Sep 07, 2010

Experts Convene at World Water Week to Address Global Water Challenges

About 2,500 experts gather for 20th-annual event, which opened with calls for better facilitated efforts addressing escalating global water challenges

Held under the theme, “Responding to Global Changes: The Water Quality Challenge,” World Water Week comes at a time when both water issues and their solutions are globally integrated and complex. The need to expand horizons beyond current spheres of cooperation gives participants at this year’s World Water Week a renewed drive to connect the dots to achieve the desired impact.

“Bad water kills more people than HIV, malaria and wars together, affecting the lives of families and the economic development of many countries around the world. We are also increasingly seeing that ecosystems and their services are being degraded by pollution, which will affect all functions of society,” said Anders Berntell, executive director of Stockholm International Water Institute, in his welcome address at the opening session.

World Water Week is designed to build capacity, promote partnerships and review progress on the correlations between water quality, access and related millennium development goals such as poverty reduction and public health. Other issues raised during the week include climate change adaptation, urbanization, water governance, the human rights to water and sanitation and the growing strategic water concerns for businesses.

More than 20 ministers, including the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson are joined by leading experts in Stockholm to address these issues.

“A great deal has happened since World Water Week was launched 20 years ago. For example, today, almost 2 billion more people have access to safe drinking water compared with 20 years ago, and around 1.5 billion more people have access to sanitation,” Carlsson said. “The provision of safe water has actually outperformed global population growth and given more than 8 million people, roughly the population of Sweden, access to safe water every month--for 20 years.”

The opening day included a speech by the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, Dr. Rita Colwell, who warned that shortcomings in addressing the water quality issue, coupled with climate changes, could lead to disastrous outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, which would in turn affect economic and national security. The opening day included a high-level panel debate on water quality, where, amongst other experts and policy makers, Hon. Charity Kaluki Ngilu, minister of water and irrigation, Kenya; and Jose Lopez, executive vice president, operations, Nestle, will discuss the causes of water pollution and how to address it against variables such as demographic and climate changes.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of both the World Water Week and the Stockholm Water Prize. A majority of the previous Stockholm Water Prize laureates are present in Stockholm in observance of the jubilee to share their solutions to future water challenges at a special laureates’ seminar later during the week in the presence of H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.