The pursuit of water for all

By Anna Oposa

I hit the ground running when I arrived in Manila. On my first day back, I made a few calls regarding coastal law enforcement training for the Bantay Dagat members in Cebu. I also met with the folks of bobble Water Bottle, a company that makes PVC-free water bottles that filters water as you drink. Together, we are promoting reusable water bottles to decrease the number of disposable, single-use plastic bottles. I began writing an editorial for a local tech magazine about the power of technology in the field of environment, starting with some key takeaways from World Water Week.

“Why the rush to get back to work? Aren’t you jetlagged? You must be so tired!” remarked a few.

Okay, I’m no superwoman. I struggled to stay awake during a dinner-meeting for another project. But you see, I came home with a greater desire to do, to act, and to serve.

It is hard to quantify the impact of attending forums like the World Water Week. Forums are often criticized as “just a talk shop” or “a waste of carbon footprint.” While it’s true that we emitted a lot of greenhouse gases to get to Stockholm, it would only be a waste if we went back to our countries and did nothing. Our participation doesn’t generate income for the ADB, but we can offer other kinds of ROI. In my case, it’s committing to the tagline “water for all.”

I work in marine conservation, which doesn’t seem directly related to sanitation and access to potable water. But like Pocahontas sang, “And we are all connected to each other/in a circle/in a hoop that never ends.” My current project site, Malapascua Island, Cebu, has very limited fresh water and majority of the residents have no toilets. There is also lack of waste management, which means that the island’s wastes goes directly to the sea. The pollution affects the marine ecosystem.

I can’t solve the whole island’s problems, but I can help ignite and support projects that can. Our plans for the next few months involve waste management workshops for the residents, led by the teachers; swimming and snorkelling lessons for the high school students, led by the dive guides and boat crew members; and the second Arts-Science Festival with the students and teachers.

The pursuit of water for all means a greater appreciation of the water around us. This means more exposure to the wealth that lies beneath. Poet W.H. Auden said, “Thousands have lived without love. Not one without water.” I’d like to live in a world with both.

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ADB Youth Partnership is required to solve water problems

By Prabin Rokaya

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I was one of the lucky youth participants who had the opportunity to participate at Stockholm World Water Week. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Water Team made participation possible for five Asian youth participants and I thank them for accepting me as part of the team.

Honestly, I am not a big fan of any banking institution, whether they are private, public or intergovernmental. This is partly because of a deep impression that the priority of financial institutions will always be to make profit for its shareholders instead of prioritising (rural) development. The other reason is that young people have limited access to their loans and grants, while young professionals can be agents of change. The ADB has proven this time it wants to focus both on development and youth.

This year, the ADB started to invest in youth and has launched a two-year youth pilot project focusing on . capacity building and developing leadership skills. It seems to me that this will not only result in the empowerment of youths, but also increase work efficiency within youth organisations.

Outside of the youth programme,  ADB-projects do  not have a youth component. Even the sub-component Capacity Building prioritizes capacity building of organizations, institutions and inter-organizational and group relations (public, private and civil society). It does not explicitly include the youth. I am hopeful that in the future, if the youth programme proofs successful, there will be some shifts in the ADB’s priorities, and youths will be in centre of it.

The water problems in Asia are critical, and the youth is one of most affected groups. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (2011) estimates more than 700 million young people of Asia and the Pacific are facing severe water challenges. Recognition of water as basic human right alone cannot solve these problems. Neither will strong speeches of political and business leaders. However, promotion of small-scale, youth-led local innovations in producing potable water can highly contribute on solving some of these problems. Similarly, young people can also be water ambassadors at a local level, promoting, lobbying and advocating for safe access to water for all. And young professionals need to take over the work of the senior professionals in the future.

If taught well, and informed well,  young people can take up the responsibility to address current and future water challenges. Many of them do it as we speak. However, they need different types of support, from capacity building to financial investment. This is where the role of the ADB needs to be larger than ever. The ADB can fund small- scale, youth-led water projects and continue to support the youth’s voice in big forums like the World Water Forum. There needs to be further ADB Youth partnerships recognizing youths as an opportunity, rather than responsibility. Only working together can build synergy and help solve critical water problems.

Post WWW Reflections

By Krishna Upadhyay

I am quite fascinated to be in Stockholm World Water Week.

“How can water issues be solved through cooperation and partnership?” This question was discussed in different plenary sessions. Many experienced ideas from the experts were supported by many innovative thinkings of the youth. It was a real platform for inter-generational discussion. Youths were asking for their position during the planning and decision making of any project. At the same time, the seniors (super-youths) were warning the youths not to make the same mistakes they made in the past.

