Nature-based solutions features in Stockholm world water week

GNA
Feature by Denis Peprah

Sunyani, Aug. 29, GNA
– Poor water management and stressed ecosystems cause poverty and violent
conflicts. To avoid a global water crisis, more nature-based solutions are
urgently needed.

These were key themes
during the inauguration of World Water Week 2018, on Monday, which has brought
world leaders, water experts, development professionals and business
representatives from all over the world together in Stockholm, Sweden.

There is a growing
realisation that humans are increasingly vulnerable to water shortages, extreme
weather and social unrest.

Decades of
unprecedented economic and population growth, rapid urbanisation and climate
change have led to stressed ecosystems and high pressure on limited water
resources.

In response to this,
societies must find and implement solutions that work with, rather than
against, nature.

World
Water Week

World Water Week, the
leading meeting-place for the global water community, is this year focused on
the link between water, ecosystems and human development.

A record number of
3,700 participants met in Stockholm from 26 to 31 August to discuss concrete
solutions to the escalating water challenges.

“With the rapidly
growing demand for water, it is becoming increasingly clear that water is
everybody’s issue”.

“Scarcity of water has
become the new normal in so many parts of the world,” quoted in a news
statement by Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of SIWI, which organises World
Water Week. 

In his welcoming
address on Monday, Mr. Holmgren called for a shift towards greener
infrastructure solutions, noting that they are inherently multi-functional:
“City parks retain rain, improve the microclimate, contribute to biodiversity –
and look good doing so”. 

“Green solutions are,
in addition, also often much more resilient than grey. They tend to bend rather
than break under pressure. They can repair themselves and restore their
functionality also after significant damage.”

The statement copied
to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) also quoted Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy
Secretary-General of the United Nations, talking about the strong link between
environmental degradation, poverty and violent conflicts.

This is not least
visible in her home country Nigeria, which in recent years has suffered
terrorism: “I believe that the tragedy of Boko Haram is inextricably linked to
poor water management and the solution to the conflict in the region must
include; equitable ways of using water resources,” she said.

As an example of the
dramatic consequences of a collapsing ecosystem, the Deputy UN General
Secretary referred to Lake Chad, which has shrunk by 90 per cent, saying that
“it has impacted food insecurity and is increasing the risk of water-borne
diseases, but it is also causing poverty by taking away farmers’ livelihoods,
especially for women”. 

“And it has a gender
dimension, contributing among others to low levels of school-enrolment among
our girls. Taken together, all these factors have contributed increasingly to
insecurity in our region, already affected by religious extremism”.

Varied
views

Similar views,
according to the statement signed by Khanika Thakar, the Communication’s
Manager of SIWI, were expressed by Åsa Regnér, Assistant Secretary-General and
Deputy Executive Director, Director for the Intergovernmental Support and
Strategic Partnerships Bureau, at UN Women.

She described lack of
water as a root cause of poverty and inequality since “only in Sub-Saharan
Africa, women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water,
equivalent to a year’s worth of labour by the entire workforce in France”. 

Carin Jämtin,
Director-General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency,
also talked about the relationship between poverty, conflicts and lack of clean
water. 

Concerns

“In countries affected
by conflict and fragility, tensions over water increase. There is evidence that
water and sanitation infrastructure has been attacked, or that the access to
clean water is denied as tactic or weapon of war”

“Without access to
clean water, children fall ill, hospitals do not function, and disease and
malnutrition spread quickly. Among the threats against children in conflict,
the lack of safe drinking water is one of the deadliest,” Carin Jämtin said.

Karin Wanngård, Mayor
of Stockholm, pointed to the risk from populism and short-sightedness but also
felt that cities were increasingly coming together to find new solutions,
adding: “I hope that this week will help the global community to get closer to
the goal of a sustainable world.” 

Many of the speakers
also expressed optimism about the increase in new solutions borrowed from
nature.

An inspiring example
is the work of Stockholm Water Prize winners Professors Bruce Rittmann and Mark
van Loosdrecht.

Interviewed by SIWI’s
Senior Manager International Policies, Maggie White, on how their research on
environmental biotechnology has revolutionised water treatment, Bruce Rittman
said “microorganisms live in water and when we use microorganisms we are making
water a key part of the solution to many of our environmental challenges.” 

He added “we want to
have a merging of environmental and economic interests. We don’t want to make
pollution control and environmental protection just a cost to society, we want
to turn that also into a generator of resources and economic value”. 

Solutions?

SIWI is an
international water institute working to solve global water challenges by
improving how water is used and managed.

By combining its areas
of expertise with its unique convening power, SIWI influences decision-makers,
facilitates dialogue and builds knowledge in water issues, thereby contributing
to a just, prosperous and sustainable future for all. 

It also organises the
world’s most important annual water and development meeting, World Water Week,
and it awards the Stockholm Water Prize and Stockholm Junior Water Prize. 

Conclusions

World Water Week is
the leading annual event on global water and development issues.

The Week brings
together more than 3,500 participants from more than 130 countries representing
governments, private sector, multilateral organisations, civil society and
academia to shape joint solutions to global water challenges.

GNA

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