Canal represents such a
contribution to more quantities of water for agriculture both to the Sudan
and both to Egypt. So unfortunately the
civil war helped stop the construction of the canal and because as you know there is a quantity of water which is evaporated
by the swamps in this region so we lost more than five billion - during the last 20 years - we lost more than a hundred billion
cubic metres of water due to the civil war in the south of the Sudan.
bring it back from these 100 billion cubic units of water - Omer you live in Kenana in Sudan, a country affected by water
shortages, how do you feel water shortages and the lack of cooperation in terms of the Nile in your own life?
Omer Elfarouk Mirghani:
for our country we think that in some parts we have the same conditions as that prevailing in Egypt. Sudan is a very huge
country - very large - you see in some places it's very similar as in Kenya
- no need for the water of the Nile. But other places here are very arid, the same as in
Egypt. So we have the same results in
the parts of these countries - in Uganda and in Egypt. But going back to my question to Dr Ghali if you please - there is - I guess
my question is about the environmental consequences of the canal itself because at the initial stage in 1979, as Dr Ghali
said, some environmental institutions raised their voice against the canal, just for environmental reasons. Now there is a
peace settlement in the future, very near future, that may be in August, may be there is a settlement in the southern part
of Sudan and the obstacle will be removed.
So the resumption of the work can be done. My question to Dr Ghali do you think that it is possible now after more than 20
years of this work - is it viable to resume this work?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
yes certainly, certainly it is - we would say it is necessary because two thirds of the canal has been already achieved, we
still need one third. So in the next two or three years the canal will be finished and this will represent not only a route
of communication between the north and the south of the Sudan between Bor and Malakal because we will have a road on both
sides of the canal but in the same times it will give us an additional quantity of water. Furthermore I don't believe - I
don't agree that this will present a real danger for the environmental situation in this region, on the contrary all the studies
have proved that it is something very positive and very constructive, it will contribute to the modernisation of the Sudan and the south of the Sudan.
Omer Elfarouk Mirghani thank you very much for joining us from Kenana in Sudan.
We're going to move now to the other side of the world and John Mesrobian is on the line from the United
States in Williamsburg. John what's your
question for Boutros Ghali?
afternoon Dr Ghali. My question is regards to potential conflict between Turkey
and Syria and dragging in other countries
in the conflict. Turkey is building various
dams and do you see potential conflict? There's been rumblings in the past and that has gone silent but that issue can come
Dr Boutros Ghali:
see the problem of Syria that 80% of the water of Syria
is based on the river coming from Turkey,
they have not enough water. In the case of Egypt it is 100%, in the case
of Syria it is 80%. So the only solution
is again to negotiate between Syria and Iraq
and Turkey so to have a redistribution
of water to have common projects, as long as the project, based on any river, is done a bilateral basis or on a unilateral
basis this cannot take into consideration the interest of all the owners of the river. So for the future I believe it is important,
as in the Nekon River in Asia or as in the Danube in Europe, they have an international organisation dealing with the navigation
of the river, dealing with the distribution of water, dealing with electricity which can be obtained through the different
dams which are constructed and could be shared by the countries through a cross border system.
The only way is to sit around the table, to have an international conference to discuss and this,
by the way, is the best way to obtain the financial support from the international bank or from the international community
because all those countries have not the financial capacity to build these dams, to build those constructions, which will
give additional quantities of water. But there is another element which is very important - this can produce electricity and
electricity is a clean energy and electricity through semi-conductors could be exported to the European community to the European
Union which will represent an income for those countries.
Mesrobian I hope the former Secretary General has answered your question, thank you for calling us from the United States. We've been talking about Turkey, let's take
a call from Turkey, Diane Horsley is on the line from Ankara, Diane what point would you like to make?
question I've got is over the building of dams, both in Turkey and countries
like India and the other third world countries.
I'd like to know why the UN supports the building of dam projects or the financing by the World Bank of dam projects in these
countries when there are other traditional methods of irrigation and water conservation which have proven much more effective
than dam building? And in addition to that the World Bank doesn't seem to provide any support for these countries in terms
of preventing water pollution. In Turkey
it's been announced that within about 15 or 20 years almost all of the groundwater sources are going to be polluted.
