The WaterDome was opened by former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, HRH Prince of Orange, and Salim Ahmed Salim, Africa's water ambassador.
In an address entitled, "No Water, No Future," Mandela said, "The WaterDome itself is a symbol for cooperation in the water sector. Over 70 organizations from the public as well as the private sector are present here. They are here to demonstrate how we are working together to make access to water a basic right for all human beings."
On behalf of the Africa Water Task Force which created the WaterDome, Salim introduced the Africa Water Facility today in the presence of African water ministers representing the African Ministerial Conference on Water.
Salim said the African Ministerial Committee on Water is meeting in Johannesburg to consider adopting the Africa Water Facility. "We shall wait to hear what they say," he said.
The idea of the Africa Water Facility was conceived four months ago at the Stakeholders Conference on Water and Sustianable Development in Accra, Ghana.
"It is an initiative of Africans for Africans. It is an early attempt to translate the lofty NEPAD objectives into action on the ground," said Africa Water Task Force Chairman Professor Albert Wright.
Professor Wright said by providing essential financial support, the Africa Water Facility would promote innovative actions by both countries and donors to assist in building governance of water issues.
The Netherlands government has committed US$2 million to the Facility, while Canada has pledged US$10 million to be channelled through the African Development Bank.
The European Commission has pledged to support the shared water courses program of Africa Water Facility.
Raising money for the delivery of water to thirsty people has been a major barrier and that it is time Africa stood up to the challenge, said Wright. "There is no country that does not share its waters with another," he said.
At the Waterdome today representatives from Lesotho, South Africa and Mozambique signed an interregional agreement for the management of water between the three countries, signaling a new direction in African water management.
Forty years in the making, the agreement will release European Union funds for numerous projects, including irrigation initiatives which will lead to the emergence of new farms in Lesotho.
Professor Samuel Asante, a retired United Nations official, said that for the first time in the history of African water management, the continent is heading towards regional intergration of the resource.
He said all the regional groupings / the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Commission for West African States / have not had water as a priority.
"All these regional groupings have not taken water seriously. They have talked about trade, markets and liberalization but have neglected water," Professor Asante said.
Still, SADC, just like the Nile River Basin, has provided for a protocol agreement on shared waters, for the eight riparian countries / Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana and Malawi.
He said Africa, through the Africa Water Facility, will push for inclusion of integrated water resources management into the profile of the Global Water Forum.
But a spokesman of the Knowledge Pool, a program linked with the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), says those seeking funding need to convince donors that investing in a water supply for Africa is worthwhile.
"The discussion about money often excludes the poor, but this should not be so. The poor often pay more for water than the rich," said Neil Runnalls, Knowledge Pool spokesperson. "They also pay indirectly through their labor, their poor health and their vulnerability to flooding and erratic food supplies," he said.
Runnalls argues that better measures of the hidden social and economic costs associated with inadequate water supplies need to be found.
This was an article from ENS, theenvironmental news service. One can read further at the web sites:www.oneworld.org;