‘As SI NFGL members, we must do our part for population wellness’

'As SI NFGL members, we must do our part for population wellness'
Didn't make it to World Water Week? Andres Suarez, SI NFGL member from Colombia and chemical engineer, reflects upon what he learned at the event.

I am Andres Suarez from Bogota, Colombia. I am studying MSc. in Chemical Engineering for Environment and Energy at KTH in Stockholm. I am interested on Industrial process design and optimization because I think industrial development can increase the world’s wealth but in a sustainable way.

Why did you attend World Water Week, Andres? 

I think that most people are aware about the future of water. We are living in times where lots of people struggle with the scarcity of water, and there are catastrophes around the world related to water and climate change.

As a Chemical Engineer, my work is sometimes related to water networks and water treatment. However, a large number of water systems around the world are not sustainable, and new developments and regulations are required if we want to ensure water and sanitation for future generations. It is not an easy challenge, but during World Water Week, the exchange of ideas and knowledge between different parties for the creation of a framework based on actions and projects was possible

What did you hope to learn/experience while you were there?

World Water Week was a high-level event where international organizations, researchers and government representatives shared their experience and knowledge on sustainable water development. I had the opportunity to learn about the development of water systems, especially how to integrate this system with waste and energy management. I was surprised how engineers and scientists can contribute enormously to the Sustainable Development Goals given by United Nations, with infrastructure design for food, water and energy security as well as inequity reduction and improving social behaviors. I realized that all of us can be catalysts for a better world.

What were the main topics being discussed? Why are they important?

The main topic was water for sustainable growth. This topic involves a lot of issues like regulation, international cooperation, technology, implementation, inequity reduction, poverty reduction, systems integration and water assurance. These are important because, overall, they are the framework to create a sustainable world based on resource optimization and welfare. Water involves different challenges in technology, environment, society, politics that need to be coordinated.

What was your favourite session? What was the most interesting or had the biggest impact?

I really enjoyed the opening plenary on Monday. It was the perfect event to listen to different views from different organizations about our role and responsibilities in the field of Water and Sanitation Security. The mayor of Stockholm, Ms. Karin Wanngård, talked about the importance of water for Stockholm and how the city will transform for the future, where sustainability is a must. Water security brings peace, food and health security. Political will is required for the implementation of different projects, especially in developing countries. Moreover, there is a significant awareness about new pathogens, as they can be a threat for humanity.

How do you think what you learned at World Water Week will inform your time in Sweden?

Thanks to World Water Week, I learned a broad perspective about the different challenges and problems for water and sanitation security. Now, I think that we can contribute a lot for the world sustainability in different projects where we will be involved. The implementation of different ways to develop projects is required, where water is considered a valuable source and the environmental impact is lowered without sacrificing profits.

As a MSc. Student in chemical engineering, I will take this knowledge from World Water Week for the design of better chemical and industrial processes.

What was your overall impression of the event? What did you learn?

Water scarcity will risk food, energy and health security. The world has developed various technological improvements to deal with most of water challenges. Nevertheless, political will and finances are the biggest absents in the majority of projects. We already know that our current habits are not sustainable, and also the importance of water in our life, but we need to act as a community to demand, develop and implement new water policies and technologies. If we wait maybe it will be too late. As SI NFGL community members, we must work for population wellness.

Anything else to add?

World Water Week was held with a considerable absence of the private sector. It was a surprise but also it showed a problem in the integration of different parties in water development. Communication and collaboration is fundamental for the implementation of projects, regulations and methodologies that will lead to sustainable water and sanitation security. Additionally, it is important to engage the population in the Sustainable Development Goals and the different agreements that are signed in international organizations like UN.