Dr Boutros Ghali:
agree with you that this is a problem but I want to say that the new technology, which is drip irrigation, will represent
a contribution to the water system but the only real contribution dealing with certain rivers is the construction of high
dams. But drip irrigation could help but it will not solve the problem. And secondly drip irrigation is a very costly operation
and it will need a special education. I am in favour of drip irrigation and new technology in irrigation in new technology
using in the desert to use the minimum of quantity of water - this will help but the real solution concerning certain international
rivers are construction of dams.
Horsley, thank you for taking time for us on the line from Turkey.
A number of people have also e-mailed us about the question of what's the best way to go about fulfilling our needs for water
and you mentioned drip irrigation, we had an e-mail from Jagmohan in Ghaziabad in India who says: How can the world reconcile the need to grow
more food with the need to use less water? Most poor farmers can't afford methods such as drip irrigation. Well we're joined
now by Ravi Narayanan who is the director of WaterAid, he's on the line from London.
Ravi you've been listening to this discussion about whether dams are the best thing, whether
there are other technologies that can be used, what would you like to say about that?
I think there's no one answer to the problems of water supply. Water storage is extremely important,
particularly in areas of erratic rainfall. So the need to have some sort of water storage capacity is a case that can't be
denied, the case can't be denied for structures that control water. Of course traditional methods are extremely important
and it is true that sometimes these have been neglected because people think the dams are the only answer. They're not the
only answer but on the other hand the needs for water are growing with irrigation, with domestic demand and with the needs
of industry. So in order to be able to cope with the demands of water from all three sources it's important to have some sort
of system which will use not only traditional methods, such as rain harvesting, such as traditional methods of storing but
subject to the proviso that the social and economic costs are properly understood there is a case for a very cautious approach
to dams as well.
Ravi most of our discussion so far has focused on the need for better cooperation between regions who are sharing key rivers,
for example the nine countries along the Nile. Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali has made a plea for these countries to work together,
is it simply though a question of just sharing what's available or do we need a totally new approach to water, given that
there may simply not be enough to go around?
I certainly think there needs to be first of all the realisation seems to be growing at last that water is a finite resource
but the needs and the demands for water are growing at a rate that is going to outstrip the supply of water in the next few
years. That's a start. Having made that - having realised that it's important for countries to be able to make sure that there
is enough investment in the national plan and for donors to make sure that there is enough attention given to aid for water
supply schemes to be able to answer this problem.
But having said that the points that have been made - the need for cooperation for countries
sharing a river basin is of course absolutely true, it's not just countries sharing a river basin, it's the need for the different
users of water - the industrial sector, the agricultural sector and the domestic sector - where a balance has to be struck
and this is why it's extremely important for every country to have a national plan for the rational and optimal use of water.
heard from Boutros Ghali something must be done now, Boutros Ghali would you like to respond?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
I just completely agree and I completely agree that what is important is to create an awareness, a national awareness on the
importance of water, a national awareness to see that a plan must be done and that the problem is not only to build the dam
in the case of rivers but how to distribute the water between urbanisation, between agriculture, between industrialisation.
You will know that you have certain plantations who need more water than others, so maybe it would be better to have agriculture
which use less quantity of water. So not only do we need a regional plan but we need - as it was mentioned now - national
plan in each country to be aware of the importance of water and to be aware of the distribution of water between the different
sections of the population.
these are certainly concerns that people have been raising in different ways in all of the e-mails and telephone calls that
we've received. They're still coming in. Well our next caller is in Warwick in the United Kingdom, Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil is on the line, welcome
to Talking Point what is your point?
Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil:
you very much. I'm aware of the increasing role of private enterprise in water distribution and yet it seems like the World
Bank has put a lot of emphasis on pushing forward these profit seeking private enterprises in this distribution. Does it worry
you that we are moving closer and closer to a time where water is distributed, not according to needs but according to means?
And I was also wondering if you could answer that question with a particular reference to the Middle East and North
not sure that I understand your question but the problem is I am worried that the private enterprise will take care about
the problem of water. I believe that if this is the question - my question is that after all water is such an important problem
that it must have a kind of supervision of the national governments because water is not like an industry dealing with cars
or an industry dealing with - even with agriculture, this is something essential.
And the different international conferences which have adopted during the last 10 or 20 years
have made of water a kind of human rights. Each man has the right to have clean water and this is why the United Nations have
adopted this year the Year of Water. So I believe that water is such an important element that it must have a supervision
of the government and this is why you will have a very strong opposition in certain countries when they have decided in the
city that the distribution of water will be given to a private corporation or to a private institution because the price will
be different than the price of water distributed by the government.
