NUST to host 22nd WaterNet Summit

THE National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and its partners will host the blended (physical and virtual) 22nd WaterNet Summit from 20 – 22 October 2021 in Victoria Falls under the theme Integrated Water Resources Management for Sustainable Development in East and Southern Africa.

The annual event is being jointly organised by NUST, the International Association of Hydrological Sciences and Southern African Centres for Water Excellence.

NUST Director of Communication and Marketing, Mr Thabani Mpofu said great emphasis will be placed on integration of knowledge, particularly involving scholars from the natural and social sciences.

“The sub-themes of the symposium have been aligned to the SADC Water Research Agenda under the Regional Strategic Plan on Integrated Water Resources Development and Management Phase IV,” said Mr Mpofu.

He said the main objective is to promote evidence-based implementation of SADC water programmes and projects through multi- and inter-disciplinary research, and synthesis of existing and new information, which will lead to a realisation of SADC developmental goals.

Mr Mpofu said stakeholders were encouraged to register for and attend the upcoming symposium, which will be held physically in Victoria Falls as well as virtually.

“Policymakers, academics, practitioners from water and related sectors, and cooperating partners are invited to register for and attend the symposium and make use of this opportunity to listen and debate findings from presentations focused on the different subthemes,” he said.

Authors wishing to present the results of their work, Mr Mpofu said, should submit their abstracts targeting topics such as Innovative approaches, practices and technologies for affordable water supply, and sanitation services; Water governance for sustainable, equitable and affordable water services; Water, Land, Energy and Agriculture; Changing hydro-climatic regimes and planning tools for climate resilient development pathways; Water, Ecosystems and the Environment; and Impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic on the water sector.

Similar symposia have been held annually in the Eastern and Southern Africa Regions for the past 21 years to promote integration among policymakers, academics, practitioners from water and related sectors, and cooperating partners.

“Together, they identify regional issues, gaps and priorities that require further research and support,” Mr Mpofu noted.

He added that limited access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is a global problem, but one which is particularly huge in Africa in general and Eastern and Southern Africa in particular.

“An estimated 40% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa and approximately the same population in Eastern and Southern Africa have limited access to clean drinking water. Africa lags behind other continents in the area of access to improved sanitation which stands at 31% of the population. In Southern Africa, 62% of the population, that is almost two thirds of the total population, lack access to basic sanitation,” said Mr Mpofu.

As a result of limited access to clean water supply and sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa, 842 000 adults and 120,000 children under the age of five die every year in the region from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Cholera outbreaks have been experienced in the SADC region in recent years.

“The health of members of society is highly dependent on both the quality and the availability of water, and on how well this precious resource is managed.

“With regards to sanitation, wastewater treatment, Africa has not been able to keep pace with rapid population growth and urbanization,” he noted.

“Population growth, urbanisation and relative improvement in lifestyles in Africa have resulted in a rise in water consumption and an increase in discharge of wastewater.”

Untreated wastewater pollutes surface and groundwater and may lead to a myriad of diseases and illnesses resulting in deaths of the young, the elderly and vulnerable people.

Africa treats only 1% of wastewater to secondary level.

“There is an urgent need for appropriate technologies for treating wastewater, including considering wastewater as a useful resource which can be recycled and used for productive purposes,” noted Mr Mpofu.

“In addition, solid waste is not collected systematically or using proper disposal methods and poses a health hazard to residents and the environment.”

He said new and innovative approaches were required in the area of wastewater management to alleviate

these challenges.

“Ensuring access to clean water supply and improved sanitation in Eastern and Southern Africa will go a long way in achieving a number of the sustainable development goals such as poverty eradication and hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, reducing inequality and sustainable cities and communities,” he said.

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