SWEDEN - World leaders, water experts and development professionals have gathered in Stockholm to discuss and jointly find solutions to the world’s several escalating water crises.
The 2015 World Water Week, themed Water for Development, welcomes over 3,000 participants from more than 120 countries to the Swedish capital, representing governments, academia, international organisations, civil society, the corporate sector, and many others.
The role of water for development cannot be overestimated - for drinking, food production, hygiene and biosecurity. However, it is also central to economic and social development, sustainable growth, and a prerequisite for healthy ecosystems.
In a statement marking the event, Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute said: "Water not only quenches our thirst, but is at the very foundation of our ability to feed the world.
"About 84 per cent of global consumptive use of water goes toward agricultural purposes.
"Today, in the face of a growing global population and climate change that threatens farmers’ ability to grow food, it’s more important than ever that we work to achieve sustainable management of water as well as food security—key elements of the Sustainable Development Goals.
"One starting point will be to find ways to encourage sustainable, efficient, and equitable water use."
This year, a decision on the Sustainable Development Goals will be followed by a new climate deal at COP21 in France. Water’s role in these processes, and in development, is crucial.
With water availability severely altered by climate change, and a growing world population needing more food and demanding more goods and services, time is not on our side.
“From the Horn of Africa, over the Sahel, to São Paulo, California and China, people’s perseverance is being tested.
"We can no longer take a steady water supply for granted. The many local water crises today combine into a severe global water situation of great concern to all of us,” Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) told the opening session of the meeting.
In his opening address, the Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven said: “When the international community is shaping a new sustainable development agenda, water management and allocation must be at its heart. Not only as a separate goal but as an essential vehicle for development and health.”
Painting a very serious picture when talking about climate change and the effect it has on his small island nation, the President of the Marshall Islands, Christopher J. Loeak said: “We are a country contemplating a future where we are literally being wiped off the map of the world.
"As the leader of my country I cannot look my people in the eyes and with good conscience say that everything will be OK, when I know the world continues to travel down a very destructive path.”
President Loeak underlined the great importance of reaching an ambitious climate agreement during the upcoming COP21 in France.
The Prime Minister of Jordan, Abdulla Ensour (pictured above), described the extreme pressure his country is under due to the combination of water scarcity and a very large refugee population, and emphasised the importance of regional cooperation over water.
Peru’s Minister of State for Environment and President of the COP20, Manuel Gerardo Pedro Pulgar-Vidal Otálora, echoed the words of several of the speakers and added weight to the argument that water must be made a key player in the climate debate.
Top image credit: Thomas HenriksonThePoultrySite News Desk