MEXICO CITY -- Governments, not private companies, should take the lead in improving public access to safe drinking water, representatives of 148 countries said yesterday at the end of a forum on improving global water supplies.
The seven-day forum focused much of its attention on the developing world's growing reliance on bottled water bought from private companies. Worldwide, the industry is now worth about $100 billion per year. Anticorporate forces and other critics say governments should instead be improving tap water supplies.
The forum's declaration, adopted yesterday, does not specifically mention privatization, but states that ''governments have the primary role in promoting improved access to safe drinking water."
The declaration also described dams and hydroelectric projects as important and innovative.
The representatives ''acknowledge the implementation and importance in some regions of innovative practices such as . . . the development of hydropower projects," said the draft declaration, circulated in advance of the closing ceremony.
Environmentalists oppose big dam projects, used to create hydroelectric power, because they can disrupt natural water sources and take up land. They say corporate interests, combined with a lobbying campaign by the World Bank, are pushing developing countries to build large dams.
Yesterday, United Nations officials presented a report warning about the effects of climate change and the need for more dams. The UN World Water Development Report, however, recommends small dams instead of big ones -- or at least making the larger projects more environmentally friendly.