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Reflections on World Water Day 2011 in Stockholm

27 March 2011

For World Water Day that was on March 22nd  I attended a seminar in Stockholm arranged by Swedish Water House and several other organizations on the theme “the Role of Water in an Urbanized World”.

It opened with the announcement of the winner of the Stockholm Water Prize 2011, Stephen R. Carpenter, Professor of Zoology and Limnology at the  University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Professor Carpenter is the man behind the concept of “trophic cascades“; that for example over-fishing of large predator fish will through an increase of small predator fish (which eats zoo plankton) and that it in the end will lead to large scale algae blooming. I remembered my first lecture on the topic at SLU Umeå and what an aha-moment it was about how complex and complicated ecosystems actually are.

Another part of the seminar was  a speech by Jan Eliasson, the chairman of Water Aid Sweden and one the UN’s special ambassadors on the Millennium Development Goals. He presented his view on how the right to water and sanitation is key to reaching the MDG’s and how it has been recognized on the international arena. It was interesting, but I have heard a lot of it before at one of Swedish Water House’s seminars before. I have to mention that Jan Eliasson is not only the former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs  and the former President of the United Nations General Assembly, he is also an AIESEC Almnus. He has been the Local Committee President for AIESEC Gothenburg.

The disappointment of the day was the presentation from a women representing SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.  Her topic was how SIDA supports the work of creating Sustainable Cities and I felt that I would have gained the same amount of knowledge as if I had read a folder about it. I don’t know if was because she got stressed because of that there was a shortage of time, but the overall impression was that she (and SIDA) needed to look over the way.  A PPT is supposed to be a tool in a presentation, not something you only read from and making the whole presentation in itself.

The most interesting was Niel Macleod, the CEO of eThekwini Water and Sanitation, Durban, South Africa and his presentation “Durban: as Sustainable City in Practice”. Since 1996 it is written in the constitution of South Africa that everyone has the right to water and sanitation. That also means that the water sector needs to supply everyone with water, even in the city dwellings and Mr. Macleod presented how this done in practice. He also spoke about their “Project Poo”; they had investigated how people in the dwellings would like to have the public toilets and they had discovered that a lot of people use the time on the toilet as some kind of free time. After that they had installed toilets that were proper and clean and the previous problems with vandalisation of these public toilets stopped. Mr. Macloed also made a point of that there have been no big inventions in how toilets function since the 1860’s. We have made tremendous progress on the technical side in most other areas, but we still use enormous amounts of water to flush.  Project Poo reminded me a lot of my former college from the AIESEC Sweden’s national board, Linus Kendall, and his interest in toilets, meaning toilets as a mean of improved sanitation. When I have seen Linus talking about toilets some people start to giggle and some people get embarrassed when the word “toilet” comes up. I don’t think that many people here realize what bad sanitation mean for millions of people. I will write more on this topic another time, but for now I would like to quote Jan Eliasson from another seminar that I attended “Let’s talk toilets!”

During the day there were two other interesting presentations as well as a panel debate with four Members of Parliament from the Swedish Riksdag. From the panel debate it seemed like there is an increased interest of water and sanitation from the politicians side and now I really look forward to see this transfer in to action, for example an increase in the proportion of aid that is targeted towards water and sanitation.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anna permalink
    28 March 2011 00:32

    Min vatten upplevelse idag. Yxern, borthuggna isbitar, kärnis av rent friskt vatten, isbitar som det går att koka varmt gott kaffe på. Rikedom

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