World Water Day Webinar Explores Links Between Water, COVID-19 and the SDGs

The event discussed the linkages between water and COVID-19 from multiple perspectives and strategies to achieve SDG 6.

On 22 March 2022, UNU-IAS organised a webinar on the theme ‘Water, the SDGs, and COVID-19’ to celebrate World Water Day 2022. The event brought together experts from the private sector, academia, and international organisations to discuss the interplay between water and COVID-19 from multiple perspectives, and to share strategies to achieve SDG 6 (Clean Water & Sanitation). The webinar was co-organised with the Global Environment Outreach Centre (GEOC) and UN-Water.

In opening remarks, Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director, UNU-IAS) highlighted the importance of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources including groundwater, and pointed out the need for interdisciplinary collaboration across sectors and science-based solutions to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. She affirmed UNU-IAS’s commitment to sustainable water management through research.

Keynote speeches were delivered by Taikan Oki (Professor, University of Tokyo; former Senior Vice Rector, UNU) and Tomochika Tokunaga (Professor, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo). Mr Oki outlined the impacts of COVID-19 on the progress toward achieving SDG 6 and other Global Goals related to poverty and hunger, emphasising their interconnectedness. He reviewed water-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and lessons learned. Mr Tokunaga discussed the role of groundwater in advancing SDG 6. He explained that groundwater was part of the hydrologic cycle and interacted with surface water systems, noting that numerical simulations of groundwater behaviour could help local authorities in tsunami emergency response.

Kensuke Fukushi (Academic Programme Advisor, UNU-IAS; Professor, Institute for Future Initiatives) provided an update on the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal. Mr Fukushi noted that the event had attracted a diverse group of participants from around the world eager to discuss water issues in person.

The first panel discussion focused on the role of the private sector in advancing SDG 6 and was moderated by Takashi Hashimoto (Lecturer, University of Tokyo). Yasuhiro Matsui (Manager, Innovation Center, Marketing Division, Yokogawa Electric Corporation) and Koichi Matsubara (Deputy General Manager, Overseas Water Supply Dpt., Nihon Suido Consultants Co., Ltd.) conveyed the need for digitalised monitoring and improved efficiency of water utilities through better financial management.

The discussion on the role of science and education was moderated by Geetha Mohan (Research Fellow, UNU-IAS) and featured three presenters — Jiaqi Liu (JSPS Fellow, UNU-IAS), Thammarat Koottatep (Professor, Asian Institute of Technology), and Kumiko Oguma (Professor, University of Tokyo) who shared their insights on the global impacts of COVID-19 on water quality, and the inequality of access to drinking water and handwashing.

The final session moderated by Jonghwi Park (Academic Programme Officer, UNU-IAS) focused on the efforts of international organisations in achieving SDG 6. Rio Hada (Team Lead, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), Kaoru Takahashi (Water Aid Japan), and Sadhana Shrestha (JSPS Fellow, UNU-IAS) agreed that water inequalities needed to be addressed to build back better. To improve access to water, local stakeholders should be engaged in infrastructure design, and research-based interventions must be developed.

A recording of the event is available on the UNU-IAS YouTube Channel.

Presentations from the event are available on the Related Files tab.