It is an open door to say water is the a primary source of life. Although this is undeniably true, it is rather one dimensionally. During Youth Water Leaders Summit 2014 in Singapore I learned this unidirectional statement does not reflect the full potential of water in the world, in the society and in our everyday lives.
Living in a flood prone country like the Netherlands, water is occasionally regards a threat instead of an opportunity. The Netherlands are not alone in this, many people around the world face problems regarding floods, water scarcity, clean drinking water and sanitation. Especially in traditional urban development, water has therefore been excluded from the city instead of incorporated in the urban landscape. These diverse aspects of water cause water to be more than a physical aspect. By differences in the perception of water, it becomes close to emotion and causes water to be multidisciplinary and personally unique for all people involved.
Singapore’s recent developments are an excellent example to show how the natural river flow can be used as an opportunity in urban development and how the threat of flooding can be reversed to supply drinking water in times of water scarcity. Furthermore, interconnections between water, nature and recreation hold huge opportunities to stimulate societal interactions and to create a healthy environment to live in. When talking to the people of Singapore, these used opportunities not only contribute to a livable city but also makes the inhabitants proud. So besides a physical aspect, water is an indispensible aspect of our everyday lives which can become a connecting element in the society.
Potential climate change and rapid urban development put pressure on these opportunities. Because of the multidimensional properties of water, this implies more than simply 50cm of sea level rise and 2 million extra people. To mitigate these challenges and reverse them into opportunities, it requires a multidisciplinary approach and a radical new way of making use of water. This emphasizes the urge to work together. Not only multidisciplinary, but also across cultures and across generations. Making a better world for our children has been a common phrase in achieving new cooperation. As Young Water Leaders, we are eager to join the conversation and invite all current water leaders to share thoughts which young professionals and build these new partnerships. In that way, we can not only create a better world for future generations but start building a better world today.
By Gerbert Pleijter