Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The collective well

Forget the old adage "don’t try this at home." Tuesday morning’s session on “Public Health and Global Water Issues: From Policy to Collective Action” defied the age-old golden rule.

The session featured an outstanding group of speakers from various organizations working collectively to pool human capital and expertise on water resource management to drive collective action through the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative.

PGWI President Stanley Laskowski envisions the organization as a model and hopes other cities will duplicate its efforts to build their own networks around global water supply issues. He stressed the need to “connect more nodes and build collaboration.” PGWI is pitching in to help the world meet the UN Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation on a global scale, and they’re doing some pretty cool work.

Human rights activist and founder of Traveling Mercies, Aldo Magazzeni, is one of PGWI’s collaborators who has done extensive work throughout Afghanistan building water systems so that villages have access to clean and safe drinking water. His presentation was a composite of remarkable images of the villages and people he's helped over the years. He told stories of the impacts that sanitation, hygiene, and safe drinking water have on the communities he’s served. And although he claims his work is only a drop in the bucket, over the past seven years, Aldo has helped build 14 large water systems in Afghanistan.

Why is all this so important? Because the statistics are just unacceptable: Did you know a child dies every 15 seconds from a water-related problem? Even worse, in the countries where the needs are greatest, organizations don’t have the resources or technology to handle these water crises. And according to Bob Giegengack, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science, “a large number are suffering from avoidable water shortages.”

“There is enough water to go around,” he said. “We must use it more responsibly.”

— M.S.

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