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Water wells up in importance

Keystone

Swiss water has got the thumbs up in a report released to mark United Nations World Water Day.

This content was published on March 22, 2006 - 11:56

Wednesday also sees the end of the fourth World Water Forum in Mexico where countries, among them Switzerland, are expected to sign a declaration on local action in water policy.

Swiss tap water is up to 1,000 times more environmentally friendly and cheaper than mineral water, according to a study commissioned by the Swiss Gas and Water Industry Association.

This takes into account the costs of transporting, cooling and packaging mineral water.

The report added that drinking water was of high quality in Switzerland and that the water system was reliable.

Recent statistics show that 30 per cent of Swiss prefer to drink bottled water and consumption has grown rapidly over the years.

In 1900 the Swiss drank just two litres per person per year. This increased to 69 litres in 1990 and climbed to 118 litres by 2004.

Several events were being held around the country to mark the UN day, which is devoted to raising awareness of water issues.

Among them is a scheme run by the development cooperation organisation Helvetas, which will be asking the clientele at more than 50 cafés and restaurants around the country to give a tip which will go towards the building of wells in Africa. The scheme is due to run for a week.

Forum

Various water issues have been raised by the World Water Forum, which is due to wrap up later on Wednesday after a two-day ministerial meeting on the subject of local water initiatives and transfer of technology.

Switzerland is being represented by Bruno Oberle, head of the Federal Environment Office, who is standing in for Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger. A ministerial declaration pledging more action in water policy on a local level is expected to be signed.

Apart from the 130 ministers, the forum has gathered representatives from international agencies, local authorities, non-governmental organisations and the industry.

NGOs – among them Swiss organisations - have already criticised the meeting for giving to much space to private companies and ignoring other issues.

In a joint statement, many of them called on governments to strengthen the human right to water and for this to be included in a formal declaration at the new UN Human Rights Council.

"NGOs have managed with their opposition and protest actions to make the right to water a dominant theme at the official forum," said Pipo Hofstetter from Alliance Sud, a group of six leading Swiss development organisations.

The UN children's agency Unicef warned at the forum on Tuesday that worldwide one child dies from lack of water and sanitation every 15 seconds.

Another UN report released on the same day claimed that the overuse of water for farming was the biggest environmental threat to the world's freshwater resources and damage is likely to worsen until 2020.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 1992 making March 22 World Day for Water.

Countries were invited to devote the day to promoting public awareness by organising events and publications related to the conservation and development of water resources.

The theme of this year's day is Water and Culture. The UN agency in charge is Unesco.

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