The participation of society, in a collaborative way, in actions directed to the quality of water resources was highlighted in the panel “Social monitoring of water”, part of Thursday’s (22) program of the 8th World Water Forum. Sandra Akemi Shimada, regional federal prosecutor of Brazil, coordinated the panel with representatives of Portugal, Colombia, Brazil, the Netherlands and India in which they discussed the importance of so-called participatory monitoring.
Two speakers presented examples of apps that help people get involved with the process of monitoring and sharing information about water. The Brazilian Gerson Barbosa, public prosecutor in Cuiaba, was one of them. He shared a solution for smartphones with the WWF audience, called “Water for the Future,” which helps people identify springs, report on their state and visualize their quality. Colombian Carlos Diaz, of the Dutch NGO AKVO, showed the example “akvoflow”, which can be used by anyone to collect data on the quality of water, with easy-to-understand step-by-step instructions.
In addition to the world of technology, Lia Vasconcelos, a researcher at the New University of Lisbon, Portugal, shared her experience in collaborative processes in the Tagus River region. “The key element to ensure people’s involvement and project continuity is collaborative construction, from project planning to implementation,” she said.
Traditional knowledge was also mentioned in the talk as a source of inspiration for the participatory water monitoring process. The Indian Eklavya Prasad of the Megh Pyne Abhiyan Association, responsible for water supply and sanitation projects in India, spoke about how they incorporated the experience of the riverside communities of the country to enrich the project.
Finally, Malu Ribeiro, water resources expert of the SOS Atlantic Forest project, spoke about the need to take into account the immaterial aspects of water – such as the cultural and spiritual value of this resource to rural and indigenous communities – throughout the participative monitoring process. “Understanding and respecting the relationship the riverside communities have with the waters is essential,” she emphasized.
From water heritage to water consciousness
Much is said about the use of water for human consumption, agriculture, mining. But does water only serve these ends? What are the other relationships of mankind with water? This was the topic of a panel discussion entitled “From Water Heritage to Water Consciousness”, moderated by David Groenfeldt of the Water Culture Institute, with the participation of representatives from India, France, Canada and Brazil.
Marco Aurelio Bilibio Carvalho, of the International Society of Ecopsychology, opened the debate by broadening the concept of the use and meaning of water, addressing “the spiritual side” and how people deal with this resource, according to their culture and traditions, in a plan beyond material aspects. He gave as an example the sentimental relationship of indigenous peoples with water, as part of a unique cultural identity. This practice, also called ecopsychology, a science that seeks to resume the connection of man with nature and its environment in an increasingly technological and industrial society.
Darlene Sanderson of the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace spoke about the experience of indigenous communities in Canada who drafted their own guidelines for the ethical use of water, taking into account the use of water resources responsibly. Together with scientists, these guidelines were organized for circulation throughout the community.
Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous woman who coordinates the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, spoke about the importance of traditional peoples in preserving water. “When we fight for indigenous territory, we are fighting for the springs and water sources. When we fight for the demarcation of indigenous lands, we are guaranteeing the availability of water for Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and all capitals.”