India's Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh sanitation movement, will receive the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize, as delegates from over 130 countries gathered in Stockholm on Monday for the annual World Water Week conference.
Keynote speakers included Swedish International Development Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson and South African Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Rejoice Mabudafhasi, who both touched on the linkage between climate and development issues.
Pathak used his lecture to urge delegates to act. "Only talking about the problem will not solve the problem." Later this week Pathak is to accept the $150,000 prize.
He is credited with improving sanitation across India and converting the waste into energy.
Pathak is credited with developing a simple twin pit, pour-flush toilet system used in more than 1.2 million residences and buildings. It has since been distributed to countries in both Asia and Africa.
Like other speakers, Patahk discussed the need for cooperation between countries on water issues, noting how his native India had 16 percent of the global population, four percent of the world's water and three percent of the land.
Mabudafhasi later reminded reporters how women in rural areas and girls often have to walk long distances to collect water. This task can disrupt girls' schooling and has other impacts on women's ability to participate in society.
Former chief UN mediator in the Darfur conflict, veteran Swedish diplomat Jan Eliasson recounted his experiences of how water and water scarcity came into play in the troubled region in Sudan with desertification, poisoned wells and displacement of pastoral people.
Displaying a glass of tap water, Eliasson said "this is a luxury for 800-900 million people in the world. It's a dream".
Eliasson - who now chairs the Swedish branch of the aid agency WaterAid Sweden - cited another dismal statistic that 4,000 to 5,000 children die daily due to the lack of clean water or over water-borne diseases.
Scores of seminars were also scheduled during the conference that has the overriding theme "accessing water for the common good" and where scores of organisations present findings and studies.
Possible conflict over water was also discussed by contributors to a report on trans-boundary water produced by the Stockholm International Water Institute, which organizes the meeting.
Co-author David Grey, who works as a water advisor for the World Bank in South Asia and Africa, said "no war is fought over a single issue," but that water could be a factor in conflicts.
The Stockholm Water Prize was created in 1990 to recognize achievements in water science, water management, water action or awareness building.