Before the World Water Day, professor Mitja Brilly, PhD, professor Marina Pintar, PhD, and Emil Ferjančič, MSc, united their thoughts on the topic of sustainable water management in Slovenia

Round table speakers. (Photo - UNAS)

20 March 2014 - On the first day of spring and two days before the World Water Day, the United Nations Association (UNA) of Slovenia hosted a round table where they tried to answer the questions on water management and its role in development in Slovenia and abroad. They also talked about the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which are currently discussed on the global level. After 2015, they will build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The round table was organized for the second time after the successful round table last year and the UNA Slovenia hosted it in cooperation with the Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO.

In the introduction the vice-president of the UNA Slovenia Milan Brglez, PhD, emphasized that the year 2015, which represents the milestone for achievement of the MDGs, is approaching. At the same time as we can critically review the progress of achieving the MDGs, we have to look forward to a new sustainable framework – the SDGs. The SDGs were already set at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The SDGs will continue the work of the MDGs and build a new development agenda for the post-2015 period.

In Rio, the UN member states did not set the contents of the goals, but agreed that they would like to have a smaller number of goals addressing the crosscutting issues, balanced with the development agenda after the year 2015. In the post-2015 agenda, the UN member states would like to continue with the unfinished work of the MDGs and be even more ambitious. The SDGs have to be universal, met by all countries and therefore flexible – common but divided, measurable, focused on solutions and simple to communicate.

Professor Mitja Brilly, PhD, representative of the Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO and the president of the National Committee for the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme, firstly presented the UNESCO and the UN programmes related to water issues – Hydrology and Water Resources Programme of the World Meteorological Organization; UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP); and UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). He focused on UNESCO IHP and its new eight-year Medium-term Strategy (2014–2021). This is the eighth phase of IHP (IHP-VIII) and its aim is to improve water security in response to local, regional and global challenges. In 1957, the Institute for water education was established within IHP; In Slovenia, as part of the institute activities the postgraduate study on waters is organized at the Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering (University of Ljubljana). He reminded that this decade (2005–2015) is the International Decade for Action 'Water for Life'. The Slovenian Committee for the UNESCO IHP is carrying out the project 'More Room for the Water'.

Professor Marina Pintar, PhD, from the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana mainly focused on the micro-level of water management and on irrigation as a development opportunity. She highlighted that irrigation is not the mitigation of natural disasters, but is the addition of water to plants when soil lacks water. The proportion of areas in Slovenia equipped with irrigation systems is extremely small, and mostly the food self-sufficiency rate in Slovenia is too low – irrigation and the development of irrigation systems could provide an opportunity to increase the level of food self-sufficiency. She claimed that irrigation is a development necessity in Slovenia. Vegetable production, where irrigation is part of the production technology, allows a perspective existence and development of farms. In addition, it is necessary to focus on the route from the grower to the consumer, therefore on the marketing of products, both fresh and processed.

Emil Ferjančič, MSc, Head of the Sector for global challenges at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, connected the topic of the round table to the national and international level. He started with the fact that water has become a political topic, and presented the development of water cooperation and governance at the international level. He especially highlighted the decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union from 2013, where they defined the term ‘water diplomacy’. According to him, this was an extremely important step, which gave water the status of a political topic, and with which water completely withdrew from the environment. After 2015, the merge of the Millennium process and the SDGs is expected. The key difference is that before the discussion focused on the priorities of developing countries, but now common tasks which bind all states (but from different perspectives and at different levels) are formed. He defined four areas of water problems: drinking water, water management, water as a security-political issue and the connection of water with other areas (health, agriculture, energy, etc.). He said that a few weeks ago Slovenia received two implicit confirmations that the country is working well in this area – Slovenia has been invited to join the initiative “Water and peace” (with regard to political conflicts, which include the issue of water and water management) and to the integration in the group of countries that will propose that water remains a separate objective in the SDGs.

After comprehensive questions that were raised by the public, the speakers concluded that after 2015, there is a desire to create good coverage with irrigation systems, which will strengthen the food self-supply of the country; that it is necessary to strengthen education on the topic of water and the development of technology, which has advanced so far that today we are talking about anthropogenic sources of drinking water (desalination of seawater, recycling of waste water); and that the job of administration is to bring together experts who will conclude effective agreements on water cooperation.

Prepared by: Sabina Carli; translation: Jana Mahorčič and Tomi Bahorić