Conservation & Environmental Matters
From: Phillip Owen <email@example.com>
Small is Beautiful in Meeting Water and Energy Needs of the Poor
Contact: Patrick McCully, + 1 510 213 1441, firstname.lastname@example.org
March 13, 2006 - The basic water, food and energy needs of the world’spoorest people can be met by redirecting investments in waterinfrastructure to cheap, decentralized and environmentally sustainabletechnologies. Such a strategy is affordable, and can generate the economic growth needed to produce broad-based poverty reduction. These are the conclusions of a new report, Spreading the Water Wealth: Making Water Infrastructure Work for the Poor, released today by International Rivers Network.
This week, thousands of experts from industry, governments and civil society are converging in Mexico City for the 4th World Water Forum.
“The widespread implementation of small-scale infrastructure for delivering water and energy services is required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Small-scale projects such as local rainwater harvesting structures, drip irrigation and pump technologies, and water-saving farming techniques can reduce poverty more effectively and at lower cost than the mega-projects that focus on cities, industry, and modern agriculture. “The difficulty lies not in the lack of appropriate technologies, but in generating the political will and institutional capacities to implement these options, and in blocking the lobbying efforts of those whose interests lie in maintaining the status quo," says McCully.
The report includes an essay by Paul Polak, president of International Development Enterprises (IDE), who describes IDE's work in bringing cheap treadle pumps and drip irrigation kits to millions of small farmers across the global South. Polak estimates that reaching the Millennium Development Goal of bringing 100 million small farming families out of extreme poverty through low-cost water technologies would cost approximately $20 billion over ten years less than a tenth of developing countriesí investment on large dams in the 1990s. The estimated economic benefit is $300-600 billion.
McCully compares this to the megaproject approach: ìIn Rajasthan, supplying water costs $2 per person with rainwater harvesting techniques, and approximately $200 per person through the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam. Irrigating a hectare of land in India costs $3,800 through the Sardar Sarovar Project, and $120 through treadle pumps. Yet governments and financial institutions spend about $20 billion on large dams every year, but have so far mostly ignored the low-cost solutions.”
Just as the great majority of people without access to water live in rural areas of developing countries, so do most of the 1.6 billion without access to electricity. According to the report, the energy needs of poor rural areas are most likely to be met by improved cook stoves, mini and micro hydro projects, and other small renewable energy sources. Massive hydropower projects that provide power for mines, industries and big cities rarely provide benefits to rural people.
• Spreading the Water Wealth: Making Water Infrastructure Work for the Poor can be downloaded at: http://www.irn.org/basics/reports/WaterWealth
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International Rivers Network protects rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them. IRN opposes destructive dams and the development model they advance, and encourages better ways of meeting people’s needs for water, energy and protection from destructive floods.