Testing the waters for real test at water forum .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - Istanbul is poised to host the Fifth World Water Forum at the city’s newly opened Sütlüce Conference Center. In the run up to the major event organizers gave the new facilities a whirl with the Istanbul Water Forum, which brought together government officials and NGOs

Istanbul’s Sütlüce Conference Center has opened its doors for visitors for the first time. The center hosted a meeting at the weekend in preparation for the fifth World Water Forum in mid-March.

The mini-forum, also called the first Istanbul Water Forum, brought together ministers, companies, non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, and participants from around the world.

Contrary to expectations the conference center was completed within a few months prior to the big event, and even though there are small deficiencies it seems they will be completed by the time the guests for the main forum arrive in Istanbul.

The fifth World Water Forum expects approximately 20,000 visitors, yet the small forum hosted around 2,000 visitors during the weekend.

Aiming to raise political awareness and contribute to knowledge of water issues, the first Istanbul Water Forum kicked off with the Secretary General of the fifth World Water Forum Dr. Oktay Tabasaran.

Noting that this is the first rendezvous before the World Water Forum, Tabasaran said Istanbul, a city surrounded by water, is an important place to hold the meetings. "Water issues are now beyond individual nations, the cooperation of nations can overcome the population growth, poverty and illiteracy," he said.

City faces water troubles

After Tabasaran, the ambassador of the forum Dr. Klaus Töpfer took the stage and agreed that Istanbul is the right place to hold the forum because the metropolitan city has concerns about water. "The quantity of water will not be sufficient in the near future. The city was home to 2.7 million people 70 years ago. As nature is destroyed, the availability of water decreases day by day," Töpfer said. According to him it is a crisis of administration. It needs management and investment, and therefore this is a chance to create awareness for people.

Most of the speakers at the opening of the forum touched on water problems the world is facing today while a glass of water was standing on the dais, like a symbol, but none of them touched the glass. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Kadir Topbaş couldn’t make it to the first Istanbul Water Forum yet Vice Chairman Ahmet Selamet made a speech touching on issues of wastewater and the capability of local management for solving the water issues.

Dr. Abdul Latif J Rashid, minister of water resources in Iraq, was also present at the forum. Rashid called upon countries to cooperate. "There is water inefficiency in Middle East. Water abuse and inefficient use of water resources has caused a decrease in available water per capita," Rashid said, admitting that Iraq has suffered a lot.

Mahir Yağcılar, minister of environmental and area planning in Kosovo, said they use a majority of their water for drinking and the rest for agriculture. Yağcılar said the public should be a part of the decision-making process for protecting water resources.

Nexhati Jakubi, minister of environmental and physical planning in Macedonia; Aleksander Garuli, deputy minister of environmental, forestry, and water administration in Albania; Abdelkbir Zahoud, secretary of state in charge of water and environment in Morocco; and Anvar M. Zairov, representative from the ministry of water economy and land improvement in Tajikistan, were among the invited guests at the first Istanbul Water Forum. They all talked about their governments and water policies and hoped that the studies unveiled at the fifth World Water Forum would be successful.

’I am a minister of an unlucky nation’
Mustafa Gökmen, minister of environmental and natural resources of northern Cyprus, described himself as a minister of an unlucky nation. "Cyprus has always been dry and rainless. For years the public has suffered a lot from water shortages," he said.

Talking about Turkey’s plan, led by Turkey’s Minister of Environment and Forestry Veysel Eroğlu, on transferring water from the Taurus Mountains to northern Cyprus, Gökmen said once the project was launched they could consider transferring water to their neighbors. According to him, the project will be finished in 2012.

Eroğlu said with the forum, which will host more than 20 nation’s state ministers, they want the water issue to be a peace envoy for the whole world. Mentioning the successes he has achieved as a minister, he said, "We have delivered water to areas that had water scarcity."

Loic Fauchon, president of the World Water Council who follows each step taken for the fifth World Water Forum, said the council and Turkey had been working for the big meeting for three years now. "The reason why the forum is organized is that the world is facing problems and we want to bring together people. Istanbul is facing most of the problems we emphasize. From all the perspectives we don’t want to trigger any more problems."

According to Fauchon, the first step should be creating access to water for people and while doing that nature should be protected.