Global water conference opens in Stockholm

Water management issues must be an integral part of sustainable development and ought to be adapted to take specific country situations into account, experts said as a World Water Week conference opened in Stockholm on Monday.

Some 1.4 billion people in the world, primarily in Asia and Africa, have no access to clean water while 2.6 billion have no basic sanitary system, according to Jamal Saghir, the head of water issues at the World Bank.

Three million children die each year because they have no clean drinking water, he added.

Saghir said water management, seen as the key to fighting poverty and promoting economic growth, must be synonymous with sustainable development.

“The World Bank will not grant loans to projects that don’t respect the rules” of international development, he warned, stressing the importance of prioritizing the funding of supply services over infrastructures.

“Why have pipes if they are empty,” he said.

Swedish Environment Minister Lena Sommestad also insisted on the need to focus on long-term goals.

“Democracy is also an important aspect and women must be involved,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sunita Narain, whose Indian environmental organization The Center for Science and Environment won this year’s 150,000-dollar Stockholm Water Prize for its work to improve water management, stressed that a country’s level of development must be considered when finding solutions.

Narain, an ardent promoter of rainwater harvesting in her native country, told the conference that the Western model was not necessarily the best solution for other countries.

“It is not enough to tell us ‘build the infrastructures and bring in the private sector’. The water problem is more complicated. Please do not give us easy answers,” she said, adding: “We can’t afford the modern system.”

This week’s conference gathers some 1,200 experts from 100 countries until Friday.



Green Party leader: ‘Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament’

Per Bolund, joint leader of Sweden's Green party, spoke for thirteen and a half minutes at Almedalen before he mentioned the environment, climate, or fossil fuels, in a speech that began by dwelling on healthcare, women's rights, and welfare, before returning to the party's core issue.

Green Party leader: 'Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament'

After an introduction by his joint leader Märta Stenevi, Bolund declared that his party was going into the election campaign on a promise “to further strengthen welfare, with more staff and better working conditions in healthcare, and school without profit-making, where the money goes to the pupils and not to dividends for shareholders”. 

Only then did he mention the party’s efforts when in government to “build the world’s first fossil-free welfare state”. 

“We know that if we want welfare to work in the future, we must have an answer to our time’s biggest crisis: the threat to the environment and the climate,” he said.

“We know that there is no welfare on a dead planet. We need to take our society into a new time, where we end our dependency on oil, meet the threat to the climate, and build a better welfare state within nature’s boundaries, what we call a new, green folkhem [people’s home].” 

He presented green policies as something that makes cities more liveable, with the new sommargågator — streets pedestrianised in the summer — showing how much more pleasant a life less dependent on cars might be.  

He then said his party wanted Sweden to invest 100 billion kronor a year on speeding up the green transition, to make Sweden fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

“We talk about the climate threat because it’s humanity’s biggest challenge, our biggest crisis,” he said. “And because we don’t have much time.” 

In the second half of his speech, however, Bolund used more traditional green party rhetoric, accusing the other political parties in Sweden of always putting off necessary green measures, because they do not seem urgent now, like a middle-aged person forgetting to exercise. 

“We know that we need to cut emissions radically if we are even going to have a chance of meeting our climate goal, but for all the other parties there’s always a reason to delay,” he said. 

“We are now seeing the curtain go up on the backlash in climate politics in Sweden. All the parties have now chosen to slash the biofuels blending mandate which means that we reduce emissions from petrol and diesel step for step, so you automatically fill your tank in a greener way. Just the government’s decision to pause the  reduction mandate will increase emissions by a million tonnes next year.” 

The right-wing parties, he warned, were also in this election running a relentless campaign against the green party. 

“The rightwing parties seem to have given up trying to win the election on their own policies,” he said. “Trying to systematically push out of parliament seems to be their way of trying to take power. And they don’t seem above any means. Slander campaigns, lies, and false information have become every day in Swedish right-wing politics.” 

He ended the speech with an upbeat note. 

“A better, more sustainable world is possible. There is a future to long for. If you give us a chance then that future is much closer than you think!”

Read the speech here in Swedish and here in (Google Translated) English.