World Bank, is saying that 75% of the water programme should come from private sources, if private sources is the only way
to provide clean water should we say that the priority has to be getting the water, regardless of where it comes from?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
certainly if what is important is to have water and that the water will reach the people, this is important.
thank you very much for joining us on the line here in the United Kingdom.
Well a number of countries are actually considering whether or not after providing a certain minimum amount of water to their
people whether then there should be a fee levied to give them even more. Let's go to South Africa
no where we're joined by Ronnie Kasrils who is the water minister and he's on the line from Cape Town. Welcome to Talking Point Ronnie Kasrils, tell us first about just how serious
is the problem of water in your country, we hear about all the other problems that South Africa is dealing with but is water
also a priority for you?
South Africa is a water stressed country.
Rainfall in South Africa is below the
world average. We also have fluctuations in rainfall - drought periods followed by floods. I think the point that Mr Boutros
Ghali was making about the need for dams certainly has applied here where we really need to store water during periods of
real need but to do so in terms of sensitivity to the environment.
The question that we're dealing with of course follows the apartheid period where the majority
of black people in our country were not served, basic services were non existent, the rural people had to fend for themselves
and search for water in increasingly polluted sources. So we've had a major thrust from 1994 - the year of our first democratic
election - to ensure that we serve all our people with water and that's clean water. We're way ahead of the Millennium Development
Goals and in the year 2008 all the people in South Africa
will be receiving clean water and we also enshrine the right to water in our constitution and we have a policy of ensuring
that there's a minimum amount of water, basic amount of water.
all sounds very good Ronnie Kasrils although we do hear reports in South Africa that people don't actually have much access
to it or either have to go very long ways to get it. Let me put to you an e-mail that we received from a gentleman in Ghana, Julius Patamia who says: Why does the UN appear to be unconcerned that the World Bank
coerces poor countries like Ghana to privatise
their water resources? Is that something you are doing either because the international community is pressuring you or you
believe as a government that you should do it, that some people will have to pay for their water?
we don't privatise our water at all. And I believe that the World Bank is beginning to show sensitivity to our argument, which
we started several years ago and made warnings that they should not insist on investment that requires that water must be
privatised. We do keep the option open for our municipalities but only 2% of our municipalities have an agreement with a private
sector company. So the other 98% is purely state public partnership approach.
you believe that the international community and development agencies are paying enough attention to the need for water and
the possible crisis? We had an e-mail from Raj Prayag who sent it from Port Louis in Mauritius, he says: The G8, the industrialised nations who
met last week, didn't even bother to discuss the African's dire need for water. Who should we turn to for assistance? Please
stop all these empty talks about Africa's needs if nothing will be done. Do you share that
I would say that there's certainly internationally now from the United Nations, the World Summit on Sustainable Development,
all the conferences an awareness that there is this dire need for water and that the developing countries must be greatly
assisted. The water issue was taken up at the G8 meeting and of course there have been numerous statements from the Jo'burg
Summit right through to the G8 Monterrey and all these meetings where the richer - the developed countries have made commitments.
But we still see these as only commitments, we're waiting to see this really put into action. So from that point of view the
rich countries have to really show that they understand the need for crisis factor and that they've got to put their money,
their resources, their investment where their mouths are.
Kasrils thank you for your warning from Cape Town. Boutros
Ghali you've been listening to that, you had a long service in the United Nations, people have to put their money where their
mouths are he says.
Dr Boutros Ghali:
I mention a very simple idea? By obtaining the electrification of the different dams on the different rivers in Africa, Africa
will be able to export the electricity to Europe. Another way the construction of, let us
say, a huge Mashall Plan in Africa for the electrification of the continent based on using the water which exists in Central
Africa, which is very important, this will be something important because Africa will be able to export through the semiconductor
and through the new technique electricity to Europe.
