Shanghai World Expo examines water's significance to cities
"What is the significance of water to a city?"
The Shanghai World Expo is trying to answer the question.
"With the (World Water Council) pavilion, we want to show the connection between the city and where water comes from. Better city or better life, from what we see, is directly connected to good water," said Director General of World Water Council Ger Bergkamp in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
The World Water Council (WWC) Pavilion is inside the International Organizations Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo. Ger Bergkamp said it is the first time the WWC has had a pavilion at the World Expo, even though WWC organizes the World Water Forum every three years.
Painted on the floor of the pavilion is a masterpiece featuring a city with a flowing blue river. Inside the pavilion, there are a corner for children, a "water Internet corner," a small cinema and pillars on which screens show documentaries about water.
"What the pavilion shows is how water affects our life, and how important water is for avoiding disasters, and for having food and producing energy," Bergkamp said.
In his view, China is facing challenges when it comes to water, with a growing population and changes in lifestyles necessitating more and more water.
"At the same time, we also see that China is not alone. There are many countries that also have very similar problems. We need to solve these problems together. No country alone can solve all the problems," he said.
"With the pavilion, we raise the awareness of the expo visitors' about the importance of the water in the daily life of the city and make people more aware of water issues in other places of the world," he added.
What children think of water and what water means for them is an important topic as well. "We hope our young visitors will learn in their early life about how important water is," Bergkamp said.
He said the Chinese government is very much aware of the challenges relating to water.
"What is needed is more awareness and willingness by people and businesses to change their behavior," he said.
Bergkamp said one of the characteristics of the WWC pavilion is that it doesn't have walls. "The idea is that people can easily come into the pavilion. We want to be open, as water is everybody's business."
Many nation's pavilions selected for Urban Best Practice by the Expo also interpret the relationship between water and city.
The Singapore Pavilion has an introduction on how the country handles its serious water shortage problem. When visitors touch a computer screen in the pavilion, the country's water policies are shown.
According to the introduction, Singapore suffered serious water shortages in the 1960s and 1970s. But Singapore overcame its water problems and ensured its water supply with four strategies: collecting rainwater; creating "Newater" (recycling sewage water); desalting seawater; and purchasing water from other countries.
In the Urban Best Practice Area, Chengdu, capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province, introduces a small ecosystem to purify river water.
It replicates a garden in Chengdu with a scale of 1:10. In the garden, dirty river water is pushed by a windmill to a pond for anaerobe treatment, the first step of purification. The water then flows through about 20 smaller ponds where different plants are grown to absorb pollutants.
"Through this small ecological system, polluted water is made clean and enriched with oxygen. It is good enough for fish to live in," said Li Siyue, a guide working at the project.
Near the Chengdu pond, the Spanish capital Madrid also displays a water recycling system, which is claimed to be the most effective in Europe.
The city' s sewage plants have an annual treatment capacity of 300 million cubic meters which processes all city's sewage, according to the introduction.
Annually, 6 million cubic meters of recycled sewage water is pumped to the city' s fountains and public parks and used to clean streets through 150 km of underground pipeline.
Ignacio Nino, the Madrid exhibit's general coordinator, told Xinhua based on Madrid' s experience, sewage treatment, waste treatment and city greening are the most basic elements to protect a city' s environment.
"Once a city does well in these three aspects, naturally the environment will be good," he said.