Monday 25 August 2008

Stockholm World Water Week

Sunday 17 August
Arrived in Stockholm last night for the World Water Week and, judging by the programme, it’s going to be a busy week! There’s a special focus this year on sanitation (see the WWW ‘Theme Sheet’ on sanitation, health and hygiene) – quite right too as it’s IYS2008!

In the afternoon I attended the IWA session for Young Water Professionals and gave a short talk on a career in academia. Afterwards I met up with many friends and colleagues in the foyer/exhibition area.

Monday 18 August
I went to the launch (actually a sort of pre-launch) of the outcome of a study on the benefit-cost ratios of sanitation − well, really the economic costing of sanitation interventions and methods for attempting to quantify their socio-economic benefits. Quite disappointing as the methodology given for economic costing was no different from that applied to sanitation 30 years ago by Dr DeAnne Julius, who was the lead economist on John Kalbermatten’s 1976-78 World Bank research project on low-cost sanitation (details here – chapter 4 of Appropriate Sanitation Alternatives: A Planning and Design Manual, John Hopkins University Press, 1982). And the benefits weren’t clearly quantified either. I guess this is what you get when you let economists work on their own without any technical input from low-cost sanitation engineers − something that John Kalbermatten didn’t let happen .

In the early evening I participated in the launch of the WHO-IDRC-FAO Information Kit on the WHO Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater in Agriculture and Aquaculture – a basic introduction to the Guidelines (including a nicely printed version of my Guide to the Guidelines – however, this new version is not yet available on the WHO website as a downloadable pdf).

Tuesday 19 August
In the afternoon I went to (and was a panellist at) the session Europe’s Sanitation Problem: 20 Million Europeans Need Access to Safe and Affordable Sanitation organised by Women in Europe for a Common Future (see my blog of 30 January). I was, as might be expected, promoting low-cost sewerage in small towns in Members States in the east of the EU (Bulgaria and Romania, for instance), but it’s clear that, to get low-cost sewerage implemented, design guidelines need to be available in the local languages – yet another IYS2008 task!

In the evening I attended the Stockholm Junior Water Prize award ceremony during which HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the prize (US$ 5000!) to the winner, Ms Joyce Chai of the USA. I was a member of the SJWP jury during 1997−2003, so I know how well the entrants do and this year was no exception. A really nice event and the Princess was just fantastic!

Wednesday 20 August
I went off to one of the islands in the Stockholm archipelago to check out some compost toilets. Quite good, but not too pleasant to view when you raise the lid and – shock horror – no urine diversion!

Thursday 21August
In the morning I attended (and gave a short presentation at) the workshop on The Lingering Failure of Sanitation – Why? There was no answer to the question as the workshop had so many presentations – no time for a good debate to try and get some answers. Conference organizers please note!

In the afternoon I went to the WHO/UNICEF/JMP/UNSGAB/etc. session on Monitoring Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation: Moving Beyond 2015, Preparing the Next Generation of Indicators. There was some, almost surreptitious, acceptance that “adequate” might be better than “improved” (see blog of 14 January), but it seems that this is somewhat of a ‘step too far’ for JMP, at least for now – but it’s going to be really important post-2015. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Fingers crossed!

Friday 22 August
I gave the closing ceremony a miss (as I did the opening ceremony on Monday – too much ‘motherhood and apple pie’) and instead had meetings with some colleagues on where to go next on a few defined topics (mainly what to write and say in joint papers and presentations at events coming up this autumn/winter).

All in all, a really good, if over-busy, week!