Water: a strategic challenge for the Mediterranean Basin
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 2 October 2009 (35th Sitting) (see Doc. 12004, report of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture
and Local and Regional Affairs, rapporteur: Mr Marquet). Text adopted by the Assembly on
2 October 2009 (35th Sitting).
1. Bearing in
mind that 3 billion people in the world have no access to drinking
water, the Parliamentary Assembly recalls that water is the major
challenge of our century.
2. The Assembly stresses that access to water must be recognised
as a fundamental human right because it is essential to life on
earth and is a resource that must be shared by humankind.
3. It recalls, however, that water is also a source of “renewable”
energy and of thermal energy, thanks to the permanent heat of the
4. The Assembly observes that it is primarily drinking water
resources that will become increasingly rare, at a time when needs
are increasing, even though three quarters of the planet is under
5. The Assembly also stresses that climate change is likely to
exacerbate desertification thus forcing people to move to areas
where water is accessible.
6. The same is true of the over-exploitation of water resources,
deforestation, intensive farming and extremely rapid urbanisation,
which not only lead to water shortages but also seriously pollute
rivers and groundwater.
7. According to a general perception, the growing water shortage,
competitive demands on water sources and pollution are liable to
aggravate the potential for conflict among the riparian countries,
while cross-border water resources should actually provide a genuine
opportunity for co-operation rather than be a source of conflict
and an obstacle to development.
8. In the circumstances, the Assembly is convinced that the water
shortage will create tensions – according to some experts, the wars
of the future will be sparked off by the search for access not to
oil but to water – and that measures should be taken to compel states
to manage cross-border rivers and aquifers jointly. Lasting solutions
should be obtained through confidence-building measures and genuine
co-operation among the riparian countries. The Union for the Mediterranean
offers a new opportunity to establish such co-operation through
the development of specific projects.
9. The Assembly notes that water stress has become a reality
in both northern and southern Europe and emphasises that the problem
will become increasingly crucial in the regions of the Mediterranean
Basin because the population is concentrated in coastal towns and
water resources are being over-exploited as a result of the expansion
of sectors such as agriculture, tourism and industry and rising
10. The Assembly points out that the uncontrolled discharge of
municipal and industrial waste water and polluted rainwater is affecting
many people’s health and causing heavy economic losses, whether
through loss of income or the costs to health.
11. The Assembly refers, in this connection, to the commitments
entered into by the heads of state and government of the Council
of Europe member states at the 3rd Summit of Heads of State and
Government of the Council of Europe in Warsaw on 17 May 2005 to
fulfil “everyone’s entitlement to live in a balanced, healthy environment”
and to improve “the quality of life for citizens” by developing
integrated policies in the environment field “in a sustainable development
12. The Assembly also refers to the proposals put forward by parliaments
at the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul on 19 March 2009, during
which the participants highlighted the importance of the role of parliamentarians
in drawing up rules concerning water management, water supply, generalisation
of the principle of the right to water and the implementation of
water policies with due regard for climate change.
13. However, the Assembly regrets that the Istanbul Ministerial
Statement of 22 March 2009 does not recognise the right to water
and sanitation as a human right.
14. In this connection, the Assembly welcomes the decision taken
in Istanbul to hold a conference, under the auspices of the Parliamentary
Assembly, on the follow-up to the 5th World Water Forum and the
proposals made for themes for the next forum.
15. The Assembly welcomes the fact that world leaders and heads
of developing countries agreed on the need to recognise as a human
right the access by all the world’s populations to sources of water
at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila (8-10 July 2009).
The Assembly therefore recommends that member and non-member
states and, in particular, the countries of the Mediterranean Basin:
16.1 take the measures needed to
ensure that everyone has access to water and sanitation;
16.2 urgently promote transregional and transboundary co-operation
16.3 introduce a culture of water awareness and water education;
16.4 devise co-operation policies encouraging the transfer
of technology to those countries which need it most, particularly
in the area of seawater desalination and the recycling of waste
16.5 develop research programmes leading to the establishment
of a European water resources database on the state of water resources;
16.6 develop the opportunities provided by water as a source
of thermal and renewable energy;
16.7 draw up environmentally-friendly water resource management
16.8 decentralise water management systems to make them the
responsibility of local and regional authorities, and give the latter
the necessary legal powers and financial resources;
16.9 set up centres providing training in water trades and
16.10 inform and involve the public, in particular the young
generations, by instilling in them a sense of responsibility for
16.11 take steps to make water sanitation techniques more generally
The Assembly also recommends that the Congress of Local and
Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe:
17.1 ask local and regional authorities
to carry out an accurate assessment of water needs in municipalities
and regions and make arrangements to draw up a guide to good practice
in this field;
17.2 encourage twinning or co-operation agreements between
local authorities as a means of stepping up the exchange and sharing
of knowledge concerning water.
18. The Assembly will continue to address this issue, and will
pursue its reflexion on the possibility of drafting legislation
on the right to water and sanitation as a human right, the role
played by water in conflicts, the opportunities offered by water
as a source of energy, new agricultural irrigation technologies
and the consequences of climate change on water.