14 April, 2015
Your Excellency Dr. Han Seung-soo, the United Nations Special Envoy on Disaster Risk Reduction and Water, and Chair of High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me express my heart-felt congratulations to the 7th World Water Forum held in the Cities of Daegu and Gyeongju, thanks to the dedication and contribution of the Government and the people of the Republic of Korea as well as many relevant people in the world. I am pleased to have been invited to the Forum in cities of such outstanding natural beauty and rich culture. Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I cannot attend the Forum, and I have to deliver my speech by video. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Forum officers who allowed me to make my presentation in this way.
The World Water Forums have been successfully organized around the world. Besides the Third World Water Forum held in Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga for which I served as the honorary president, the Forums have been convened in the cities of Marrakech, the Hague, Mexico City, Istanbul, and Marseille. These Forums have provided epoch-making opportunities, significantly contributing to galvanizing discussion and actions towards making progress on global water and sanitation challenges. It is my utmost pleasure to deliver my message on water today, as I did in the previous Forums, at the occasion of the High Level Panel on Water and Disasters chaired by Dr. Han Seung-soo.
Under the overall theme of “Water for Our Future”, the 7th World Water Forum initiated the Science and Technology Process. I would like to take this opportunity to address the role that science and technology have played in the development of “relations between people and water”.
As exemplified by the fact that the four major ancient civilizations were all developed in the vicinity of large watercourses, people have managed water for their benefit by utilizing wisdom and exercising ingenuity. People's desire for better and safer lives brought about further techniques and skills, and transformed these techniques into invention, which led to the establishment of water science and technology. As time goes by, water science and technology has contributed to development of agriculture and industry, and helped to fulfill people's longing for better and healthier lives.
I often visit water facilities when I make visits abroad. When I attended the Water Expo (Fig.1) in Zaragoza, Spain in 2008, I visited the remains of watermills in Toledo(Fig.2). Also among those facilities are the old water distribution facilities and aqueduct in Istanbul (Fig.3), Turkey which I visited in 2009, and the Muea Irrigation Facilities in Kenya (Fig.4), and the Roman aqueduct I visited in 2010. Through those visits, I was deeply impressed by the wisdom of local people to make efficient use of water in accordance with their culture and society. I am certain that many of you who are present here have had similar experiences due to your broad interest in water issues.
As an example of relations between science and technology and water, I would like to speak about the water cycle. The concept of water cycle had already been developed by the philosopher Aristotle as early as the 4th Century BC when he was seeking for laws of nature on the earth and the ocean in his work titled “Meteorologica”. In Iran, a practical technology for the water cycle called “Qanat” (Fig.5) was developed in the 8th Century BC. “Qanat” is a system consisting of underground water tunnels through which groundwater is efficiently extracted and conveyed. This technology was developed in dry regions where much water is lost through evaporation. When I visited Oman in 1994, I saw “Falaj”, a similar irrigation system utilizing under-ground channels. The system has been used for centuries. Modern science on the water cycle was developed later by E. Halley (Fig.6), an astronomer whose name is recalled with “Halley's Comet”. He calculated total evaporation from the Mediterranean Sea and concluded that it is greater than the total discharge into the sea. These examples show that the science and technology of water have been intertwined with various academic areas depending on the needs and interests that vary through space and time.
The same applies in the area of water and disasters. Networks of moats were found in the ruins of the Kango settlement (Fig.7) from Japan's Yayoi Period around the beginning of the present era. This means that technologies to discharge water and manage flood had been developed in ancient Japan. The Chujo Levee (Fig.8) was constructed in the Edo Period off the main river course of the Tone River, which I visited, to prevent intrusion of flood water into the capital area of Edo, now Tokyo. Further along in history, the government of Japan adopted modern flood management technology from the Netherlands (Fig.9). An example is the separation work of the three large braided rivers of Kiso for flood control in the Meiji Era. The construction work was based on a plan developed by the Dutch engineer Johannis de Rijke. These examples indicate that the desire for a better and safer life propelled the development of science and technology for water-related disaster risk reduction.
