Swiss initiative for tough action against polluters passed at Water Forum

The World Water Forum in The Hague has adopted Switzerland's proposal to hold polluters responsible for cross-border contamination. Switzerland says it will serve as an "incentive for companies to be more responsible about potential ecological disasters."

This content was published on March 22, 2000 - 10:31

The second World Water Forum in The Hague has adopted Switzerland's proposal to hold polluters responsible for cross-border contamination. It was part of the final declaration urging governments to make clean water available to everyone in the world.

Switzerland says the protocol on liability will serve as a "large incentive for companies to be more responsible about potential ecological disasters." Switzerland argues that such a measure will ensure that victims of water pollution receive compensation as part of a simple and direct procedure.

The decision comes in the wake of the recent catastrophic cyanide spills in Romania. The leak from coal mines sent deadly chemicals into rivers in Romania, Hungary (pictured) and Yugoslavia, killing at least 100,000 tonnes of fish. Described as Europe's worst river pollution disaster in a decade, Hungary said it would seek millions of dollars in compensation.

Switzerland's federal environment agency called for governments to put their energies into cleaning and protecting ecosystems, which are vital to the safeguarding of water supplies.

However, international environmental organisations, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, criticised the final declaration as so watered-down that it was meaningless.

Swiss environmentalists urged for a fairer distribution of water resources. Although there is enough water to meet global demands, Switzerland says one billion people are still without access to clean water.

swissinfo with agencies

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