|By HANS GREIMEL, Associated Press Writer
TOKYO (AP) - Nearly
1 billion people are at risk because of overuse and pollution of the world's lakes, said
global experts gathered Monday in central Japan to draw up plans for fighting the trend.
Already, more than half the world's lakes and reservoirs - representing 90 percent of
all liquid fresh water on the Earth's surface - have been harmed by pollution and
drainage, said delegates at the International Conference on Conservation and Management of
The problem is likely to get worse as the world's population increases, they said.
"Lakes are among the most vulnerable and difficult to restore of all natural
ecological systems, but they have been widely ignored even as they have
deteriorated," said Masahisa Nakamura, director of Japan's Lake Biwa Research
The lakes symposium in Shiga, Japan, is a preparatory meeting for the Third World Water
Forum, which is expected to draw about 8,000 researchers and government officials when it
convenes in the nearby city of Kyoto in 2003.
Up to 1 billion people worldwide depend on endangered nearby lakes for drinking water,
sewage, fishing, irrigation, transportation or tourism, said World Water Forum vice
president William Cosgrove. As those lakes wither, so do their livelihoods and health.
People in developing countries, who are more dependent on local surface water, are
especially vulnerable, delegates said.
As an example of how fast things can change, panelists said 543 large and medium-sized
lakes disappeared in China alone between 1950 and 1980 as their water was diverted for
Adding to the dilemma is global warming, which is expected to raise average lake
temperatures by 3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 50 years, Cosgrove said.
Warmer water is not as good at naturally cleansing itself of pollution.
Among the lakes on the current session's watch list: the Great Lakes of North America,
Lake Okeechobee in Florida, Lake Victoria in Africa and the Aral Sea between Kazakstan and