ISTANBUL - The future of global water resource management is set to storm Istanbul as the 5th World Water Forum starts Monday, while across the Golden Horn the Alternative Water Forum will meet later in the week to protest big business and the privatization of water
Held once every three years and considered the largest global water-related event, the forum will start Monday at the newly renovated Sütlüce Culture and Conference Center. Organizers have launched an eco-friendly services initiative to offset the environmental impacts of this monumental event.
The main aims for this year’s forum, which will run through March 22, is for stakeholders in the water community to create a framework for political processes and for local leaders from around the world to sign the Istanbul Urban Water Consensus. Although it is a non-binding document of principles, the consensus seeks to strengthen commitments from mayors and bring issues and solutions to the attention of governing bodies, legislators and the international community.
The forum’s agenda includes raising the importance of water in politics, discussing international water issues, putting together proposals on water issues and ensuring political loyalty. One clear end goal for the forum is to integrate every viewpoint in regard to management of water resources.
The forum will also cover topics such as drought and global climate change, and discuss the health, energy and agriculture sectors in relation to water issues while debating new technologies and potential solutions.
The forum is welcoming politicians, professionals and nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs. The 5th World Water Forum’s preparatory meeting, which took place at the end of February, was the first one to formally host NGOs.
In addition to the sessions and panels, the forum will be bustling with various events such as the Water Expo and Fair, Children’s Forum, Youth Forum, Learning Center, Speakers Corner, Partnership Bazaar, and Water & Film Events.
While the forum is ongoing, an "alternative" forum will take place at Bilgi University’s Santralistanbul campus, facing the Sütlüce Culture and Conference Center. The Alternative Water Forum, with the motto "Another Water Management is Possible," in a way protests the privatization of water.
The forum’s main planning was carried out by the World Water Council, which collaborates with the host country, the General Directory of State Hydraulic Works, or DSİ, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, or İBB, and the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration, or İSKİ.
Brand new historic venue
The 5th World Water Forum will be held at the Sütlüce Culture and Conference Center and the Feshane Registration and Fair Center. The centers are on opposite sides of Istanbul’s Golden Horn and will be linked by an old, floating edition of the Galata Bridge.
The renovated Sütlüce Center was previously a slaughterhouse but has been transformed into a contemporary convention center with a concert and congress hall, cinemas, exhibition and meetings facilities, a theater and plenty of parking. It will host the thematic, regional and political sessions. While on the other side of the Golden Horn, the Feshane Center, which was a factory during the Ottoman times, will be the main registration center. It was planned separately in order to ease overcrowding at the Sütlüce Center.
There will be regular ferries operating to facility activity attendance on either side of the Golden Horn. The ferries will also take attendees from the city center to the waterfront in front of the building where forum registration will take place.
The Sütlüce Culture and Conference Center has a parking lot large enough for 700 vehicles and Feshane Culture Center has capacity for 1,000 cars.
The 5th World Water Forum will be one of the biggest events to take place in Turkey and with it expectations for eco-friendly services arose and called for the Green Forum Initiative, or GFI, to be formed within the forum. The new program for the forum aims to reduce the environmental footprint that results from preparation and organization of the event, including waste and emissions. One of the projects of the program is to plant a tree for every participant.
The GFI, founded in 2008, will work to classify the main environmental impacts of the 5th World Water Forum. It will also reduce printed publications and plastic waste in the secretariat and at meetings, offer green products and transport for participants and inform participating hotels about greening measures.
The 1st World Water Forum was held in Marrakech, Morocco, in 1997 and aimed to create a vision for water, life and the environment in the 21st Century. The forum’s results were discussed even during the 2nd World Water Forum in 2000 in The Hague, Netherlands.
During the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, held in March 2003, the forum clearly stated its declaration to involve all stakeholders. By gathering more than 24,000 participants, it was the largest water-related event ever organized. Hundreds of commitments were made by the 130 ministers who attended the ministerial conference during the forum.
Bridge to bridge divide
When the 5th World Water Forum comes to Istanbul next week, it will mark the first time the international event is held so close to the water. The forum will take place at the Sütlüce building, a historic Ottoman structure on one side of the Golden Horn. The Feshane facility on the opposite shore will host the affiliated Water Fair, housing many festive water-related activities, including a learning center, a global water education village, a citizen's water house. Though the forum’s theme is "Bridging Divides for Water," in this case water will divide the forum itself.
That’s why the old Galata Bridge, which was previously dismantled, was relocated to literally bridge the divide between the two sides of the Golden Horn. The relocation work started in February and was completed last week, though some technical adjustments are still being made. During the weeklong forum, the bridge will host various shops and venues.
Dense security measures
Security is of course a major issue for the 5th World Water Forum, as it is going to be one of the biggest events that the future European Culture Capital, Istanbul, will host. The police have been practicing at the center for a month now, to familiarize themselves with the layout of the building and improve tactics to provide security. There will be 5,000 police working inside and outside the forum. The whole Golden Horn area of Istanbul will be under tight police control.
However, it is not only the forum area which needs extra security. A security drill was exercised Thursday at Atatürk Airport, also in preparation for the forum. Attendees to the event have already begun arriving in the city. Expecting presidents, ministers and high ranking officials from various countries, the airport drill was monitored by Istanbul's Chief of Police Celalettin Cerrah.
Unofficial court to try gov’t
To judge the many disputed policies on water, the "Istanbul Water Court," organized by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation and Latin America Water Court, took place March 10 and 11. The court and its seven-person jury investigated the proposed Yusufeli, Hasankeyf and Munzur dams. The unofficial court’s decisions will be announced Saturday. The water tribunal’s organizer, Dr. Ulrike Dufner, said it was not a court organized by activists. "The judged governments, companies and identities all knew that this court was taking place in Istanbul and we invited all of them to attend. The court is not a part of the Turkish Republic. Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation is a supporter of the Alternative Water Forum.