Posted by: Wasrag | April 12, 2012

News from the 6th World Water Forum.

Over 35,000 participants shared experiences and views on the most effective way of addressing the lack of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille last month.

The session on Rural Water Supply, of vital interest to Rotarians everywhere, was opened by the Hon. Minister Maria Mutagamba of the Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda. You will recall it was this minister who officially launched the Uganda Rotary Water Plus (URWP) program in Kampala late last year.Image

Ron Denham (Wasrag Chair), Jean Viste (DG – D-1760) and Elio Cerini (Director RI)

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Fundamental to achieving the MDGs for WaSH in Africa is participation of the women. “The water issue belongs to women: they go to get water and bring it back in a bucket” says Courtès Ketcha, mayor of Bangangté, Cameroon. Women are still under-represented in decision-making bodies, although they were identified as one of the nine “Major Groups” of Agenda 21 at the Rio Summit in 1992.

This session began with a parade of women and men carrying white signs on which important issues and feminist perspectives on the relation of women and water were presented. Then, experts and high-level female political officials supported these messages by providing concrete answers based on real-world contexts. Education appeared to be the main focus, but speakers also called for an integrated approach at the local level .

Participants proposed 85 solutions for improving rural water supply. These solutions can be sen on the website www.solutionsforwater.org/solutions.

A highlight of the Forum, for Rotarians especially, was a speech by RI Director Elio Cerini. He complemented the strong contingent of Rotarians from District 1760 who were represented at the Rotary booth all week, telling the Rotary WaSH story and signing up several new Wasrag members. Dr Cerini also spoke tellingly about Rotary’s commitment to water & sanitation, the Area of Focus, and the emerging role of The Rotary Foundation in encouraging large-scale WaSH projects, stressing sustainability and the importance of gender diversity.

Other topics during the week included Sustainable Groundwater Development, new standards for the Bush Pump and, critical for Rotarians, a discussion of life cycle costing sponsored by Coca Cola.

Many creative suggestions were advanced for encouraging sustainability. One novel approach came from Harold Lockwood, Director of Aquaconsult. Drawing a parallel with the financial industry where it had been suggested that bankers receive their bonuses only after a year or two after the fact to avoid short-term deals, he proposed that the final payment, or “sustainability” dividend be paid after several years. This would encourage recipients of grants – NGOs, Rotary clubs etc. – to make sure that things keep working!

Other major sessions focused on Household Water Treatment – a very relevant topic for all Rotarians.

In addition to hundreds of workshops, presentations, discussions and conferences, booths and displays featured relevant technology of especial interest in developing countries. Much original work has been sponsored by European organizations. The results of their work were on display. Brochures and DVDs were widely available. One especially interesting DVD and instruction manual featured “Manual Drilling of Boreholes”. This technique had been used by Rotarians from the RC of Olean, New York, with much success in West Africa. Costing about one-fifth of the price of conventional mechanically drilled wells, they have the added advantage of providing work, and income to the local inhabitants. This alone was worth “the price of admission”. UNICEF has been a strong proponent of this low-cost technology.  References to manual drilling, and instruction manuals are available from “Practica” a Netherlands-based NGO.

A tri-annual event, the 7th World Water Forum will be in Korea in 2015. Every Rotarian concerned with water, sanitation and hygiene should consider attending and Wasrag will again be represented.

RI was represented by Amanda Robertson, Manager of the US AID/Rotary collaboration, and by Ron Denham, Wasrag Chair.

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