So here we have a very important element where it will be in the interests of the rich countries
of the north to invest in a huge programme of electrification of Africa based on the construction
of different dams and at the same time the construction of those differing dams will help to solve the problem of water. So
if we combine the problem of water with the problem of energy, which is electric energy, which is a clean energy, we will
be able to find the solution which is to obtain a better cooperation between the north and the south.
practical suggestion Dr Boutros Ghali. Thank you to Ronnie Kasrils who was joining us from South
Africa, South Africa's
minister for water. We're going to stay in Africa and take another caller on the line from Malawi, Rafiq Hajat is joining us. Rafiq what question would you like to ask Boutros
I feel that water is a prerequisite to life, is a second generation right and as such it is too important to be placed in
the hands that are subject to nationalistic tendencies. Therefore it needs a global system of management that would link the
supply of water, enhance access and at the same time provide vital developmental assistance to third world countries that
may have a surplus of this precious resource.
do you think?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
have no objection, on the contrary I have no objection as long as this will be done on a regional basis and it will be done
with the agreement of the different governments because it is dealing with the sovereignty of the different governments and
maybe it's through this kind of regional organisation taking care about the distribution of water we may obtain the support
of the donor countries. So I completely agree that water is a prerequisite to life and it is important to obtain the attention
of the international community to cooperate in huge programmes - a huge programme to obtain clean water in the different parts
do you feel the shortage of water in your daily life in Malawi
because it's an area that's been drought prone?
over here we have suffered pretty badly recently. However, I would like to commend the World Bank. I know they've been blasted
left, right and centre but the World Bank in Malawi, through the Malawi social action fund, has invested very heavily in the
drilling of bore holes to provide clean potable water to rural communities. And I think to date over 3,000 bore holes have
been drilled and I think that is a commendable effort. And the second aspect is the emphasis now on treadle pumps which draws
water from rivers for irrigation and obviating the need for massive dams that have various environmental repercussions and
long-term detrimental effects.
Hajat thank you for joining us with some positive news from Malawi.
Well many of you have e-mailed us with your questions about how clean drinking water can be provided to people, especially
those who live in the poorest countries. We had a question from Erik Ollson, he's the director of the Drinking Water Programme
from the National Resources Defence Council in Washington.
is as you know there are millions of children who die every year across the globe from contaminated tap water, in fact more
people die from bad tap water than die from all wars combined. And my question is: how are we going to get the 10 countries
that have the bulk of the problem, in fact two thirds of the problem are in just 10 countries, how are we going to get those
developing countries to focus on the problem and to ask for the aid that they need in order to address this calamity?
Ghali how are we going to get those countries to address this issue?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
believe that we will need the cooperation between the different international organisations and those countries. After all
I remember I gave a lecture in 1989 at the American Congress, to create an awareness about the problem of water in the poor
countries. So here again it is a question of cooperation between the north and the south because the poor countries may have
the awareness of the problem of water but will have not the capacity first of all to cooperate among themselves, they will
need a kind of mediator who plays the role of catalyst while they're discussing the problem and they will need a real assistance
coming from the different international financial organisations. So the countries of the north - the United States, European community - can play a role by offering specific assistance
to this problem.
Ravi Narayanan let's bring you in here, he's the director of WaterAid, this is something you worry about
a lot - cooperation between the richer countries and the poor about the need to preserve and to get more sources of water.
Is that happening do you feel?
Well let me just go back to the question that was just asked about the quality of water. One of
the things that people are constantly talking about are - they talk about drinking water as if that is the only health hazard.
Actually the lack of safe drinking water - it's the safe handling of water that is equally important. And I think it's going
to be increasingly important for us to discuss water together with hygiene education - the handling of water so that it remains
safe after it's extracted from whatever source - whether it's a hand pump or a tap. So I think it's going to be important
- whether it's international agencies or NGOs or governments themselves to pay enough attention to the aspect of hygiene education
when we talk about public provision of water.
Now coming back to the issue of investment in water, there was an earlier question about private
sector participation and I think Mr Kasrils answer was right on the spot, there should be no automatic conditionality to say
that private sector participation is the only route to the provision of clean water. There are over a billion people - 1.2
billion people - in the world without access to any kind of safe water. The majority of them live in countries where the large
private sector operators have no commercial interest currently and it's unlikely that they're going to do so in the next few
years. And for these countries it's extremely important that their national governments put aside a sufficient proportion
of their national budgets to be able to address the problem of water which cuts across all sorts of other sectors as well
because this is a major public health issue and so when they come to do their sums on how much is to be allocated to water
it would be just as well if they consider the consequences of not having clean water - the burden of disease - and the effects
that it has, the negative effects that it has on the public health system.
the last point cooperation between north and south?
