Water Quality and Emerging Pollutants: addressing new global challenges

Field visit to Kota Tua (Old Town) River on 29 November 2018 (@UNESCO/Bustamam)

New and emerging pollutants present a global water quality challenge and a potentially serious threat to human and ecosystem health. A three-day UNESCO training course for Asia and the Pacific held in Jakarta last week placed this challenge on the regional agenda – and outlined strategies and actions to address it.

Emerging pollutants are commonly defined as synthetic or naturally-occurring chemicals or microorganisms that are not commonly monitored or regulated in the environment, yet which have potentially adverse effects on ecological and human health.  The sources of emerging pollutants are many, ranging from pharmaceuticals and personal care products, to agricultural pesticides, micro-plastics and household and industrial chemicals.

On 27 November 2018, a three-day Asia and the Pacific Training Workshop on Water Quality and Emerging Pollutants was launched in Jakarta, Indonesia. The event – part of a series of training workshops organised in Africa, the Arab States, and Latin America and the Caribbean – brought together water managers, government officials, and researchers from 15 countries across the region and beyond.

The event was organized under the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme’s International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ) supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and was co-organised by Asia Pacific Center for Ecohydrology under the Auspices of UNESCO (APCE), and the UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in Jakarta.

Delivered and facilitated by experts from the Czech Republic Academy of Sciences and South Africa’s Water Research Commission, the event was organized with the purpose of strengthening regional scientific and policy capacity for the management of emerging pollutants. This was done through discussions and exchanges led by the international experts as well as through the presentation of case studies by participants from Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Viet Nam.

A field investigation held on Thursday 29 November marked the conclusion of the event on. Coordinated by the Government of Jakarta Province, participants visited three sites in North Jakarta: Pluit Dam, Kota Tua (Old Town) River and Sunter Lake, granting participants first-hand insight into the water quality management challenges facing Jakarta, as well as the measures taken in response by the provincial authorities.

While the workshop formally ended last week, discussions are set to continue: in his formal welcome address, Dr Laksana Tri Handoko - Chair of Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) - expressed the expectation that the training workshop will serve as the basis of a future regional emerging pollutants network, in turn stimulating further research collaboration for effective water quality management across Asia and the Pacific.