Access to clean, safe water is fundamental to life. It is essential to health and well-being, but also food, energy, prosperity and economic growth. Yet the impacts of climate change threaten to make water scarcity an even more pressing issue for even more people. Successfully safeguarding this precious resource requires true partnership between organizations, both public and private.
Already, momentum is building at the global level to better manage water resources. Ensuring everyone, everywhere has access to water is a key part of the recent Sustainable Development Goals. At the national level, recent droughts from South Africa and California to Sao Paulo have hit local populations, as well as businesses and economic growth. It’s impossible to ignore extreme weather and increased competition for water — and we can expect it to worsen as the impacts of climate change increase.
Experts we partner with tell us there are two main reasons people experience low water security. Sometimes, there is simply not enough to meet demand. Around 1.2 billion people, almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million more are approaching water scarcity. This means everyone should look to reduce any unnecessary waste or loss of water, and save water wherever possible.
But there is another type of water scarcity — one where water is available but people are unable to access the quantity and quality they need. This is where we can make a real and more immediate difference. Another 1.6 billion people face this type of economic scarcity, which has multiple and complex causes, from historical inequities and poor infrastructure to bureaucratic hurdles.
The search for sustainable solutions to challenges like these brought us to work with a number of partners on both local and global water projects.
We know water scarcity is an issue that requires long-term vision and commitment. Our partnership over the past 17 years with the Unilever Center for Environmental Water Quality at Rhodes University in South Africa works to empower communities to have a say in how local water resources are managed and governed. This is critical when there are so many competing claims for water from industrial, agricultural and domestic users.
But we also need to provide immediate, practical solutions. As many households continue to suffer unreliable and interrupted water supply in South Africa, UCEWQ and partners have set up an emergency water program called Water for Dignity. Hundreds of homes are able to access safe water stored and made available through simple solutions like street water tanks. They are also supporting community-based businesses where volunteers provide household water barrels against staged payments — a model that will soon be self-sustaining.
These types of programs need to be scaled up if we want to meet the SDG of ensuring safe water for all by 2030. Today, we have just announced a new partnership with UNICEF to improve access to safe water in countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Starting in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast, the programs will promote handwashing in schools and improve water management. The aim is to provide access to safe water and drive behavior change in how people use and conserve water, in a way that is sustainable and scalable across the continent.
Our motivation for partnering with Rhodes University and UNICEF is as much a question of survival as it is of social responsibility. We know our business can’t succeed without water. We need water to grow our agricultural materials, keep our factories running and even for customers to use our products when they cook, clean and wash. We’re working hard to use water more efficiently within our own supply chain and to innovate products that help our consumers use less water. Since 1995, we’ve cut the water abstracted by our factories per unit of production by 74 percent. But there’s still much more for us to do — within our operations and with others.
The stakes could not be higher. As World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently noted: “Achieving the water global goal would have multiple benefits, including laying the foundations for food and energy security, sustainable urbanization, and ultimately climate security.”
This year’s U.N.-Water theme, “Water and Jobs,” is a stark reminder of how many people depend on water for their livelihood and employment.
Communities, businesses and governments all have an interest in ensuring that we manage this scarce resource sustainability and equitably. It is critical for those who lack access to water today, but it is also essential if we want our communities and economy to thrive in the future.
The idea of sustainable development in a local environment has been around for several centuries — an example is the three-field system of crop rotation that was practiced in the middle ages as a means of sustaining the soil. But in the last decades of the twentieth century — as awareness in conservation, resource management and a global social responsibility grew — the concept of sustainability, global sustainability, developed until it was being discussed on a world stage.
It was at a conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 where a step forward was made in the global standing on sustainable development. At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the concept of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) was recognised as linking the challenges of environment and development. One of the most significant developments at Earth Summit was the acceptance by world leaders of Agenda 21. This report states that ‘the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production’. It was decided that a plan of action was needed — applying to global, national and local situations where humans impact on the environment. In a follow up conference in Oslo in 1994, a working definition of SCP was developed which states: ‘the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimising the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardise the needs of future generations’.
Earth Summit 2002
Ten years after Rio, business and world leaders signed the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in South Africa — known as Earth Summit 2002 or Rio+10. JPOI put in place the programmes necessary to help governments and businesses to change the way they operated and to develop sustainable processes. Part of the JPOI stated that ‘fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development’. This involved a 10-Year Framework of Programmes (10YFP) to push forward the shift towards sustainability for production and consumption, and to help promote social and economic development.
Earth Summit 2012
The third international conference on sustainable development was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. Known as Rio+20 orEarth Summit 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) had as its main outcome a confirmation that business and world leaders have a commitment to sustainable development and earlier commitments. However, the document they signed ‘The Future We Want’ is non-binding. All hot air?
Are the Summits Working?
The jury is most definitely out. Greenpeace declared Rio+20 ‘a failure of epic proportions’ with ‘world leaders again putting private profit before people and the planet’. But small strides can be made towards a more sustainable future as the fashion industry demonstrates in this story: Fashion Retailers Aim to Reduce Landfill Waste. Fair trade coffee anyone?
Source: Enviro-tech online
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Ever heard of a floating African city? Now you have.
African architecture is as diverse as the different cultures and peoples that make up the continent.
Islam and Christianity have produced astounding churches and magnificent mosques. The mix of colonial and modern influences have clashed in the urban environment, in some cities economic or political turmoil resulted in an eclectic clash of styles and little consideration of aesthetic beauty, and in rural areas the local environment was often the driver in the influence of design and structure.
