Monday, March 24, 2003

What's so bad about big?

The World Water Forum in Japan has ended with, apparently, an utterly anodyne declaration. "International conferences are often described as talking shops. Not this one. It was a giant talking hypermarket," says Tim Hirsch of the BBC. The problem is that they keep talking about dams and not about practical solutions to people's water needs.

Governments will often emphasise big projects for the wrong reasons: as status symbols, or as means of giving aid to the Third World which is actually a backhander to their own big construction companies. But there does seem to be a more general attack going against all things Big. People in the Third World want, and need, Western standards of living. That won't be achieved by 'appropriate' technology but by developing proper infrastructure. That means using water efficiently to irrigate land, supply individual needs and, where possible, generate electricity. The drive for 'practical' solutions tends only to leave the Third World pretty much as it is.

Water forum 'giant talking shop', BBC News, 23 March 2003


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