Water - Two Billion People are Dying for It!

The World Environment Day theme for 2003 was Water - Two Billion People are Dying for It! The theme called on everyone to help safeguard the most precious source of life on our planet – water. This theme had been chosen to support the United Nations International Year of Freshwater, 2003 and World Water Day (22 March). You will also note that the logo of the International Year of Freshwater was incorporated in our World Environment Day logo to highlight this important United Nations Year.

The main international celebrations of the World Environment Day 2003 were held in Beirut, Lebanon, the first time in the Arab world.

The late former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafic Hariri, said hosting the World Environment Day celebrations in Beirut was a declaration of hope during the challenging times. By taking environmental concerns seriously, he wished to convey a loud message that they were not satisfied with mere survival, but rather opted for a better quality of life.

He said decades of war had destroyed the city, but had failed to break their spirit. He had perceived Beirut as having risen from the ashes, against all the odds, and symbolically re-built as an environmentally-friendly metropolis.

Hariri testified that resolving conflicts in a way that safeguarded and respected human dignity and national rights, was a prerequisite to achieving sustainable development. Thus, he felt, it was particularly sad to witness the spending of trillions of dollars on armament and wars at a time when international aid for development is diminishing.

Some of Lebanon’s experiences to integrate environment in development planning included the establishment of an Environment Ministry, enactment of laws, ratification of major international conventions, and cooperation with international agencies to implement various environmental projects.

The Government had passed a clean-air act, embarked on a nation-wide reforestation scheme, and included integrated environmental management in its policy statement. Their civil society had become increasingly vibrant and active on environmental matters.