Dec 28, 2000

Protest Opens Water Conference

Protesters stripped naked and mounted the stage in front of the inaugural
speaker at the Second World Water Forum in the Hague, Netherlands. The speaker,
Egyptian water resources minister Mahmoud Abu Zeid, looked on in stunned silence
as a man and woman disrobed in front of the rostrum and revealed to the audience
the name of a controversial Spanish dam painted on their backs and buttocks.
Other activists scaled the walls of the conference hall and hung from the
ceiling. "Please come down, sit down and let's talk like grownups do in
this world," said Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander, the forum's honorary
chairman. The nude man and woman were led away by what appeared to be security
officials. It was not immediately clear whether they were arrested.
The activists were protesting what they said was the Forum's sidestepping of
crucial environmental issues, including the Itoiz dam project in northern
Spain's Navarra province.
More than 3,500 delegates from 150 countries attended the five-day
conference, the follow-up to the first global water congress held in Marrakech,
Morocco, two years ago. Industry representatives, volunteer organizations and
politicians met to address topics including the sustainable supply of water to
the world's growing population. With one-sixth of the world's population lacking
clean drinking water, forum organizers have called for annual global spending on
water problems to be more than doubled.