Kathmandu hosted its first IWA Specialist Conference Global Challenges: Sustainable Wastewater Treatment and Resource Recovery from 26 to 30 October 2014. More than 350 delegates from 37 countries attended the conference, which was praised by many as one of the best they have attended because of its strong technical program, timely and topical workshops, lively discussions and opportunities to network in a historic and picturesque location. One-third of the submitted abstracts were selected for platform presentations. The 23 technical sessions, 3 utility forums, 4 plenary sessions, 4 poster sessions, 5 workshops, exhibition and technical tour provided a unique opportunity for a healthy discussion among delegates from different backgrounds on how to approach wastewater management challenges that lie ahead of us.
|“Thanks again for a great conference. I think I can say hand on heart it was the best I’ve ever attended.”
The conference was coordinated through the IWA Nutrient Removal and Recovery (NRR) Specialist Group with support from the Resources-Oriented Sanitation Specialist Group. It was felt that population growth, climate change, and resource scarcities demand a paradigm shift on how wastewater is perceived and treated. Since conventional approaches for wastewater treatment focused on removal of nutrients and carbon are becoming increasingly unsustainable and cost for treatment to meet new regulations to protect public health and environment is getting higher, a global summit on the sustainability of wastewater and resource recovery was long overdue, and this conference attempted to do just that. The conference venue, Nepal, sits between India and China – two of the largest population centers in the world, a region that will dictate the future of water and wastewater at a global scale. NRR Chair and IWA Board Member Dr. Sudhir Murthy echoed similar thoughts and summarized why Nepal was selected as the conference venue. He said the NRR Specialist Group made a special effort to host this conference in a part of the world where real change mattered and could happen, and also expressed his hope that this would be the first of a series of conferences that would be held in the next few years on this theme.
|“The standard of the … conference could not have been better and the welcome and reception … was overwhelming.”
Professor Helmut Kroiss
The importance of the conference for the host country was obvious from its inauguration by the President of Nepal Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, and the attendance by ministers, secretaries and other high ranking officials from the government of Nepal. The global importance of the conference was illustrated by the presence of IWA President Professor Helmut Kroiss as well as WEF President Ed McCormick who not only attended the entire conference but actively participated in it by delivering keynote presentations in plenary sessions. Delegates from developed as well as developing countries participated in the conference, which provided a unique opportunity for knowledge sharing among delegates with different perspectives and priorities. Among these delegates were world-renowned experts delivering plenary talks on topics ranging from economics, planning, and regulations, to leading research related to wastewater and its management.
|“I honestly cannot recall any specialty conference that I have enjoyed more during my career. The program and speakers were top-notch, the cultural events were all amazing, and the warmth of the people was wonderful. I could not have selected a better first IWA conference to attend than Kathmandu.”
The involvement of major institutions – Harbin Institute of Technology (China), Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (India), Kathmandu University (Nepal) and the Nepal Development research Institute as co-organizers was particularly helpful for the participation of academics and students from Asia and beyond. The generous support from the diverse group of sponsors (Columbia University, U.S. National Science Foundation, Suez Environment, AECOM, Itron, KROHNE MARSHALL, WABAG, World Water Works, and Yokogawa) was equally important for the successful completion of the conference.
During the Closing Session of the conference, Kathmandu Declaration 2014, a ten-point call to action to deal with the pressing water management problems in Nepal, was issued. The Declaration recommended emphasis on the value of water, legislation, regulation, financing, strong utilities, education, competency, resilient technologies, integration and entrepreneurship.
The conference organizers received high praise on many technical and non-technical aspects of the conference from the delegates. The excellent work by aspiring young volunteers, and the hospitality of the host city earned respect from all corners. An article by IWA President Professor Kroiss dealing largely with the Kathmandu conference can be found here. WEF President Ed McCormick’s article about the conference is available here.