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News 11 Aug 07
World Water Week to focus on climate change, biofuels
by Sophie Mongalvy
Climate change and a potential water shortage in some regions, also due to the diversion of water to crops for biofuels, will be at the centre of the 2007 World Water Week which opens here Monday, with 2,500 international experts expected to attend.
The theme of the annual event's 17th edition will be "Progress and Prospects on Water: Striving for Sustainability in a Changing World."
Organiser Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) noted that water was playing a key role in global warming.
"It is through water people are impacted the most by climate change," SIWI spokesman David Trouba told AFP.
World Water Week will also discuss biofuels, destined to partially offset a coming oil shortage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but which also need huge amounts of water.
"Where will the water to grow the food needed to feed a growing population come from if more and more water is diverted to crops for biofuels production?" asked Trouba.
The European Union wants biofuels to account for 10 percent of the total of motor fuels in 2020, against an estimated 1.6 percent last year. There are two main kinds of biofuels: ethanols, sometimes called "biopetrol" and which are reserved for petrol-fueled engines; and biodiesels, used in diesel motors.
At the moment biodiesel is much more widely used than ethanol in Europe, in a proportion of 80 percent to 20 percent. Ethanol is made from sugar beet, wheat, corn and sugar cane. Biodiesels, known also by the scientific name EMHV (methylic ester of vegetable oil), or diester, are extracted from colza, sunflower, soya and palm oils, and mixed with diesel fuel.
Medical aspects of polluted water will also be tackled during World Water Week and widely lacking sanitary facilities in developing countries have prompted organisers to state, "Hurry up! 2.6 billion are queuing to use the toilet."
"The results are devastating: diarrhea resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene is responsible for the death of more than two million impoverished children each year," said SIWI.
And Trouba warned that "50 to 70 percent of the world's hospitals are full of people sick with easily preventable water-related diseases."
Bank and company investments in the water sector and water management between neighbouring states will also be broached during World Water Week. The event will be opened by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and close on August 18.
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