, August 20, 2009 (ENS) - A sanitation pioneer and innovator was the center of attention tonight at a royal banquet in Stockholm held as part of World Water Week.
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, received the US$150,000 Stockholm Water Prize from H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden at the award ceremony and royal banquet.
Dr. Pathak is known for his work to improve public health, advance social progress, and improve human rights in India and elsewhere. He has taught sanitation technology, social enterprise, and healthcare to millions of people. His work serves as a model for NGO agencies and public health initiatives around the world.
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, left, receives the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize from H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden. (Photo courtesy SIWI)
"If water is honored by the Prize being named after it, the importance of sanitation, its sibling, cannot be left far behind," Dr. Pathak said in his acceptance speech. "The two complement rather than compete with each other."
"Provision of sanitation provides dignity and safety, especially to women, and reduction of child mortality," he said. "As a matter of fact, safe water and sanitation go hand in hand for improvement of community health."
In seminars, workshops, and side events during World Water Week, participants have explored the causes, health impacts and possible solutions to inadequate sanitation.
Lack of sanitation currently affects more than 2.6 billion people, kills over 5,000 children daily, and causes the illnesses that fill half of the hospital beds in the developing world.
Often citing the common toilet as one of civilization's most significant advances, Dr. Pathak has led the development of cost-effective and culturally appropriate toilets and related treatment systems to replace the traditional unsanitary bucket latrines in poor communities throughout India.
Dr. Pathak has popularized technologies that convert waste from the toilets into biogas for heating, cooking, and generating electricity.
He has developed environmentally balanced wastewater treatment based on a duckweed and fish raising ecosystem that provides economic opportunities for rural poor communities.
"The correlation between sanitation and disease is dramatic and unmistakable," said Anders Berntell, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, which hosts the annual World Water Week.
"Yet, at the current rate of progress," he warned, "we are going to miss the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation by more than 700 million people, leaving still 2.4 billion people without adequate sanitation by 2015, about the same number as today."
In 2000, world leaders approved the eight Millennium Development Goals - end poverty and hunger, universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, global partnership - and set a target date for their accomplishment, 2015.
In July, more than halfway to the 2015 deadline, a UN progress report showed "major advances in the fight against poverty and hunger have begun to slow or even reverse as a result of the global economic and food crises."
The assessment, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva, advises that, despite many successes, overall progress has been "too slow for most of the targets to be met by 2015."
"By any standard, this is unacceptable," said Berntell. "We need the political will to translate our intentions into meaningful action."
"The sanitation problem has a complex solution," said Jon Lane, executive director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. "If it was easy it would have been done by now. It needs a systemic intervention. This involves politicians, educationalists, marketers, entrepreneurs, technologists, financiers and philanthropists. Each has a particular role to play."
Peter Forssman, Chairman of Stockholm Water Foundation, left, with the Marvin DeVries, President of Trojan Technologies (Photo courtesy SIWI)
The Stockholm Industry Water Award ceremony on Wednesday honored Trojan Technologies of Canada, the 2009 winner.
Based in Ontario, Canada, Trojan produces ultraviolet, UV, disinfection systems for industrial applications, municipal water and wastewater treatment, commercial integration, residential use, and elimination of environmental contaminants from wells and other sources of drinking water, including reused water.
The jury responded to Trojan's installed systems at more than 5,800 facilities in more than 80 countries. Trojan has led the worldwide drive for commercial, engineering, and regulatory acceptance of the technology as an environmentally sound alternative to traditional chlorine-based water treatment.
"The business world is coming to a new consensus about water," said Berntell. "What was once just a discrete problem of corporate social responsibility for bottlers and beverage companies is now a mission-critical issue for every company, in every industry. The business leaders here at World Water Week are looking to answer hard questions because they know that being responsible stewards of water is really a matter of enlightened management."
"Water quality and its sustainable use is an urgent global problem. There is a pressing need for clear principles and tools for achieving and demonstrating progress towards sustainable water management," said Anne-Leonore Boffi at the launch Thursday of a new report, "Water for Business: Initiatives Guiding Sustainable Water Management in the Private Sector,"
The report was jointly developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, WBCSD, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN.
It identifies 16 initiatives or tools, driven by business leaders, civil society and governments, which have emerged since 2006.
These initiatives include the WBCSD Global Water Tool, which helps companies map their water use and assess water risks and opportunities across their global operations.
Mark Smith, head of IUCN's Water Program, said, "There is a real opportunity now for business and advocates of sustainable development to work together, to accelerate learning and action that will help in responding effectively to water challenges around the world."
And, the Helsinki Commission, HELCOM, has been named the winner of the 2009 Swedish Baltic Sea Water Award for its work towards halting the Baltic's deterioration and improving its ecological balance.
The award was announced today by the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson at the Baltic Sea Seminar during the 2009 World Water Week.
HELCOM works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental co-operation between Denmark, Estonia, the European Community, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden.
The shallow sea and its catchment area, are home to over 85 million people. The sea currently suffers from extensive eutrophication from phosphate pollution that causes large-scale algae blooms, as well as overfishing, oil spills, waste from cruise ships, and an oxygen depleted-seabed, among other problems.
The Swedish Baltic Sea Water Award Jury in its citation said, "HELCOM has shown exemplary commitment to improving the Baltic Sea through the adoption of the Baltic Sea Action Plan. The Action Plan takes on the complexity of issues that need to be addressed in an innovative manner, linking it to ongoing initiatives and becoming the backbone of the environmental actions in the coming Baltic Sea Strategy."
HELCOM will receive the award at a ceremony in Stockholm on September 17 in connection with a dinner hosted by EU Minister Cecilia Malmström on the eve of a Ministerial Conference on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea region. H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will personally present the award.
The outcome of World Water Week, a document called The Stockholm Statement, will be issued Friday, emphasizing the importance of water to be properly and adequately reflected within the global climate agreement to be finalized in Copenhagen in December.
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.
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