RCEs in Asia-Pacific Celebrate World Water Day 2021

(Report submitted by RCE Kuching)

Rivers, water bodies, and their ecosystems influence, and are influenced by, the life practices and livelihoods of people. RCEs with the mission of translating global objectives into the context of local communities serve as a good platform to enhance the awareness of rivers and water ecosystem health. Hence, a thematic collaboration among RCEs in the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on "Rivers, Water and Livelihoods" was formed during the 13th Regional Meeting of the Asia-Pacific RCEs in 2020. This joint effort culminated in RCE Asia-Pacific celebrating the World Water Day 2021 on 22 March, 2021 with a virtual forum on the theme of "Valuing Water" with the focus on SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG 4 (Quality Education).

The forum focused on the importance of water as an essential resource for humans and the importance of water sources in natural ecosystems. A total of 267 participants attended the virtual forum, the majority of which were youth.

Several RCEs attended the virtual forum, including:

RCE Bohol, RCE Chandigarh, RCE East Kalimantan, RCE Goa, RCE Greater Dhaka, RCE Hyogo-Kobe, RCE Iskandar, RCE Kyrgzystan, RCE Kuching, RCE Okayama, RCE Southern Vietnam, RCE Srinagar, RCE Tirupati RCE Tongyeong, RCE Triruvananthapuram.

Distinguished speakers shared their experiences in research, community programmes and environmental projects.

The speakers, coming from a variety of disciplines, spoke on the following topics.

  • Prof Dr Daniel Karthe, Head of Research Programme Resource Nexus for Regions in Transformation, UNU-Flores as the keynote speaker presented "Water in the basin of the world's largest lake: Addressing challenges through a resource nexus approach".
  • Dr Saroj Kumar Chapagain, Research Fellow of Water for Sustainable Development Project, UNU-IAS spoke about “Water for Sustainable Development”, using the Environmental Extended Input-Output Model, in his closing remarks.

During our Forum discussion, three panelists introduced us to their respective RCEs and shared what initiatives they are conducting regarding water use efficiency and water quality in their regions. They also mentioned the challenges and limitations they have been facing in recent times, most of which involved reduced face-to-face contact with local communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rounding up the panel forum, each of the panelists provided a lively exchange on possibilities for future collaborations within RCEs in the Asia-Pacific.

The three panelists were:

  • Mr. Matt Shepherd, co-Coordinator of the Water Programme, RCE Otago
  • Madam Mukvinder Sandhu, Chairperson, RCE Kuching
  • Ms. Cuidian Feng, Deputy Secretary-general, RCE Hangzhou

This event was organised by RCE Kuching as the convening RCE for the thematic collaboration of Asia-Pacific RCEs on "Rivers, Water and Livelihoods". Furthermore, it was chaired by Assoc Prof Dr Yeong Siew-Wei, Vice Chairperson RCE Kuching, in her capacity as the lead convenor for the RCE Asia-Pacific "Rivers, Water and Livelihoods" theme.

The moderators of the online forum included:

  • Ms. Agnes Mary Toner, Fellow of RCE Kuching
  • Ms. Adlin Baizura binti Ariffin, Fellow of RCE Kuching
  • Mr. Lau Hwai Xiang, Youth Ambassador of RCE Kuching

The objectives of the thematic collaboration included:

  • to encourage collegial partnership and the exchange of ideas within RCEs in the Asia-Pacific region related to rivers and water.
  • to focus on SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 14 (Life Below Water), SDG 15 (Life on Land) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals)
  • to provide a platform for RCEs in the Asia-Pacific region to discuss issues related to rivers and water.

View the video of the forum here. Photos can also be viewed here.

The forum was well received by the participants who generally indicated that the forum was indeed informative. They also emphasized how it had made them look at water as an important resource which should not be taken for granted.

Feedback from participants:

  • The World Water Day 2021 event was well organized. It had good attendance, presentations, and moderation. Congratulations and thank you for inviting us. – Dr Abdhesh Kumar Gangwar, Coordinator and Focal Point, RCE Srinagar, India
  • Great ideas and input from activities and programmes done by RCE partners in terms of water – Nur Aida Nur Azman, Senior Environmental Control Officer, Natural Resources and Environment Board Sarawak, Malaysia
  • It gives us a more thorough knowledge regarding one of the unique resources in the planet – Joseph Jim D. Abadingo, Statistical Specialist II, Philippine Statistics Authority, Philippines
  • I have learned a lot about how human activities have polluted our water sources, and how that in turn affected our environment and health. I've also learned how the RCEs across various nations have worked on protecting our water sources. - Daniel Wong Chun Khai, student, Malaysia
  • This activity made me realize a lot of knowledge about water resources. Benefits a lot! - Jiang Yuhang, student, China
  • I learnt more about RCE programs and the value of water in our life, the importance of clean water and less water waste. – Bella Ananda Franseda, student, Indonesia

All in all, the RCE Asia-Pacific "Rivers, Water and Livelihoods" Virtual Forum was a success. Relevant programmes, projects, issues, and incentives were reviewed, and possible collaborations were considered. In the process, bonds between the RCEs were deepened. We look forward to stronger ties, continued productive discourse, and partnerships within the RCEs in the Asia-Pacific region toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6: Water and Sanitation for all by 2030.