Recently, however, something different has sprouted on the continent. There is a new breed of architect whose work is suffused with social responsibility, and the designs that emanate from them are nothing short of genius.
Their structures created are carefully crafted to fit in with the various demands or pressures of modern day society in Africa.
Here we take a look at a few examples of these extraordinary architects:
Diébédo Francis Kéré
Even though he’s had international success and is based in Berlin, Germany, this hasn’t stopped Burkinabé architect Kéré from making waves back home, in Burkina Faso. Founded in 2005, Kéré Architecture is dedicated to supporting the educational, cultural, and sustainable needs of communities in Burkina Faso through sustainable building practices. Using his formal training as an architect, Kéré has developed strategies for innovative construction by combining traditional Burkinabé building techniques and materials with modern engineering methods.
His projects in Burkina Faso are impressive. In the village of Gando, his birth place, Kéré made a great push for education by constructing schools, along with the help of the local community, and the necessary teacher housing, library and wells to support them.
Each structure was carefully conceived to support the learning environment and be as adaptable as possible to the areas geography. Mud brick walls combined with raised tin roofs use material which is locally available and keep the buildings cool and dry. The school library has a roof with traditional clay pots that have been cut in half and inserted in the ceiling, letting in light and allowing air to circulate.
In June this year the “Surgical Clinic and Health Centre” was opened, serving a population of over 50,000 people from the town of Léo and its surrounding communities. In planning for the most sustainable building solution with least ecological impact, the main construction of the centre is compressed earth bricks.
Their high thermal mass capacity allows them to absorb the cool night air and release it during the day, helping keep the interior spaces cool. The clinic also features ten large overlapping roofs that protect the walls from rain and shade the interiors from the hot daytime sun. The vibrantly-coloured buildings are sited around a central outdoor corridor – a friendly characteristic which is important for the success of the centre, as it attracts patients who would normally not seek medical attention.
Kunlé Adeyemi is a Nigerian architect and urbanist – heavily influenced by the fast-paced urbanisation of African cities. After studying at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, followed by Princeton in the US, Adeyemi founded NLÉ – an architecture and design practice based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
One of his recent projects has focused on his homeland and its fast urbanisation rate. In 2013 Adeyemi completed the “Makoko Floating School”, a prototype floating structure, built for the water community of Makoko, located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. This pilot project took an innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of the impact of climate change and a rapidly urbanising context.
At a cost of less than $7,000 the school accommodates 100 students, uses 256 plastic drums to keep it resting on top of the water, and the frame is constructed from locally-sourced wood. Electricity is provided by solar panels on the roof, and rainwater harvesting helps to keep toilets operational.
Adeyemi has been able to produce an ecologically friendly, alternative building system that could revolutionise Africa’s urban water societies. Now, he is taking the project a step further. He is now looking to expand on his pilot and create a group of floating structures in Makoko, allowing its estimated 250,000 inhabitants better access to sanitation, fresh water and waste disposal.
Another notable Adeyemi project is the community-built Chicoco radio, in Port Harcourt. The radio station is a floating media platform that provides a voice to 480,000 residents of Port Harcourt’s waterfront slums which line the creeks fringing the city. The governor plans to demolish them all. Not only is the innovative design sustainable and resistant to flooding, but the architecture has also merged with media to become a platform for modern communication and civic participation.
Zimbabwean architect Mick Pearce is dedicated to designing low maintenance buildings with low running costs, using renewable energy systems. His aim is to ensure buildings are suited to their natural environment and the people who use them. Over the past 20 years his work has focused heavily on bio-mimicry – an the imitation of natural processes and the use of natural materials.
One of his most famous examples is the Eastgate Centre in Harare. Largely made of concrete, the Eastgate Centre has a ventilation system, which operates similarly to the self-cooling mounds of African termites. Because of its altitude, Harare has a temperate climate and the typical daily temperature swing is 10 to 14 °C, making a passive cooling system a viable alternative to artificial air-conditioning. Passive cooling works by storing heat in the day and venting it at night as temperatures drop. Without relying on conventional air-conditioning or heating the building stays regulated all year round, dramatically reducing energy consumption and the building uses 10% of the energy a conventional building of its size would use.
Tsai Design Studio
Architectural genius is most of the time a combined team effort, on the part of a firm or when two firms come together. It would be impossible to have a list looking at architectural efforts linked to social reform or environmental sustainability without mentioning South Africa’s Tsai design studio. Even though it was established in 2005, this small team of architects has earned a number of design accolades and awards for its architecture and design work – though their community work, re-purposing shipping containers is what stands out.
The studio first became famous for this in 2010 when South African shipping company Safmarine commissioned the studio to develop several designs using recycled containers for community projects. The first Sport Centre prototype was built under a month to coincide with the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The centre allowed disadvantaged children and communities to be twinned with a Dutch football club who trained local coaches with football techniques and life skills.
The design included a grandstand seating social area, a sheltering roof and an advertising billboard and movie screen as an extension of the roof structure that folds down vertically at one side. This can be used as a possible source of income for the sports centre or be converted into a movie screen for the children. Since then, the containers have been re-purposed for a variety of other community projects.
One example is “Vissershok primary school”. Sponsored by three South African Companies; Safmarine, Afrisam and Woolworths, “Vissershok primary school” was created. Serving as a classroom in the morning and a school library in the afternoon, the container provides a well planned environment for the pupils. The large roof keeps out direct sunlight and reduces heat while the windows staggered along the sides of the container ensure cross ventilation.
Source: Mail and Guardian Africa
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