CNDS commemorates World Water Day

2018-04-09

Several CNDS fellows, who research various aspects of water, contributed to a research seminar commemorating World Water Day. Drawing upon their different academic disciplines and competencies, they were able to present various perspectives in an effort to provide a more comprehensive picture of the complex issue of water.

 Ashok Swain (Professor of Peace and Conflict Research and the Director of Research School of International Water Cooperation, both at Uppsala University, as well as the UNESCO Chair of International Water Cooperation) discussed the dilemma of shared waters in terms of climate change, conflict and cooperation. Humans have a selfish interest in preserving the world's water sources, yet we are jeopardising this crucial resource. The "water footprints" we leave differ greatly between the various socio-economic groups. Professor Swain explained how the increase in water demand and the changing geopolitical situation are posing serious governance and water security challenges.

Drawing upon her ethnographic field study of relief and recovery in the case of Rockaway Beach after Hurricane Sandy, Sara Bondesson (doctor of political science at the SEDU) described what can happen when an acute disaster relief situation transitions into a long-term recovery phase. Sara Bondesson revealed that the disruptive character of a disaster can actually create unexpected alliances and make room for people to use their creativity, but that disaster situations can also reinforce the vulnerability of previously marginalized groups.. Disaster vulnerability is not equally distributed, but it closely reflects the pre-existing inequalities in our societies that distribute risk unequally. Moreover, the same groups that are hit the hardest are often the ones with the least to say about how risk is produced or managed. Therefore, Sara Bondesson encourages researchers, practitioners and activists to pay more attention to the underlying factors for why this is so and to examine the kinds of political decisions (or non-decisions) that bring about this skewed order.

Korbinian Breinl (postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University) explained some of the aspects of modelling urban flooding and the interaction between society and hydrological extremes, mainly floods and droughts. Urban environments are rapidly growing and  thus modelling needs to consider both climate-driven and anthropogenic changes in the water balance in order to understand how hydrological processes are going to change in the future. Korbinian Breinl described the difficulties in using the available data and using it to analyse current patterns as wellas to predict future trends. In part, urban environments are challengeing for modellers since cities may look radically different from one place to another, making it nearly impossible to do comparitive research.