2nd Asia Pacific Youth Parliament for WaterBy Sajid Iqbal
From the outer space, the earth appears to be dark blue because 71 percent of the planet constitutes of water. But only 2.5 per cent of the total volume is made up of freshwater resources. Of these freshwater resources, 70 percent is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover in mountainous regions, the Antarctic and Arctic regions. Around 30 percent of the world’s freshwater is stored underground in the form of groundwater. The total usable freshwater supply for ecosystems and humans is less than 1 percent of all freshwater resources. Humans are over-consuming natural resources at an unsustainable rate. Water scarcity already affects almost every continent and more than 40 percent of the people on our planet. According to UN Water, by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
Since we have a very limited amount of water, it has to be used very efficiently to meet the demands. Because of the population pressure, increasing pollution, industrialisation, agricultural production and climate change impacts, there is a scarcity of water in different parts of the world. To solve water related problems and to secure the future, every three years, World Water Council organises the World Water Forum where thousands of diplomats, researchers, experts and civil society representatives gather together to discuss various water related issues, brainstorm ideas, action plans and come up with declarations and outcomes. The 6th World Water Forum took place in Marseille, France in March, 2012 and the 7th World Water Forum is scheduled to be held in Seoul, South Korea in 2015.
The 2nd Asia Pacific Youth Parliament for Water which took place in Seoul, South Korea from 3rd to 7th July 2013 is an important segment of the 7th World Water Forum. This year the APYPW was attended by many young delegates from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries in Asia. It aims to provide a platform for the young environmental activists to address water issues. This programme was jointly organised by the Korea Water Forum, Ministry of Environment, Republic of Korea, Korea University and other sponsors. The Youth Parliament has a model similar to the World Water Forum where high level government officials, diplomats take part in discussions regarding water planning and development.
In the 2nd APYPW, there were four thematic commissions: Climate Change and Water Storage/Disasters; Integrated Water Resource Management; Cities, Urbanisation and Governance / Policy; and Legislation & Institution / Transboundary Cooperation. For four days, youth delegates representing their countries shared their stories, ideas, problems, solutions and came up with effective commission declarations. As participants, we also got the opportunity to learn various, little discussed issues from experts and researchers t who have been working as water professionals for a long time and have been internationally acclaimed for their contributions.
Dr Gil-Hong Kim, Director, Sustainable Infrastructure Division of Asian Development Bank gave a key note lecture on ‘Water Challenges and Empowering the Youth’. Dr Kim not only discussed about the challenges, present water status and situations but also emphasised the role of youths who can really make a difference in achieving the water goals. He also mentioned that ADB has a fund for research and pilot study for young people, and also called for innovative ideas. Beside sessions and discussions, we got the opportunity to visit the Ministry of Environment, K-Water institute and Dams to understand the water management system of South Korea.
On the concluding day, the parliamentarians gathered at the National Assembly Memorial Hall and the official declaration was passed through a voting session where Mr. Seong Kyu Yoon, Minister of Environment, Republic of Korea; Mr. Jung-moo Lee, President, Korea Water Forum and Mr. Yoon Seok Lee, President, National Assembly Environment Forum were present.
I like to believe that in future, the water crisis will be resolved given we step forward at this pace by involving different stakeholders with the international water advocacy. I strongly believe that our unity, dedication and most importantly the spirit to make a positive change will lead us to shape a peaceful world where no one will have to dream of water or die of thirst. Let’s start acting from today through simple steps like reducing the misuse of water from baths and washes that could save hundred gallons of water. We should bear in mind that water is life and water is limited, each and every drop counts.
Sajid Iqbal is the founder of CHANGE
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