The international observance of World Water Day (WWD) on 22 March is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. States were invited to devote WWD to implement the UN recommendations and set up concrete activities as deemed appropriate in the national context.
This year, WWD was the starting day for the new International Decade for Action "Water for Life 2005 - 2015". The goals of the Water for Life decade are aimed at having "a greater focus on water-related issues, while striving to ensure the participation of women in water-related development efforts, and further cooperation at all levels to achieve water-related goals of the Millennium Declaration, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit for Sustainable Development and Agenda 21."
The first water decade from 1981 to 1990 brought water to over a billion people and sanitation to almost 770 million. Much more still needs to be done. Safe water supply and adequate sanitation to protect health are among the basic human rights. One of the major targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Today, there are still almost 700 million people who have inadequate access to safe drinking water in Asia and 2 billion without adequate sanitation. This means that half of the population living in the Asia Pacific region does not have adequate sanitation, and one in five lacks access to safe drinking water.
The observance of WWD is meant to raise awareness on water issues at local level. With this focus in mind, UNESCAP organized the observance of WWD 2005 jointly with the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand on 22 March 2005 at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok. The opening session was followed by the First Thailand Water Forum. This forum comprised two days of technical sessions, with discussions focusing on national water issues in Thailand related to water for agriculture, stakeholder participation, water for domestic use and industry, requirements for a new water resources Act and the establishment of a Ministry of Water Resources.
An exhibition was held during 22-23 March at UNCC Bangkok, when the private sector, government agencies, the general public, university students, international organizations and non-governmental organizations contributed to a broad ranging poster, video and demonstration session. A student debate also was organized by Rotary International during the afternoon session of the first day, when high-school students discussed critical water issues in Thailand.
The Launch of the Water Decade by UNESCAP was attended by more than 800 participants, and proclaimed by the ringing of the Peace Bell by Mr. Hideaki Oda, Secretary General of the Japan Water Forum.