consumes more that 80 percent of Asia’s water resources, while 1.7 billion
people in the region lack access to sanitation. Throw in climate change and
there are staggering challenges in the not too distant future.
World Water Week, held in the Swedish capital of Stockholm is the leading forum on addressing the world’s water issues, where 3,000 participants for 124 countries recently converged.
Ric Wasserman has this report on how the next generation of citizens in Asia are taking charge.
Simple running water – a standard for many, a dream for many others.
The yearly World Water Week conference in Sweden focuses on water problems and solutions. For Asia, the situation is precarious. As groundwater levels dwindle, industrial and agro-pollution increases, and the population continues to grow.
Water is also being exploited as a commodity instead of a natural right, says Asian Development Bank Vice President, Bambang Susantono
“We’re seeing since a couple of years back that water now is not only being seen as having an equity dimension, we call it basic needs. Now it’s more and more on the economic side,” Susantono stated.
In other words, how money can be made from providing water – a troubling sign, especially for the poor who can’t afford it.
Economic and food productivity must rise sharply in the next two decades. The problems are numerous. Technical solutions abound, but the political will to make meaningful change is often weak.
The Eye on Asia panel debates charted the various dimensions of water, its scarcity and water markets in Asia.
Gazing around the room I saw that about half the attendants were women. An equal amount of the participants, almost all water specialists, were under 30.
Like Laura Basco, a PhD student from the Water Youth Network working in Bangladesh with the country’s National Water Board.
“It's a challenge of being a youth and trying to create innovative solutions. On the other hand we don’t want to create things that have been done already,” Basco said.
But her collaborative modeling, a new approach in Bangladesh has brought positive changes.
“This cooperative modeling approach shows that look, if you take this action and these are the scenarios in the future, if you perform well, this will happen. I want to think that this will change the complex institution in Bangladesh,” Basco said.
It has already. According to Basco, “if you compare the situation 2013 to 2016 they have really improved in terms of economic water security, households water security, etcetera.”
Laura is making an impact in Bangladesh, but globally, there’s a serious lack of trained water engineers.
Their know-how is an important key to finding lasting solutions, says Katie Cresswell-Maynard, from Engineers without Borders.
Socially aware water engineers – step forward.
“We want to create globally responsible engineers. We really want engineers to better understand the social issues and the impact of the engineering that they will potentially bring to life in the future,” Cresswell-Maynard said.
There was recognition that Asian youth are spearheading the fight to ease the water dilemma, at least in part. Water Conference participants held their breath as this year’s Junior Water Prize was announced
Three high school girls from South Thailand beat out more than 200 contestants from around the world with their unique water technology – a mimicry of a plant that collects water.
Winner, 16-year-old Sureeporn Triphetprapa explains, “we used aluminum as the material and linked to the idea to create a model by mimicrying the Bromelia plant.”
It's complex nature-inspired technology, mimicking the Bromelia plant, which collects and stores water. It’s almost an exact aluminum replica.
Thailand’s Surat Thani province has dry periods and it is hoped this water maker, already field tested successfully by hundreds of Thai farmers can be a sort of “rain machine” for crops.
The students worked on it every day after school for eight months. Their driving force – to help their agricultural community. It will soon be commercialized.
“We want to expand on a large scale and we want to modify our device that can make productivity,” said Triphetprapa.