Cities from Japan, Korea and Slovakia shared their case studies in enhancing water quality, treating waste water and improving the overall condition of the ecosystem through water management during the breakout session chaired by Martin Brennan, Director of ICLEI Oceania, on the second day of the 4th Local Governments and Regional Authorities Conference at the 7th World Water Forum.
Eiji Nishjima, Vice Governor of Shiga Prefecture, Japan highlighted the value of lake conservation. He pointed out that 87% of the freshwater used by human come from lakes, which is also the easiest source to obtain drinkable water among other water sources such as rivers and swamps. Because of its scarcity and its indispensable nature to the ecosystem, he believes that cities worldwide should join hands in conserving lakes and sharing their knowledge and practices in managing lakes at the global level. The city hosted the 3rd World Water Forum; it was also the host of the first and the 9th World Lake Conference.
Gi-ik Shin, Director of Water and Sewage Division of Pohang City, shared the city’s successful public-private partnership in investing, constructing and operating advanced sewage facilities to treat reclaimed water for industrial use. Operating since 1999, the sewage plant has the capacity to treat 224,000 tons of water per day – 130,000 of which are used by industries. Although the project initially suffered from the lack of funds, the city government of Pohang was able to attract private investment to make up the financial gap that public funds could not support. Promoting effective communication between various stakeholders, said Shin, is the key to success.
Asan City of Korea, represented by Jung-guy Kim, Director of Environmental Resources Conservation Division of Asan City, shared its successful stream restoration project “Green Eco Village”. Led and implemented mainly by local residents, the project illustrated the importance of involving local communities in the early stage of planning. While the local government of Pohang takes up the role in budgeting, setting up a Council to gather various stakeholders in the society, as well as providing training for citizens; the implementation process, namely the purification and cleaning up of the streams, were mainly carried up by citizens voluntarily. The project did not only restore the water quality and biodiversity of the city; by involving more than 40 villages in the process, it also regenerated the sense of community and promoted closer cooperation and understanding between local governments and citizens.
Vojtech Zak, Special Analyst from West Slovakian Waterworks Company, presented the progress and difficulties in managing water faced by Nitra, a southern city in Slovakia. While the city provides direct water access to more than 90% of its population, only 63.5% of which are connected to sewage facilities. To make improvement in this aspect, the city sees promoting private investment as its next step. Another special feature of water management in Slovakia is that the responsibilities of water management are divided into two lines: while the national government holds the responsibility in managing water sources and watercourses, towns and municipalities are responsible for distribution and sewage. Due to the difference in focuses, local governments are working hard in bridging the gap of understanding between the national government and local citizens, as well as promoting regional cooperation between towns, cities and municipalities.
The four city cases from Japan, Korea and Slovakia, illustrate the different aspects and difficulties in water management faced by cities. They also reaffirm the important roles of local governments, as well as the indispensable nature of water in promoting sustainability. Speaking from the experience of his home city Melbourne, Brennan says, “In Melbourne, we see water as an enabler. It enables the well being of people, the ecosystem, and responses to climate change. Cities should move from the ‘water conservation’ mindset to water as an enabler for the city and its people.”