The UNU-IAS hosted a closed discussion session on innovative and feasible approaches to improving water environments in developing Asian cities on 23 January 2015, as part of the International Conference on Sustainability Science. The session deliberated on the importance of the urban water environment and diversity of pollutants to the water environment, technological innovation and application in managing the urban water environment, water quality and environmental sustainability indicators, and water-ecology oriented city planning. The session provided an opportunity for participants to critically assess sustainable urban development and its impact on water and human health, and consider creative responses to related challenges.
Prof. Chongrak Polprasert (Thammasat University) cautioned the lack of consideration for sewage systems in urban planning, water contamination by pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and hormones used in the fishery industry. He introduced innovative sanitation technologies, such as solar septic tanks, which are affordable and suitable for local use.
Prof. Chiho Watanabe (The University of Tokyo) presented on the increasing importance of considering subtle, long-term, broad health consequences, as well as water management in urban areas. He stressed the need to identify solutions to possible conflicts between health-seeking behaviour and environmental impacts through quantitative evaluations of the linkages between water and health.
Pointing out the challenge of lifestyle changes in modern society and the lack of funding to replenish natural resources, Mr. Surendra Shrestha (United Nations Environment Programme) encouraged using science to enhance traditional knowledge to increase self-sufficiency.
Dr. Srikantha Herath (UNU-IAS) recommended distributed control measures for water cycle management to supplement existing centralized schemes to address climate change and urbanization. He advocated trans-disciplinary approaches and multi-purpose solutions that create benefits and incentives for the general public to participate.
Prof. Kazuo Yamamoto (The University of Tokyo; Asian Institute of Technology) addressed the value of clean water environments in cities from various perspectives. He spoke of the importance of intensive technological assistance and considering location and locality when applying solutions.
During the panel discussion moderated by Prof. Kensuke Fukushi (The University of Tokyo; UNU-IAS), participants discussed the challenges of, as well as countermeasures against, the deterioration of urban water environments, and how to increase the value of urban water. Prof. Polprasert underscored the importance of public awareness and political attention regarding urban water issues. Prof. Watanabe stressed the need for future projections on population trend changes in urban planning. Mr. Shrestha noted the opportunity that lies ahead for sustainable urban development planning with 60 per cent of cities yet to be built, and 80 per cent of Asia’s population to be living in urban areas. Acknowledging the difficulty of advocacy for water, Dr. Herath suggested bringing together potential solutions that have been successful in different parts of the world. Emphasizing the importance of onsite treatment, Prof. Yamamoto cited the Japanese septic tank (jokaso) system as an example of a public-private partnership that addresses operation and maintenance issues.
Presentation abstracts and presenters’ profile can be downloaded from the below links.
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UNU-IAS co-organized this event as part of the Water and Urban Initiative (WUI). The WUI project aims to provide policy tools and an information platform that assists developing countries in planning and implementing environmental policies for sustainable development.