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Poverty Times #2

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Swedish children discuss water stress

How do you discuss water stress with children spoiled with never-ending clean water? What do they care about an International Year of Freshwater? They do care, says Camilla Nilsson, science centre educationalist in Kalmar, Sweden, who spent all of 2003 exploring freshwater issues with Swedish school children aged 6-15. “We have heard the most innovative ideas on water conservation and management during our sessions with the children” she added. By Elisabet Idermark

Camilla and her colleagues at xl, a university science centre in Kalmar, set up a programme on freshwater in collaboration with giwa, Global International Waters Assessment, a unep project on the environmental conditions in transboundary waters. School classes were invited to make experiments with water in the xl laboratories. They were expected to discuss water issues before coming there and were also given exercises to continue working on in the classroom after the visit.

Many teachers took this opportunity to make an interdisciplinary project on water, says Camilla Nilsson. The children have written poems, read novels and designed flags along with the more scientific studies of water.

Marie-Louise Yllenius is head teacher in fifth grade in Torslunda school on the island Öland in the Baltic Sea. She describes how her school opened the water project with a surprise event. “We asked 100 students to stand in a circle, each holding a glass of water. They were asked to taste the water in the glasses. Only three of them were filled with drinkable freshwater, all the others were very salty”. This led the Torslunda fifth graders into a discussion on the world’s uneven distribution of drinking water.

“The younger children tried to come up with ideas on how to share the Swedish abundance of water” says Camilla Nilsson at xl. “One suggestion was to use salt water for toilets, another was to always take showers and never use bathtubs. The older children understand that what is to be shared is knowledge and that they in the future must get involved in technical development also in other countries.”

Elisabet Idermark is the Information Officer at the Global International Waters Assessment (giwa). The objective of giwa is to produce a comprehensive and systematic assessment of the environmental conditions and problems in transboundary waters, to develop scenarios of future conditions, and to present policy options. Giwa is a project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (gef) and led by the United Nations Environment Programme (unep).

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