The sun has returned to Stockholm, but that is of limited use to me now as I am busy with meetings all day and will not leave the Stockholm Conference Centre until dark.
The opening session started with an inspiring act with young people dressed in traditional dress dancing hip-hop. I like this fusion of old and new, young and old, something what could be one of the drivers for responsible water management.
Some of the messages from the opening session which resonated with me:
- Urban elites consider water a problem from the past. What a sharp contrast with the reality of so many of their fellow world citizens. More than half of the population in Africa - 60 percent - lives in slums. Worldwide this is 800 million;
- Urbanization with industrialization we know (e.g. Europe, USA, Japan, Korea and now China), Urbanization without industrialization is an ongoing experiment and is the driving force for urban slums. This was the key message from Joan Clos from UN habitat (www.unhabitat.org). Great speaker, who was able to convey complexity of Water in an Urbanizing world in simple messages. I learned a lot about the role of streets in urban planning;
- The current financial cries demonstrated that there is “surplus money” and there is a most definitely a need for sanitation and water services in urban slums, it lacks bankable projects to connect these two dots. The business community could/should be an engine for shaping such bankable projects. The development community would argue that there is not enough money as they rely on government funding, which is under pressure. UNDP is proposing a small water tax on those who are connected to fund development projects. Perhaps a combination of the two would be the jet fuel we are looking for;
- The simple message from Stephen Carpenter, the 2011 water prize laureate, was “it is phosphor stupid” (my words by the way). Phosphor is one of the most manipulated global cycles and brings water and food security together. A topic most certainly to be addressed in the Bonn Conference on Water, Food and Energy linkages.