essential and I think for the north, for the richer countries, the G8 and the other donor countries it's extremely important
for them to realise that if they are serious about commitment to the Millennium Development Goals which is reducing the proportion
of people without access to safe water by half then they need to make sure that the aid budgets are configured in that particular
way and put aside a sufficient proportion of funds to be able to make this provision possible.
well let's take another caller, this one is on the line from Melbourne in Australia, Edward Krzywdzinski joins us, Edward what's your
afternoon Lyse, good afternoon Dr Boutros Ghali. The one thing that I haven't really heard about today is a fundamental point
which underpins all this and that a higher demand for water raises consumption and places greater pressure on the global water
resources. But what consideration is given to the implications of an expanding population? I mean we talk about it but what
seriously is being done about this? And it's an issue that's not only relevant to developing countries but to the developed
world also - we simply can't continue to increase the population unchecked without serious repercussions. And inevitably the
developing world will want to manage the consumption and waste of water as presently exists in the West. So to that point
the efficient water distribution and usage - the greatest waste comes from the agriculture and manufacturing sectors where
fresh portable water is used, contaminated, released back into the system and we're polluting the freshwater sources and reserves
at an unprecedented rate and water to most people seems to be something that either falls from the sky or can just be taken
at will from lakes and rivers and we should be concentrating, along with populations….
broader approach to the whole question of water - taking in population as well as pollution - Boutros Ghali?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
problem of the population explosion is a different problem and I completely agree that the problem of the demographic explosion
is related to the problem of water. Just to return back to the problem of the Nile, the problem of the Nile will be the next
dispute on the water of the Nile will be because of the demographic explosion in Ethiopia
and in the Sudan where they will need
more water and when they will need to use agriculture through irrigation. So I completely agree that one of the problems of
water is related to the demographic explosion.
Now the demographic problem has been that certain countries have been successful in controlling
the demographic explosion, other countries have not been successful. But the projections which are there it means with the
control and with all the effort which has been done to control the demographic explosion the projections show that you will
have a population increase of 3% which is a very high demographic increase of the population.
Mr Boutros Ghali given now this multifaceted nature of the problem, Sir, and the need for a global approach we had a text
message from a man named Wisdom in Lagos, Nigeria and said: Can the United Nations evolve a global approach to the water issues
similar to the one adopted towards the Aids crisis? Should the UN really put it at the top of the agenda in that kind of a
multifaceted way that we've just been talking about?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
am not so sure about the global approach to the problem could be done, I would prefer a regional approach. Just to take different
regions of the world and to have regional or continental approach rather than a global approach. Now this could be done through
a new international organisation but for the time being we have the crisis of the different international organisations, so
we have to wait until we will be able to overcome this crisis of confidence towards the United Nations, a crisis of confidence
toward the European Union, and the organisation of African unity. So I believe what is important is to overcome this crisis
and the fact that certain international organisations have not been able to solve certain political problems doesn't mean
that they are not important in the feeling that economic cooperation in the field of social problems, in the field of water,
in the field of environment .
once at the helm of a major international organisation, Moncef Bichara in Morocco
asks you: What were the main steps taken by the UN during your tenure as Secretary General to provide clean water to the poorest
nations in Africa? You obviously believe it's a priority, what were you able and willing
to do when you were at the head?
Dr Boutros Ghali:
have been able to have a group of international conferences and among them which was the first conference which was held in
Rio de Janeiro in 1992 is the problem of environments and
the problem of environments is related to the problem of water. Since then you have many international meetings and the international
bank have played also a role in trying to promote an awareness about the importance of the problem of water. But again you
see the real problem is that you have so many international problems that unless special attention is given to the problems
of water the problems of disease, the problems of terrorism will prevail and the different governments and the different international
organisations will pay more attention to terrorism or to drugs traffic than to the problem of water or to the problem of environments.
Ghali the world is indeed confronted with many, many problems and you've done a very good job today of telling us that you
believe that water is one that should be put at the top of the agenda. Well I'm afraid that is all the time we have for today.
Our special thanks to Boutros Boutros Ghali for being our guest and of course to all of you who've taken part in the programme.
Sorry we couldn't take everyone who called us and we tried to read as many e-mails as we could but don't forget you can still
contribute to the water debate by visiting our website at bbcnews.com/talkingpoint and there you can find out lots more about
water and take part in our online voting. I'm Lyse Doucet, from me and the rest of the Talking Point team, goodbye for now.