UNU water projects will be presented at 2015 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The event is an annual meeting point for thousands of experts, practitioners, decision-makers, and organizations to focus on today’s most pressing water-related challenges, solutions and innovations.
Almost 1000 children under five die each day from diarrhoea caused by contaminated water. More than 2.4 billion people have no access to sanitation. And as populations grow, water is set to become a new source of danger and conflict, especially in rapidly expanding urban areas of Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.
Meanwhile, as climate change accelerates, we are likely to see more extreme and frequent droughts, floods and typhoons. People in emerging economies are likely to be the hardest hit by water-related disasters.
To help national governments and the global community prepare and respond to these challenges, UNU carries out research and training on numerous water-related issues. Using the latest evidence-based research, UNU institutes feed into policy planning worldwide. They provide economic, political and social recommendations to help ensure human development, survival and welfare.
As of 2015, UNU institutes, including the UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) in Japan, the UNU Institute for Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) in Canada and the UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) in Ghana, lead a total of 60 water projects. Of these, 24 broadly focus on Asia, 16 on Africa, and eight on the Americas.
The UNU-IAS Water and Urban Initiative (WUI) is one of these projects. Inappropriate urban development, where industrialization coupled with climate change makes it difficult to secure sound water environments, poses a long-term environmental and health risk to rapidly growing populations. WUI seeks to provide an information platform and integrated policy tools that contribute to capacity building in Asia’s developing countries. The initiative aims to improve urban water environments by focusing on population growth, urbanization and low-carbon measures.
The use of water for development is a theme in two other projects, at the UNU Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT) — one focusing on India and the other on Kenya. The ‘FINISH’ and ‘FINISH-INK’ projects aim to improve not only sanitation but also regional economies, helping local engineers and entrepreneurs design, build and service modern toilets. Working with partners such as NGOs, government agencies and international organizations, including UNICEF, FINISH India builds one toilet every 3–4 minutes. The ultimate goal is to build half a million by 2016.
Yet water is just one piece of the puzzle for both development and the environment. Hence the ‘Nexus Approach’ designed by the Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) in Germany, which aims to encourage more sustainable management of water, soil and waste, while working with partners like the UN Environment Programme and UNESCO. The approach is based on the understanding that environmental resources are inextricably linked and therefore need to be governed in an integrated way.
For more information on 2015 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, visit the event website.