Most of the presenters were blaming politicians for not being able to incorporate the problems seriously and not being able to decide properly. Ms. Sunita Narain, 2005 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, came up with a completely different notion. She said that politicians are not to blame–experts are, for not being able to deliver the practical solutions.

I thought that before we doing anything, we need to think twice about the impacts of our actions on others. Doing things in a collaborative way is inevitable, but this must be supported by trust, transparency and cooperation.

Day 6: Not a full stop but a comma or dash

By guest blogger Ling Zhong

This annual international conference attracts thousands of people from different continents for the theme of water. As a new graduate and young professional in the area of sustainable development, I would say this is a great opportunity for me to meet interesting people, listen to what the others have done, and see how diverse the groups of people are. Just as the theme of this year’s conference suggests: WATER COOPERATION – BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS, I think this conference itself, during this week and perhaps in the near future, is serving as a platform and bridge to bring possible partnerships.

I met and talked to a few senior experts in the fields of water, energy, ecology, etc. It was either inspiring or surprising. Inspired by those “old folks” with experiences and their encouragement; and sometimes surprised by very unexpected facts and knowledge that I would perhaps never know or imagine.

I also feel grateful that I have met many colourful and brilliant young people. They are high school students who have made very smart inventions to win the Junior Water Prize, passionate NGO members, versatile university students, leaders and organisers of youth events, etc. Young professionals, yes, they absolutely are.


The Princess of Sweden, Victoria, giving awards to winners of the Junior Water Prize

I hope this ending day is not a full stop but a comma or dash. Even when we have gone back to our normal daily life, we are all able to do something in our area to make our contributions to a better tomorrow in our own ways.

Day 4: The intergenerational panel

By Ponce Samaniego

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Photo by Youngjin Kim. Copyright 2013.

During Young Professionals Day at WWW, an Inter-generational dialogue between a “young professionals panel” and an “expert panel” was convened by the Stockholm International Water Institute, Water Youth Network, and World Youth Parliament for Water.

Part of the young professionals panel were ADB Youth Partners Rozemarijn ter Horst, Prabin Rokaya, and myself while ADB’s Principal Water Resources Specialist, Ian Makin, joined the expert panel.

The two panels, sitting on opposite sides of the table, shared their thoughts on the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus thinking as an approach to mainstream water management more holistically with different sectors and disciplines.

With the inter-generational dynamic at play, the dialogue proved to be one of the most exciting and engaging sessions in WWW. Controversial issues were raised by panelists and audience members, highlighting their opposing views between young and senior professionals.

It has been a very useful exercise to strengthen communication between groups that don’t always see eye to eye using an emerging concept, the WEF Nexus, as the topic. While inter-generational partnerships take time to develop, the dialogue provided a valuable platform to increase the awareness of the importance of involving youth in the different aspects of water management.

Day 4: Engaging in partnerships and learning from each other

By Apurva Sahu

It’s already 4th day of SWWW! Just one more day. I am so excited to share what i have listened to, seen, and discussed. I feel delighted to be an ADB Youth Partner at SWWW 2013.

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Keeping in with the central theme of the WWW 2013, the session on partnership for financing sanitation services in poor urban areas stressed the importance of cooperation, and shared knowledge and experience.  Mr. Patrick from the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre shared their experiences on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) services that should last long. They also presented the WASH calculator IRC developed. This app will help all professionals working in the WASH sector to plan better and evaluate sanitation and water services using cost and service level data. They added that this app was created with new grants from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Further in session, Mr. Guy Norman (Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor) raised the topic of public finances vs. private financing in the WASH sector. He also shared their experience on sanitation levy or sanitation tax to be implemented in water utility bills for the development of waste and sanitation sector in the poor and slum areas of the city. They showed a video to make delegates believe in the idea, and put forward the point that citizens actually like this idea of sanitation levy/tax. This will not only provide better sanitation services to the poor, but also create better environment.

During the same session the idea of an Eco School was also offered. The purpose of the school would be to train students on environmental and water related issues. It was also proposed that these topics should be included in the curriculum for schools. Such policies may also help in behavioral changes.

In the afternoon session, young professionals were involved in the intergenerational dialogue on “Water, Food and Energy Nexus” with the senior professionals. Among the panelists were Ian Makin (ADB), Sunita Narain (CSE) and the 2005 Stockholm Water Laureate to initiate the discussions.

Towards the end of the discussion, Sunita informed the juniors to beware of jargon being used, and be critical about whatever they listen to and see.