Friday June 15, Rio De Janeiro, Impanema district. My first walk around the town leads me to the “favela” or shanty town close by. It is located on a hill, so I take the elevator to the top. From the elevator, the view across Ipanema and Cocacabana is breath-taking. The favelas of Rio are like islands, most often located on the numerous hills of Rio city. Noticing the security standing at the entrance of the favela, I worry that my adventure may be reckless for a foreigner traveling alone.
As discussed in my previous post, there are a number of ways to finance water projects. However the topic of what options cash-strapped municipalities with low or non-existent credit ratings have for financing their water projects requires a more intensive look. This is a big concern for municipalities around the world because they need to somehow finance expensive water and sanitation projects, such as putting in new pipes to expand water and sanitation coverage and maintaining and updating aging infrastructure. Following the session on “Where Does the Money Come From? Moving Forward on Strategic Financial Planning for Water” at the 6th World Water Forum, I sought to find the answer to this question.
As the final plenary session of the conference ends, some key issues emerged for us to contemplate on and incorporate in our everyday lives. Power of the individual : Across academics and politicians, the general consensus is the need for not only systemic change but also transformative change. As Marilyn Mehlman says, there is a great need to face our fear of being one small entity in the society and doubt our potential as change agents. But we should think of ourselves as having the dexterity of a spoonful of yogurt has in transforming a bucket of milk to yogurt. It is time for us to bridge our differences and work as one planet.
Champagne glasses, cats, frogs, pigs and horses : One of the most visually enticing keynote addresses in the Forum creatively links natural resource consumption and conservation, policy directives, economics, dematerialization and sustainable living with images of the animal world. Creating powerful imagery, Professor Ashok Khosla persuaded his audience of the pressing need to change our entrenched value systems, our perceptions and prejudices of our present surroundings. Through the sessions of the WRF 2011, I have heard politicians, academics, students and the youth spreading ideas on economic growth with resource management but Khosla for a change, shows through example what he has been able to achieve. His office building is one such example. Built out of ash, recycled waste and recycled construction material, it fosters the message of green building, as it consumes 40% less energy and at 50% less construction costs.
Ask yourself two important questions: Is the quality of my life better than the life of my grandparents? Will the life of my grandchildren be better than mine? Although the first one can be answered without hesitation, the second one may cause puzzlement. Both were directed towards the audience of the World Resources Forum by Prof. Mohan Munasinghe and both were to deal with the human’s inborn greed: for development and for natural resources. The main disease from which our generation is suffering from is the greed: borrowing from the future changes the world for worse.
Inclusive sustainable development has become the buzz word for conferences. The consensus among various stakeholders remains the same: there is a crucial need to change the infrastructure of developing countries if environment resources need to be preserved, protected and efficiently utilized. Also, developed countries have become more receptive to the idea of engaging with the environment not just on a policy level but also on a grass-roots level through civil society initiatives. But what is interesting to note are the conflicting positions of academics and political leaders. In the opening session of the World Resources Forum, Alicia Kaudia, Environment Secretary Kenya spoke on bridging the technological gap between the developed and the developing world.
What is the recipe for prosperity? What is essential for development and growth? Unbelievable though it may sound, the answer is consumption. Not consumption in general, but only sustainable consumption within overall limits imposed by nature. This type of consumption can bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
Dr. Alice Kaudia, Environment Secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources Kenya believes in the bottom of the pyramid approach towards sustainable development. In a imperfect world where per capita incomes decide the future of the environment, it is very interesting to know that Dr. Kaudia’s approach integrates issues of food and nutritional security, energy, water, waste management, information and knowledge management for the grass-roots population. I am seeking answers to the question of how can the poor lead a sustainable life when their economic challenges impact their socio-economic growth and development? What are the methods through which efficient use of resources can be ensured? How do you educate people cannot afford or do not have access to basic health care, sanitation and water.