For Ricardo Andrade, executive director of the 8th World Water Forum, one of the main goals of the event is to make water a relevant topic in the daily lives of citizens: "Not only those citizens who are engaged, those who address water issues, but also the ordinary citizens, who think that water springs from the tap, who believe that in order to have clean water they need a clean pipeline, who is not aware of the importance of being careful with water", he emphasizes.
Andrade points out that organizing the Forum is a challenge and the intention is to actually change the political discussion about water and raise awareness on the issue.
Ricardo Andrade was interviewed by reporter Olga Bardawil, Agência Brasil.
Below are the main excerpts from the interview:
Agência Brasil: What led Brazil to be chosen to host the World Water Forum?
Ricardo Andrade: Let's start with the role of ANA, which is a young institution, only 17 years old - it was created in 2000. Since it is our national agency, and it does not have regional offices, it operates throughout the country through partnerships with state agencies, and has always sought partnerships abroad. Given this fact, we have been present at the World Water Council (WCC), which is the organizer of the World Water Forum. Organizing the forum in Brazil has become almost an obligation. And here is a point that needs to be clarified: this is not an ANA initiative. The agency was urged to do so. The various Brazilian institutions linked to water have met and understood that it was time to host the forum in South America. And this was justified by the argument that Brazil had something to show: the largest water supply in the world.
Agência Brasil: How is the country dealing with this challenge?
Andrade: It's a challenge, no question about it. Some say 30,000 participants will attend. Others say it may be even more than that. But our intention is not to make the forum with the largest number of participants, but instead to have a forum that indeed changes the political discussion on water, raising our awarenes on water issues. I think this could be the main legacy of the forum. One of the expectations is to get water into the citizen's day-to-day agenda. Not only those citizens who are engaged, those who address water issues, but also the ordinary citizens, who think that water springs from the tap, who believe that in oder to have clean water they need a clean pipeline, who is not aware of the importance of being careful with water."
Agência Brasil: How is this Brazilian presence in the World Water Council?
Andrade: Since 2003, ANA has been attending the council, but in 2009 we decided to expand that presence a bit because the agency was more mature and wanted to be more representative. And given the importance of Brazil in the issue of water and the leadership that the country has in this area, ANA started to lead the process of international engagement. Today, the president of the World Water Council is Brazilian, Professor Benedito Braga, representative of the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo and current Secretary of Sanitation of the state of São Paulo. Brazil also has four governors in the Council.
Agência Brasil: Why do you think that talking about the greatest water supply gives the impression that water is inexhaustible?
Andrade: Because it gives us the feeling that we have a lot of water, that it will never end and that we do not have to worry about it. And that's not the whole truth. We have that much water, indeed. But where there is water there are no people, and where there are people there is no water. In the Amazon, there is water but there are no people. In the Northeast, almost all along the Brazilian coast, there are people but there is no water. And where there is water and there are people, often the water is not well cared for. It is polluted, wasted. Then, through these reflections, we understood that it was time to offer the World Water Council the opportunity to bring the Forum to the Southern Hemisphere.
Agência Brasil: Based on the results of the previous forums, would you say that real progress has been made in discussing the water issue, since the first forum in Morocco?
Andrade: An unprecedented fact, for example: we have a sustainable development commitment specific to water. To say that this is a result only of discussions at the World Water Forums may be an overstatement, but to say that the World Water Forums had nothing to do with it would be frivolous and a farse. So, I think the forums have contributed to the discussion, mobilized society, and their results are real. Today, there are dozens of water events in different regions of the world each year. They always mobilize the local populations, society, and governments.
Agência Brasil: How can these events, in any way, bring solutions?
Andrade: You cannot provide good quality water at the right time and in the right place if you do not have funding, if you do not have good governance. There is no point in offering water if you do not treat the sewage, because then the source that you had to offer water loses its quality. And there happens to be a quantity problem not because water is lacking, but because quality is lacking. So the big challenge is in fact along these lines. Government investments have advanced, public awareness has advanced. We are moving forward, we still have a lot to do, but organizations like ANA, state regulatory agencies, sanitation companies, and governments in Brazil in particular have been working tirelessly to improve quality of life indexes.
Agência Brasil: Do you believe that the World Water Forum in Brazil will broaden this understanding of the subject?
Andrade: There is an interesting fact that I could mention from the preparatory meetings of the forum that we held in Brasilia. One of which occurred in June 2016, before the water crisis, and another in April 2017, during the crisis that our federal capital is going through. At the first meeting, 30% of the audience were locals. In the second one, this local audience consisted of 60%. What is the difference between the two meetings? By 2016, we had normal water supply and by 2017 we had a crisis in place. The signs are very clear that the fact that the crisis is occurring has increased interest in the topic of water. So, it is possible that facing the risk of not having water at home will cause people to reflect on the availability of water, the need to save water, to use water rationally, to protect it in a certain way, to make demands to the governments, and not just governments, but to other fellow citizens, to our own neighbors.
This information was provided by Agência Brasil .