The organisers of the Zaragoza Expo 2000, on the theme of “Water and sustainable development”, suffered several sleepless nights last week as the waters of the Ebro river rose to 4.25 metres, partially flooding the expo site, just eight days before this huge international expo was due to open on June 14th. The incident could not have been more ironic: the north of Spain had been suffering from scarce rainfall all winter, like the rest of the country, until the unusually heavy spring rains threatened to turn the expo’s essential theme of how countries can manage an increasingly scarce resource – water – into a joke. Hundreds of Zaragoza residents and scores of TV news teams watched breathlessly as the water level crept up the river’s high stone banks, to finally start receding last Thursday night. The organisers were forced to hastily re-think the opening ceremony, an extravaganza which was to be staged exactly where the river flooded the ground, but which now has been moved to another site, just in case. There is no shortage of space – the expo covers more than 25 acres to accommodate all the countries that have been invited to set up their respective pavilions. Celebrities such as former Russian strongman Mikhail Gorbachev, writer Paulo Coelho, Guatemalan human rights defender Rigoberta Menchu, Brazilian Bishop Joaquin Piñas, Francois Mitterand’s widow Danielle and former Portuguese President Mario Soares, to name just a few, will be dropping in to give talks on a wide range of water-related topics. There will also be musical and theatre events, so there will be something for everyone during the 93 days that the Expo will last. In fact, before it closes on September 14th, everything that can be said or done about water will have been said and done.
RIVER THREATENS ZARAGOZA EXPO ON WATER