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Sustainable Growth Conference Convenes in Bali - 2002-05-30

Government officials and representatives of private organizations from 140 nations are drafting a plan to ensure economic development does not come at the expense of the environment. The conference - on the Indonesian island, Bali - is the last meeting before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa in August. Clean water is high on the agenda. Thousands of delegates are attending the 10-day conference here in Indonesia to hammer out a proposal for governments to commit to sustainable development - so that both economic growth and a clean environment are possible.

Protecting and cleaning up the drinking water supply is a high priority. One major goal is improving global sanitation.

Eirah Gorre-Dale is an American activist with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council - an international umbrella group. "There are lots of water-borne diseases as a result of polluted water," she said. "For example, I think many people don't know 2.2 million people in the developing world - and most of them are children - are dying every day from diseases associated with the lack of access to safe water and also poor hygiene." Ms. Gorre-Dale says one obstacle at the Bali conference is concern from some nations that they can't afford to spend what it might take to improve sanitation or they could be forced to meet a strict timetable for cleaning up the water supply. But she says her group will not be deterred. "So the Water Supply and Sanitation Planning council is really working hard - through advocacy and lobbying and all kinds of efforts by its members - to make sure that, here in Bali, we don't leave until this sanitation goal is included in the text that will be negotiated finally, or accepted in Johannesburg," she said. The Bali conference is the last of four preparatory meetings before world leaders gather in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the World Summit on Sustainable Development at the end of August. Leaders are expected to sign the agreement on government action now being drafted in Bali. The Johannesburg summit is a follow-up to the Earth Summit held in the Brazilian city, Rio de Janeiro, in 1992.