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World Rivers Day 2021: Asia Pacific Forum

(Submitted by RCE Kuching, with edits from Global RCE Service Centre)

Natural resources facilitate the ecosystems by supporting the provision of services such as climate regulation, flood control, natural habitats, amenities, and cultural services. These are important to develop man-made, human and social capital. However, unmanaged development and human behaviour has impacted the environment to a greater or lesser extent especially the pollution in rivers, water, and their ecosystems.  Moreover, the United Nations World Water Development Report 2020 reported on the interrelations of water and climate change. Among the highlights are the effects of climate change to waterways including the effects of increased water temperature in water-borne infections, effects of water withdrawal for agriculture, pollution from industry, agriculture and land waste from human activities, food waste and agriculture stress, deforestation for agriculture, climate change effects on water sanitation processes, and the threats to mangroves and wetlands. It calls for an integrated effort of the consumers, communities, governments, industries and businesses in mitigating the situations, with SDG education and promotion as one of these efforts. 
 
Hence, RCEs are translating global objectives into the context of local communities and serve as a good platform to enhance the awareness on rivers and water ecosystem health. To achieve the goals, a thematic collaboration among RCEs in the Asia-Pacific region focused on the above issues is of great importance. The 'Rivers, Water and Livelihoods (RWL)' working group was formed during the 13th Regional Meeting of Asia-Pacific RCEs (Nov 2020). This joint effort culminated in RCEs of the Asia-Pacific celebrating the World Rivers Day 2021 on the fourth Sunday of September.  

As an annual event, a virtual forum of 'World Rivers Day 2021: Asia Pacific Forum' was organised by RCE Kuching as the convening RCE for the thematic collaboration of RCEs in the Asia-Pacific on 'RWL' on 27 August, 2021. This event was chaired by Professor Dr Yeong Siew-Wei, currently the Vice Chairperson of RCE Kuching and Lead Conveyor for the RCE Asia-Pacific 'RWL' theme. To make this event successful, it was supported by the 'RWL' working group committee from RCE Kuching and lecturers from UCSI University, Kuching campus. They are Dr Hiew Lee Chea from the Faculty of Business and Management as well as Assistant Professor Azizan Yatim, and Miss Tan Sze Ling from Centre of Pre-U Studies. In addition, the RCE Kuching secretariat and Youth Ambassadors contributed to the success of the event.

Our goal for the forum was to build awareness around the broad array of current issues of river pollution and maintain our role as a landfill owner in achieving sustainability living beyond zero waste. Moreover, this may bring together and form a collegial partnership within the communities of the RCEs in the Asia-Pacific region for rivers and water ecosystem health in relation to 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).  

The event gathered 149 participants from 17 different nations, as well as 13 RCEs from the Asia-Pacific area. During the forum, distinguished speakers (both keynote speaker and panelists) from difference disciplines and different RCEs shared their experiences in research, community programmes, and environmental projects. Their details and topics shared during the forum were as follows: 

Keynote Speaker:

Panelist 1:

Panelist 2:

Panelist 3:

Panelist 4:

The chairperson and moderators of the online forum: 
  • Prof Dr Yeong Siew-Wei, Event Chairperson, RWL Committee, RCE Kuching 
  • ChM. Nur Aida Nur Azman, Natural Resources and Environment Board Sarawak
  • Assistant Professor Azizan Yatim, RWL Committee, RCE Kuching
  • Miss Tan Sze Ling, RWL Committee, RCE Kuching
  • Dr Hiew Lee Chea, RWL Committee, RCE Kuching

Several RCEs attended the virtual forum, including RCEs from Greater Dhaka, Greater Western Sydney, Srinagar, Ilocos, Waikato, Mumbai, Southern Vietnam, Hangzhou, Dobong-Gu, Lucknow, Greater Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, and Chandigarh.

During the forum discussion, four panelists introduced their respective RCEs and shared what initiatives they are conducting regarding water use efficiency and water quality in their regions. Furthermore, they discussed 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. Some of the panelists also mentioned that perhaps during the COVID-19 lockdown the river condition has become better. In short, all panelists provided a lively exchange on possibilities for future collaborations within RCEs in the Asia-Pacific. Moreover, the forum was well received by the participants who generally indicated that the forum was indeed informative. They also emphasised how it had made them look at rivers as an important resource which should not be taken for granted. 

To conclude, 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. Likewise, 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: Clean Water and Sanitation for all by 2030.

For further information, please refer to the following links:
Video: https://bit.ly/Recording-WRD2021
Photos: https://bit.ly/RCE_KCH-WRD202

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