Chinese Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei (second left) and European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella (second right) sign a Memorandum of Understanding to establish dialogue on water policy and help business cooperation on water management on Sept. 21, 2017 in Turku, Finland. (Xinhua/Zhang Xuan)
TURKU, Finland, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- China and the European Union (EU) vowed on Thursday to continue working together to fight global water crises, as hundreds of high-level decision makers and experts on water management from the two sides met in Turku, southwestern Finland.
China, the European Commission and several EU member states signed a declaration at the annual China Europe Water Platform (CEWP) in Turku to strengthen cooperation to promote sustainable and improve water security.
Resolving water problems has a key role in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that should be achieved by 2030. One of the 17 goals is securing access to clean water and sanitation for all.
It is natural for China and the EU to work together to solve "one of the most crucial problems in the future for mankind," Kimmo Tiilikainen, Finnish Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment, said.
The minister told Xinhua ensuring adequate drinking water supplies and managing wastewater so that the environment was not polluted are key issues.
A GLOBAL OBJECTIVE
Today, more than 1 billion people have difficulty in accessing safe drinking water. A quarter of the world's population faces a dearth of fresh water, and over 14 percent of the global runoff is contaminated. Also, 90 percent of the natural disaster deaths are caused by floods, draughts and typhoons, Chinese Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said.
Chen said the cooperation on water management is significant to prevent potential water crises from affecting the economy and society. It is necessary to secure the supply of water and food, and the ecology, as well as mitigate the effects of climate change.
Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, pointed out that water plays a very important role in the other SDGs as well.
"These are global objectives, and there is no single country that can reach these objectives on its own. That is why we need global solutions and we need global actions toward the SDGs," Vella told Xinhua.
The commissioner said everyone was dedicated to the cause: "We are all committed. China is committed, Europe is committed, and I think the more we work together, the better chance we have of reaching the same objectives," he said.
Vella underlined that the water issue matters more than one can imagine: "The risk of lack of water and the risk of having bad quality water is a threat to society, a threat to our health, and also a threat to our economy, because two [to] three out of every four jobs are water-dependent."
PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS NEEDED
Besides the Turku declaration, China and the EU Thursday also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish dialogue on water policy.
Vella said the idea is to develop not just a discussion forum but practical steps and find practical projects. "The MOU lists a number of objectives in line with Sustainable Development Goals to which we are all committed, including the EU as well as China."
"I think we can look for practical solutions together," he said, suggesting the private sector, especially private businesses already working in the water industry that have good water management experience, should be brought into the picture.
This will open a window of opportunity for European companies to work with Chinese companies, he said, adding that while the talks started on a government-to-government level, now "we are going forward to the business-to-business level as well."
Representatives of over 140 companies and institutions from 10 countries are taking part in the business forums and match-making programs during the two-day conference in Turku.
The CEWP was established in 2012. It is supervised by two secretariats, one in the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources and the other in the Ministry of Environment of Denmark. Finland will become the CEWP secretariat starting 2018, followed by Portugal in 2020.