Five (5) Things I Learned from Attending the Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities Training

I was fortunate to be one of the participants in the “Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities” Online Training on December 7-11, 2020. The Training was organized and sponsored by UN-Habitat in partnership with the International Urban Training Centre (IUTC) and Gangwon Province, Republic of Korea. The training should have been conducted face to face (in person) but because of the Covid 19 Pandemic the organizers decided to conduct it online (virtual).

I also applied and was accepted in the previous training offered by the organizers on “Urban Transportation” International Training Course on April 24 to May 3, 2019 in IUTC, Gangwon Province, Republic of Korea. However, I was not able to attend because of conflict of schedule. When I learned that IUWM training was offered, I immediately applied and was again accepted.

Let’s first learn more about the Organizers.

UN Habitat. “UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all. It works in over 90 countries to promote transformative change in cities and human settlements through knowledge, policy advice, technical assistance and collaborative action.” 1

International Urban Training Centre (IUTC). IUTC “aims to contribute to the global community by providing a wide range of capacity building programs for central and regional government officials and policy makers as well as non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders of developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, the center focuses on issues related to sustainable urban and regional development.” 2

Gangwon Province. Gangwon Province of the Republic of Korea in collaboration with UN-HABITAT established IUTC in 2007. The center has trained thousands of policy makers and leaders from 54 countries in the Asia-Pacific region since its establishment. 2

The IUWM for Better Resilience in Cities online training course objective is to provide participants a deeper understanding of the principles of IUWM and how these principles can be equitably applied in cities. The training also aims to help and further understand and achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on improving access to water and sanitation for all and at the same time address higher resilience and sanitation services in the cities, especially in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. We learned to understand and analyse the different water actors that participate in the implementation of water services. We were expected to initiate the process of developing and applying IUWM action plan in our home cities. The course also gave us the tools to analyse our urban and institutional environments in order to select the best possible choice opportunities for implementing IUWM. 3

The course is comprised of four modules: Introduction and technical aspects of water management; Sanitation and Disease Prevention, including COVID-19 pandemic response; Climate Change and Disaster risk prevention in relation to IUWM; and Institutional development and action-planning for IUWM.3
By the way, SDG 6 is one of the 17 SDGs adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG 6 is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

After downloading the requirements and forms, I filled-out the application form for the training. The application form is comprised of your basic information, career experience, job description, English as a Language background, motivational essay, and the official nomination of your agency to attend the training. I also submitted my IUWM Case Study. My proposed Case Study is about Integrated Urban Water Management: The Case of the City of Santa Rosa.

I emailed both filled-out application form and IUWH Case Study and was duly acknowledged by the organizers. After a few days, I received an email that I have been accepted.

Our batch is diverse. It is comprised of 31 participants coming from different countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. My co-participant from my country (Philippines) is the City Planning Director (City Planning and Development Coordinator) of Olongapo City. The online training was from 2pm – 7pm, Monday up to Friday.

Below are the topics and some of the lessons I gained from the lectures:

1st Day. Integrated Urban Water Management for Sustainable Water Security in Korea, Smart Water Grid of Water Supply Systems, Integrated Water Management of Gangwon Province.
I like how water issues and management in South Korea presented were aligned with the history of the nation. I remember urban planning lectures that water defines civilization and development. Thus, water at present will influence present, future, and sustainability of cities and nation. Integrated Water Management of Gangwon Province is a good example of sustainable water management.

2nd Day. Cities for the Post Covid-19 Pandemic Recovery, Untact Climate Smart, Resilient and Resource Wise, Water Security in a Climate Crisis Area, Water Management from a Livelihood Perspective.
The COVID 19 pandemic highlighted the current situation of global water access. There are communities that still don’t have access to clean water, toilet, and sanitation. One of the best practice / weapon to combat COVID 19 is frequent handwashing with soap. How can we address COVID 19 if not all households have access to clean water? If you have access to water while your neighbour doesn’t and you happened to made contact in public places (supermarkets, restaurants, churches, parks, etc.), aren’t you still at high risk of acquiring the virus? Everyone regardless of socio-economic status should have access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH).

3rd Day. Water Engineering for Sustainable Urban Water Cycle, Initial Reaction of Waterborne Disease, Pollution Prevention, and Citywide Inclusive Sanitation System.
Sometimes as Planners and water advocates, we stop our efforts when we already ensured community access to water or providing them latrines and toilets. However, equally important to water access is sanitation. Sanitation is the treatment and disposal of human waste and sewage (waste water and excrement conveyed in sewers). It is also important to ensure proper management of latrines and toilets. When we pollute our ground water, we not only endanger the source of our clean water but also invite diseases and increase the cost of water due to water treatment. There are different methods of Sewerage systems (refers to the facilities through which sewage flows). It may be a centralized sewerage system (developed countries) or an individual septic tank (enclosed) system (developing countries). We need to be equally conscious and demanding about water access and wastewater treatment.

4th Day. Institutional Issues in Urban Water Management, Development of an IUWM Action Planning for Cities.
Water supplies (source), waste water treatment (sewerage), and water related issues transcend political (city) boundaries. Thus, it is important that neighboring cities coordinate and cooperate among themselves on how to manage this important resource. Central / National government should have clear and just policies on water management and inter-city coordination. It is expected that conflicts may arise from IUWM but what is important is that these conflicts are addressed and resolved by involved parties.

5th Day. IUWM Action Plan Presentations. Closing Ceremony.
I enjoyed and learned a lot from the group presentations. Though, we come from different countries, there are similarities in terms of water-issues. Not all (100%) of countries/cities presented have access to clean water and sanitation. Every country/city has its underprivileged community that needed support. The first step is analysing and understanding the present issues. This will help the leaders develop the right strategy to the right issue. One important thing is partnering with the community in defining the problem and developing solutions to the problems.

My lessons / Takeaways:

  1. Wherever you are in the world, when it comes to water, the issues are somewhat similar. The issues include sustainability of the water source and access of the poorest communities. It is the duty of planners, policy-makers, and the high-interest / high-influence stakeholders to ensure sustainability of water source and equal access of everybody to this precious resource.
  2. Equally important in ensuring sustainable water source is waste water management. Do not stop by providing latrines / toilets. Make sure that these toilets are managed in a way that the community (benefits) uses it well and the wastewater doesn’t add to water pollution.
  3. Understand the Price of Doing Nothing (Status Quo). Doing nothing is not only inhumane (poor communities who doesn’t have access to water and sanitation) but posts danger to the community / city as a whole. Viruses and diseases don’t choose between those who have and those who do not have access to WASH. It is important that everyone have access to WASH to manage present and future diseases.
  4. Importance of Stakeholders. Plan with stakeholders. Define problems, assess situations, shortlist solutions, and choose best solutions together with stakeholders. Involved them. This will build trust among key stakeholders. This will promote commitment and support. This will define success of projects and future endeavours.
  5. Water is an important precursor to development. It influences development, sustainability of that development, and decline of cities. Failure to Integrate Urban Water Management (IUWM) may result to decline (development).

Special thanks to Ms. Trang Nguyen (UN-Habitat) and Mr. Yeonghoon Kim (IUTC) for facilitating the course well despite the challenges of distance seminar and internet connection.

I hope that more policy-makers, planners, and stakeholders attend/participate in the UN-Habitat / IUTC/ Gangwon Province’s courses. I personally hope that after the Pandemic I can personally attend one of their courses.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to be part of this years’ Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities Training.