July 1, 2008

NGOs Slam Chinese Water Policy at Spain’s World Fair

Text of report by Spanish newspaper ABC website, on 1 July

Zaragoza: Just a few metres separate the pavilion of the Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and that of China at the Expo site in Zaragoza, but the distance between their messages is enormous. The huge hydraulics works that the Asian giant is promoting have been openly criticized by the 350 NGOs represented in their pavilion at the Expo, known as The Beacon [Spanish: El Faro].

The enormous distance between one another's arguments was well- known beforehand, as was the possibility that such different messages might cause friction. And that controversy has arrived, coinciding, what is more, with the celebration of the Day of China at the Expo, which takes place today.

Tarnish the celebrations

A statement emerged from the NGOs' pavilion yesterday which openly attacks the hydraulics policy of the Chinese authorities. The building of the gigantic Three Gorges Dam or the diverting of volumes of water from Tibet are two examples, they say at The Beacon, of "paradigms of unsustainability" in the management of water.

That this criticism should come in the hours leading up to the Day of China celebrations at the Expo is no coincidence either. The NGOs acknowledged yesterday that they wanted to offer a counterpoint to the "triumphant" rhetoric that the Chinese representatives are issuing.

From The Beacon yesterday it was said that China does not comply with the Expo slogan, "Water and sustainable development". They said that the Three Gorges Dam has caused the displacement of more than four million people, the flooding of 140 urban centres and the disappearance of more than 1,600 factories or centres of production.


The NGOs have not only questioned the works but also their management. They say that the development of this project is "plagued with cases of corruption, unacknowledged technical problems, lack of foresight and the violation of human rights", since, so they say, a part of the displaced people have been forced to end up living in conditions of "extreme poverty" without the option of complaining.

With this controversial backdrop the Day of China is being held today at the Expo. Criticism inside the International Exhibition's site itself has emerged, in spite of the fact that the organizers have been stressing the need to respect the different positions that have gathered, though they have also emphasized the advisability of offering arguments in line with the Fair's slogan, "Water and sustainability".

Yesterday, the Day of the Philippines

Meanwhile, yesterday was the Day of the Philippines at the Expo. The ceremonies took place in the presence of the Philippines foreign secretary, Alberto Romulo, who said that with the staging of the International Exhibition, Zaragoza will be remembered for its contribution to meeting the challenges posed by the issue to which it is dedicated - water and sustainability. He said that the Philippines shares with Spain the same ideals of democracy and development - as well as four centuries of history - and he thanked it for its cooperation with the victims of Typhoon Fengshen, which has destroyed broad areas of the centre and south of the archipelago.

Originally published by ABC website, Madrid, in Spanish 1 Jul 08.

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