CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Is access to fresh water an inalienable human right? Or is water merely another marketable commodity?
These are among the questions scholars, government leaders and activists from around the world will dive into when they meet Nov. 4-6 at a symposium on global water-management issues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"Troubled Waters in a Globalizing World: Community, Property and Conflict Over a Vital Resource" is the theme of the Joint Area Studies Centers Symposium, the first of three symposia planned over the next three years to explore local and regional implications of issues often labeled as global. The sponsors of the series are the centers for African Studies, East Asian and Pacific Studies, Global Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies; the European Union Center; and the Program in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
The water-management symposium, which is free and open to the public, opens with a keynote address at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana. Amita Baviskar, a professor of sociology at Delhi University, will discuss "Water and Its Publics: Social Action Across Spaces and Scales."
The symposium continues the following day in the second-floor general lounge of the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana, beginning with an opening address by Ambassador John McDonald of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in Arlington, Va. McDonald's topic is "The Need to Focus on Drinking Water and Sanitation."
"Water management has long had a fundamental impact on the health and welfare of billions of people and the environment they live in," said Nils Jacobsen, the director of the Center for Latin and Caribbean Studies and one the event's organizers. The symposium program, will reflect water-management policies, practices and concerns from historical, geographical, economic, environmental, ethical and political perspectives, he said.
Key issues that will be explored range from accessibility and quality of water distributed at the local level to control of watersheds through dams and diversion channels within large countries and the European Union. Participants also will focus on broader concerns related to water management, such as the need for international cooperation among nations and the potential for water to become the source of future "resource wars."
More information about the symposium, including a schedule of events, is available online.