Water issues were first discussed in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. Starting from the first World Water Forum in Morocco in 1997, six forums have taken place so far. Unlike other international events, the World Water Forum is an occasion where critical water issues are discussed in a substantial way to come up with solutions, including drawing up a declaration and calling for action.
The World Water Form was organized by the World Water Council, which is the largest international and independent organization about water, with the participation of about 312 international organizations, governments, academic circles, NGOs, and public and private enterprises.
South Korea is the host country of the 7th World Water Forum. Business Korea met Lee Jung-moo, chairman of the National Committee for the 7th World Water Forum, to hear about his preparations for the global water event and expectations of ripple effects resulting from hosting it.
What is your determination one year ahead of the World Water Forum?
Hosted by the World Water Council every three years, the World Water Forum is the largest international expo in the global water industry. I am very proud and feeling great responsibility with the upcoming event scheduled to take place in Korea for the first time.
The 7th World Water Forum in Daegu City and North Gyeongsang Province will be a great opportunity for Korea to foster the growth of the domestic water industry and show off its advanced water resources management techniques. At the same time, we are planning on various campaigns to increase the awareness of the value and significance of water with the problem of water scarcity emerging nowadays.
Through the various programs and additional events, countries all around the world will become one in the international expo.
What is your organizing committee preparing to do for World Water Day?
We have come up with a variety of events to celebrate World Water Day on March 22 to share the value of water and boost the awareness of the World Water Forum, which is slated to kick off on April 12, 2015.
The examples include the recruiting of young honorary ambassadors by the name of World Water Forum Blue Road Supporters, online events for collecting WWF promo appreciation reviews, and the education programs of Project WET. I hope that more and more people will participate in these events.
The detailed information is available at the official website of the World Water Forum 2015 at worldwaterforum7.org.
What is the size of the event and the effects anticipated from it?
It is expected that the World Water Forum 2015 will be attended by approximately 35,000 persons from 200 or so countries, including high-ranking government officials, entrepreneurs, scholars, NGO figures, and journalists.
The forum can be divided into four processes, that is, the Thematic Process, the Political Process, the Regional Process and the Science & Technology Process, a new process this year. In addition, Citizen Forums and many additional events are going to be available.
The forum, on the part of Korea, is a chance to take the initiative of water-related issues in the global arena. Also, its water management technologies and experiences will be shared with the entire world through the Science & Technology Process, so that the international standing of Korea in the global water industry can be increased and an increasing number of Korean companies can make inroads into overseas markets. More than 260 billion won [US$242.8 million] of economic benefits and 2,500 jobs are predicted to be created through the event.
Please explain the outcome of the recent Stakeholders Consultation Meeting.
The organizing committee successfully hosted the 2nd Stakeholders Consultation Meeting in Gyeongju between February 27 and 29. The meeting was the largest one in its history, attended by 725 persons from 59 countries. The official logo and slogan of the World Water Forum 2015 were announced at the meeting.
In addition, the 16 major themes to be discussed at the forum were finalized and the organization of the working group started in earnest to manage the more than 300 sessions of the main event. All of the parties concerned, such as government institutions, the academic community, civic organizations and NGOs previewed the event for next year while having in-depth discussions about its direction and detailed programs.
The organizing committee will make thorough preparations for the forum, based on the outcome of the Stakeholders Consultation Meeting, during the remaining period. It will set up final plans associated with transport, accommodation, participant registration, and the like as well, while working on comprehensive logistics services for the convenience of the attendees.
You have announced that the core value of the World Water Forum 2015 lies in practice. What does that mean?
The unique message of the 7th forum is practice. The past forums have concentrated on collecting various solutions for the current global situations, but the 7th forum will establish mechanisms to put such ideas into practice.
This is why the Science & Technology Process was set up at this time. The process will be a significant momentum with which science and technology, important tools for the practice, will be exchanged among countries to lead the sustainable growth of related technologies. Additionally, Korea will make the most of the process to spread its experiences and technologies to those suffering water problems and help them achieve actual benefits.
The 7th forum is the second one held in Asia, following the 3rd World Water Forum in Japan 11 years ago. As such, it will be an opportunity to observe water problems from the perspective of Asia, not the Western World, and draw a new future for the industry.
The Daegu and North Gyeongsang region is aiming to turn itself into a linchpin of the water industry by capitalizing on the event, but it is also said that the region still has some tasks to promote the growth of related companies and attract research institutes.
The region has dealt wisely with water problems such as water pollution, scarcity, and natural disasters through the course of industrialization. It is one of the textbook examples that have turned crises into opportunities for the growth of the water industry.
The World Water Forum 2015 will add to its successful efforts through the establishment of water industry clusters and the revitalization of companies in the sector. Daegu City is working on water clusters, and North Gyeongsang Province has already attracted a number of leading enterprises in the sector. They will beef up their organic cooperation through the forum and become the center of the water industry of Korea.
I would like to emphasize that the Daegu and North Gyeongsang region has attracted the international event with a clear vision to becoming a leading player of the global water industry. Dedicated efforts have been made in the form of various water-related events, water expos and the Nakdong River International Water Week. Though in the early stage yet, the endeavor has definitely led to tangible results.
The Park Geun-hye government has recently selected sustainable water management and sound water environments as two of its national policy tasks. What are the prerequisites for Korea to be a powerhouse of the global water industry?
Korea’s water sector grew in size from 12.6 trillion won [US$11.7 billion] to 16 trillion won [US$14.9 billion] between 2007 and 2011, which is the eight-largest in the world. However, Korea accounts for just 0.3% of the global market due to some delay in overseas market penetration. This implies that the sector has a huge potential for future growth as a driver of creative economy.
At present, the global water market is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of at least 4 percent down the road, and it is estimated to have doubled the semiconductor and shipbuilding markets, reaching approximately US$500 billion, as early as 2010.
What is required under the circumstances is the enhancement of integrated solution capabilities and the training of experts and R&D of technologies, not to mention the development of the existing fields where Korea has distinguished itself, such as water supply, drainage management, and seawater desalination.