News.Aug 25, 2020

Festive but unusual ceremony for the 2020 Stockholm Junior Water Prize

Hiroki Matsuhashi and Takuma Miyaki, students at Aomori Prefectural Nakui Agricultural Highschool in Japan, won the prestigious  Stockholm Junior Water Prize award 2020 for an innovative method to control soil runoff and increase food production, using the traditional Japanese soil solidification technology Tataki. The winners were announced by HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Official Patron of the Prize, during the ongoing World Water Week At Home event.

“Thank you, I feel very honoured!” Takuma Miyaki said on receiving the Prize and Hiroki Matsuhashi added: “I am very surprised, I never thought we would win!”

They were interviewed as part of the royal award ceremony on 25 August, broadcast online with many festive ingredients, including a digital Parade of Flags. Victoria Dyring from the Jury read its citation: “This year’s winners have proven that simple local solutions can solve water problems in a global context. Through systematic studies, the contestants have developed methods to make water conservation and soil management more achievable. The contestants effectively combined scientific knowledge and experimentation to revolutionize the way water is collected, used, and conserved for agriculture in arid regions.”

HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden expressed great admiration for all the finalists. In a filmed statement she said that she was not surprised that many ideas that started as Stockholm Junior Water Prize projects have proved to be important innovations changing many people’s lives for the better. Turning directly to the finalists, she encouraged them to continue to be role models who inspire boys and girls all over the world to pursue their dreams.

A Diploma of Excellence was also awarded to Zoe Gotthold, USA, for a creative approach to limiting the impact of oil pollution in marine ecosystems. By isolating the emulsion that forms between spilt oil and seawater she had found a promising solution and “demonstrated extraordinary knowledge and perseverance”, according to the Jury.

This year, the public could also vote in the People’s Choice Award, which went to Adittya Kumar Chowdhury and Khaled Iftekhar from Bangladesh. They have developed a method to purify water through naturally derived poly glutamic acid in association with Moringa oleifera seeds as a coagulant.

Stockholm Junior Water Prize has been organized every year since 1997 by Stockholm International Water Institute, SIWI, with Xylem as Founding Partner. This year, things were, however, a bit different since all activities had to be moved online, due to Covid-19.

Many of the speakers described the changes and challenges related to this and Ania Andersch, manager for Stockholm Junior Water Prize at SIWI thanked both the jury and the national organizers for really going out of their way to make the competition take place. She also turned directly to the finalists, saying: “I am humbled by the fact that many of these projects were developed under the most challenging of circumstances.”

Peter Forssman, Chairman of the SIWI board, who has been involved with the Stockholm Junior Water Prize since it started, was also very impressed: “When I look at today’s finalists in Stockholm Junior Water Prize I feel very hopeful for the future. Your generation has a technological savviness and scientific knowledge as no generation before you. And, maybe more than any other generation, you really care about environmental and social issues. You want to fix things,” he said.

Patrick Decker, CEO of Stockholm Junior Water Prize’s Founding Partner Xylem, expressed similar sentiments. “You’re going to be an incredible generation and you should be so proud,” he said, pointing to the fact that the students combine extraordinary technological and scientific skills with concern for environmental and social justice. As head of a major technology company, he is optimistic about the future, especially when meeting young minds like the Stockholm Junior Water Prize finalists who help change the way people look at water. “We need your innovative minds, your passion and your commitment to justice,” Patrick Decker said.

Watch the full award ceremony