Stockholm Junior Water Prize at the Dubai EXPO
SIWI’s Ania Andersch, who leads the Stockholm Junior Water Prize programme, was invited to talk about the Prize in the Swedish Pavilion at the 35th World Exhibition in Dubai on 24 March 2022. Here she shares some take-aways.
Why were you invited to speak at the Dubai EXPO?
We see growing interest in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize in many parts of the world, including the Gulf region which is a water-scarce region with a high per capita consumption of water. The United Arab Emirates is one of the countries that have recently joined the competition and I hope that many more will follow their example.
The Prize has grown enormously over the years, from eight participating countries in the first international competition in 1997 to more than 40 countries today. Tens of thousands of students participate every year in their own national competitions and the winners compete in the finals in Stockholm in August.
How do you describe the role of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize?
The competition brings together young people who want to solve our most pressing water challenges, at both local and global levels. Many try to fix a problem they experience in their everyday lives; others focus on future risks.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize participants are between 15 and 20 years old and, of course, well aware that when they are 50, they will live in a world very different from the one we know today. Most likely, there will be 2 billion more people who will need food, energy, and somewhere to live. And we need to make this happen without using more water than today. On the contrary, we need to pollute less and get better at preserving water-based ecosystems.
Solutions developed through Stockholm Junior Water Prize projects have already helped address some of these challenges. Looking back at the 25 years the Prize has existed, we see some amazing success stories. The participants’ innovations for water-smart gardening, water-efficient irrigation, and low-cost water purification turned out to actually work.
What is your main message at the Dubai EXPO?
My main message is that all countries should encourage young water innovators, for example by hosting a Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition. That is a great investment in solving water-related challenges. All the thousands of participants in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize make enormous contributions to their own countries. They compete through working on water-related research and development projects in their schools and communities. That way, a new generation becomes interested in the environment, in science, and in engineering. They get the tools they need to work on local solutions to local problems.
The students who participate are also truly amazing. What is so inspiring about them is not just that they are exceptionally bright, but also that they are so curious, passionate, and determined to contribute to a better world. After meeting them I feel confident that we will be able to both create smarter technical solutions and find wiser ways to manage water.
What do students gain from participating in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize?
The finalists come from more than 40 countries and during one week in Stockholm, World Water Week in August, they get to meet people from across the globe. They return home with a new network, new ideas, and a strong urge to find global solutions. In the world where they will live, with the risk of ever fiercer competition over limited natural resources, nothing can be more important. I hope that many more young people will get this opportunity.
Expo 2020 Dubai, Swedish Pavilion
The Swedish Pavilion is hosting Water Focus Week, 20-26 March 2022. Watch as experts try to tackle challenges and highlight a range of water interventions, innovations and practice solutions from around the world.