World Water Day 2012 celebrated with a cross-faculty round-table discussion

Posted on March 30, 2012

World Water Day is observed globally on 22 March every year. Initiated by the United Nations in the early nineties, it focuses on different water-related themes. The focus this year was on water and food security, which is an excellent example of an issue that requires research from across the disciplines.

The round-table discussion, organised by the Water Institute of the University of Pretoria and the Faculty of Humanities’ Institute for Strategic and Political Affairs (ISPA), focused on the nature of the research that will be required to address the water challenges facing South Africa and the African continent. 

About 40 researchers from seven faculties participated in the discussion. Participants also included guests from the Water Research Commission, Rand Water and the CSIR. Following a brief welcome by Prof Ströh, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Prof Hennie Stander, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof Hannes Rautenbach, Acting Director of the Water Institute, explained the structure and focus areas of the Institute.

Two distinguished guests subsequently presented keynote addresses. Ms Eiman Karar, Director: Water Resource Management, Water Resource Commission, discussed the topic Emerging water research needs call for interdisciplinarity, while the focus of the presentation by Dr Achou Enow, Programme Director: Global Change, National Research Foundation, was on Opportunities for strengthening interdisciplinary research on water in South Africa. Both speakers contributed to enhancing the participants’ understanding of the challenges we face and the current research needs, as well as the importance of working across disciplines to provide the knowledge required to ensure improved water resource management. 

A dynamic round-table discussion of new modalities for more inclusive and transdisciplinary research introduced by the University of Pretoria was facilitated by Prof Rautenbach. Some key issues identified included the need to establish active research groups across the disciplines to address Water Governance, Water, People and Global Change (with a strong focus on rapid urbanisation and the water-related implications of this phenomenon), and Water and Education (including the issue of science-policy interaction and addressing all levels of formal and non-formal education). In addition, it became apparent that gender and water issues intersect and should, where appropriate, be addressed by all existing and new water themes.

This successful and fruitful round-table discussion offered a unique way to observe World Water Day as it addressed the very topical issue of interdisciplinary research and the key role played by such initiatives in strengthening our water-related knowledge base and its application.

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