Urgent action must be taken to ensure clean, safe water for all, and the world needs to work together to ensure this finite life-sustaining resource – the lifeblood of our civilisations, economies and communities – is preserved for future generations.
That was the call from global experts attending Expo Talks: Water, a virtual event held by Expo 2020 Dubai, in association with the Office of the UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, that gathered experts from across the planet, including His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, Head of State of the Principality of Monaco, to seek collaborative solutions to better preserve and sustainably manage water globally.
Taking place one day after World Water Day, Expo Talks: Water, available on demand, explored the myriad ways in which water touches every aspect of human development, links with most of the Sustainable Development Goals and is essential to our hopes of a safe, clean and healthy future for people and planet.
Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai and Chair of the National Committee on the Sustainable Development Goals, said: “There is an urgency to our looming global water crisis, and this is not only an economic challenge, but a question of justice, fairness and equity. How will we guarantee everyone access to this life-sustaining resource – no matter their place in the world? If we all commit to this shared global responsibility, the solutions lie within our grasp.”
Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, said: “We are living at a time when the ability of global communities around the world to access fresh water is increasingly under threat. Climate change is driving a shift in weather patterns that is resulting in increased droughts, more extreme weather events and rising desertification. The UAE knows only too well the pressures from having a lack of fresh water. However, we have been able to show the world what is possible with the application of innovation and technology.
“Water security forms a nexus with energy and food security, with any action in one having a reaction in the other two. That is why we need to tackle water security as part of a holistic effort. Expo 2020 represents the ideal forum for the world to discuss this issue and showcase inspiring new ideas, enabling us to create a synergistic effect – but we must act now if we are to affect meaningful change.”
Expo Talks: Water spanned topics from sanitation to food security and conservation to clean oceans, featuring experts from around the world, including pioneering oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle, former Chief Scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, who addressed the need to protect the world’s oceans.
“Healthy people need healthy water, and so do all other living things,” Dr Earle said. “We must protect the waters of the world as if our lives depend on it, because they do.”
The event also spotlighted projects already supported by Expo 2020 through its global innovation and partnership programme, Expo Live, and via the Global Best Practice Programme (GBPP). These include the Nimr Water Treatment Plant – a sustainable constructed wetland that treats oil-contaminated water ecologically and has transformed arid desert into a resilient eco-system.
As a professional services and technical solutions provider, Jacobs – part of the Jacobs Mace joint venture serving as Expo 2020’s Official Programme Delivery Management Provider – shares pioneering work with the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium. Jacobs provided design and engineering services to deliver the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS) in the UAE – the world’s first bioenergy facility to produce aviation fuel and food using saltwater and maximising the desert ecosystem.
International Participants – including Hungary, Panama, Peru and Portugal – shared their strategies for ensuring their communities have access to safe and affordable water and sanitation. Norway, whose pavilion at Expo will focus on ocean conservation and country’s seafaring heritage, brought together a panel of scientists, ocean advocates and policy-makers to discuss how protecting the ocean from climate change, overfishing and pollution is key to solving many other issues facing the world.
A World Majlis session looked at the increasing threat to our oceans from climate change, and collected experts and thought-leaders, including Expo Partners DP World and DEWA, to probe how we can turn the tide of water pollution, including innovative economic and policy initiatives.
Attendees were also given a glimpse of ‘Hammour House’, Expo 2020’s unique community art project that uses marine debris and is designed to raise awareness of ocean pollution and promote marine conservation.
Expo Talks: Water was the tenth and final in the series thematic talks – launched in October 2020 with Space – that have brought together influential policy-makers, thought-leaders, Expo participants and the public to help shape the thought-provoking content and conversations taking place during Expo 2020.
Running from 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai will seek collaborative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems – including weeks dedicated to Climate and Biodiversity, Knowledge and Learning, and Water – to help build a cleaner, safer and healthier future for all.