I have talked about the history of the development of science and technology concerning water. Now I would like to talk about examples in which the historical record itself has contributed to the development of science and technology. In 2013, I gave the key-note lecture in the Special Session on Water and Disasters organized by His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations (Fig.10). In the lecture, I touched upon old historical records of water-related disasters, and showed that the occurrence of a large-scale tsunami due to the Jogan Earthquake in 869, more than one thousand years ago was confirmed by geological research works conducted on the basis of historical documents on the ancient tsunami (Fig.11). The research confirmed that the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, although a rare event, was not the only mega-tsunami of that scale in the history of the affected region. This fact may provide precise clues for advancing tsunami disaster risk reduction measures in the future. You may discover a path for scientific development and a better future for water and people by analyzing chronological records of disasters in the past.
The craving of the people for better and safer lives has been gradually fulfilled through water science and technology. By looking into the records of relations between water and people, I am deeply impressed by the fact that the strong will of the people to better manage and use water has led to the advancement of related science and technology.
When I went on a tour with the Prince of Orange, now His Majesty Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, to the Japan Aerospace Agency (JAXA) in Tsukuba City in September 2010, I learned that space technology has been extensively used to observe water on the earth. I saw a Flight Model named “Shizuku” (Fig.12) that was waiting for launch. Shizuku, meaning a “water drop”, is now successfully orbiting the earth, informing us of the global status of water, such as vapor, clouds and precipitation. The data of Shizuku and other satellites (Fig.13) enable flood forecasting in remote areas and developing countries where observation data had been unavailable. The people of these areas can now be prepared and take action before a disaster happens (Fig.14). The desire to protect people and their family from threats of flooding in even local, deprived areas has been fulfilled today by the use of quintessential technology.
It is feared that climate change may affect various facets of human activities. An international governmental Conference on Climate Change is scheduled to take place in Paris at the end of this year. I hear that a New Protocol will be discussed at the Conference. Climate change is one of the major issues the international community should address in this century. Informed discussion and action on climate change require a large amount of scientific knowledge based on such information as satellite data. Water science and technology is now a decisive element for the future of human beings.
The UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was successfully concluded in Sendai City last month. The “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” was adopted as the guiding document for the international community to take future courses of action. The framework is built on four areas of priority actions: firstly, “understanding disaster risk”; secondly, “strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk”; thirdly, “investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience” and fourthly, “enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to ‘Back Better’ in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction”. It has set concrete targets to be achieved by 2030, including those to reduce human and economic losses caused by disasters. The framework makes recommendations such as the sharing of disaster information, enhancement of disaster education and evacuation drills, increasing the resilience of disaster risk reduction facilities, and the advancement and application of science and technology for disaster risk reduction. The knowledge and experiences of countries worldwide on how to enhance and strengthen the ability to “be prepared before disaster” are being condensed for further reduction of disaster risks globally. Earlier this year, the “Tokyo Conference for International Study on Disaster Risk Reduction” was concluded with a message that science and technology will further play a pivotal role in disaster risk reduction. As society and economy become more advanced and complex, science and technology should be applied in an interdisciplinary manner to mitigate disaster impacts in the intricate social and economic system.
There are still 748 million people who do not have access to an improved drinking water source and 2.5 billion people who do not have access to an improved sanitation facility. Many lives and properties are lost due to water related disasters such as typhoons, hurricanes, floods, tsunami and landslides. Water problems are still enormous and diverse.
However, I am convinced that our continued desire for universal access to improved water and sanitation and safety from the threat of water-related disasters will lead to further advances in science and technology, and will carry us closer step by step to our goal however tremendous the tasks may be.
Science and technology may still fall short of fully addressing the forces of nature as seen in disaster examples of many countries. But I am certain that wisdom and the will of people will bring us to a better water situation, as they have done so throughout history. I sincerely hope that all of you who are present here will keep moving towards fulfilling our common aspirations for water. Together with you, I am also committed to continue my efforts towards better “Water for Our Future”.