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Agua portada

Without water, there are no toilets. Without awareness, there is no sustainability

December 18, 2015
  • The Foundation’s acts on World Toilet Day show that the problem of sanitation covers a vast world beyond that of the latrine and sanitation technologies
  • The galleries of Madrid, Lisbon and Shanghai bring together experts in search of solutions. The investment in human capital involves organisation and education

The important thing is to raise awareness and to do this we must communicate and educate. The problem of sanitation at a world scale is massive and covers all the human disciplines, so that the challenge of communication and education grows proportionally. A simple sentence synthesises the problem: "The chain that leads to dignified and sustainable sanitation is long and complex. We must count on every single citizen to make it a reality". This declaration could sum up the conclusions reached by the experts in the round table discussions that, for World Toilet Day, the We Are Water Foundation held.

Understanding the experts, listening to their proposals and studying the specific cases in which they are working are basic when thinking about global solutions. This was the purpose of the acts that the We Are Water Foundation organised for World Toilet Day, the day established by the UN to specifically communicate and raise awareness about a problem that affects the dignified and healthy life of 2.5 billion people around the world.

After the round table discussion Sanitation for all. The dream of Ghandi and the challenge of India that was held in the Roca Barcelona Gallery on the 18 November (see news), the next day, coinciding with the 19 November, the Foundation organised similar acts in the galleries in Madrid, Lisbon and Shanghai. In total we were able to listen to the opinions and experiences of 12 world experts on questions of water and sanitation. The list of contributors speaks for itself of the wide range of multidisciplinary opinions that took part in the debate.

In Madrid the debate was called The problem of sanitation: between shame and poverty. Alongside Xavier Torras, director of the We Are Water Foundation an Ana Gutiérrez, director of the Roca Madrid Gallery, were Liliana Ardiles, managing director of water of MAGRAMA; Belén García, manager of the ONGAWA NGO; Gonzalo de Castro, senior executive of Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) and David Escobar, member of iAgua, who was the chairperson. The debate clearly showed that hygienic needs go hand in hand with those of a dignified life, especially for women in the areas most affected, which are those that suffer from the lack of safe toilets that preserve intimacy. Also made crystal clear was the need for education in towns and villages of the local users in order to achieve the sustainability of the installation.

In Lisbon the round table was chaired by Adérito Mendes, an expert engineer in hydraulics and hydric resources, and was focused on the major problem that the large cities have: Basic sanitation in urban centres. A problem solved? Artur Silva, representing the Foundation, explained the data that the United Nations are working with to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. José António Martins, from EPAL (Empresa Pública das Águas Livres), spoke about efficient management systems and the operational costs, factors that define the efficiency and economy of the distribution of water in a large city, a question that is inseparable from sanitation systems. The architect Tiago Mota Saraiva presented the project "Community Cooking of the Coastal Lands”, and José Gonçalves, expert in water treatment from SMAS Medioambiente y Servicios, explained the challenges being faced in the management of sanitary services.

In the Roca Shanghai Gallery, the subject was covered from a global perspective. The debate was organised jointly with Green Initiatives. Fernando de la Cal, Digital Marketing Manager of Roca, debated jointly with Lei Zhou, co-founder of the Oriental Danology Institute, and Pierre Marconi, CEO of Wiracocha (Shanghai) Trading Co and expert in water treatments. The debate clearly showed the importance of a global approach to the problem of sanitation and the urgency of achieving solutions that decrease the enormous differences there are between the developed countries and those still struggling in economies that are still developing. These latter countries are those that accumulate almost all the deficiencies in access to water and sanitation and in which the solutions go beyond technology and require an efficient social approach and, above all, education.

Underlying all three debates was a fundamental issue: the installations are necessary, but they alone are not enough, and there needs to be an investment in the human factor and this means that each solution we must count on every single citizen who must be suitably informed about problem, and organised and educated in the maintenance of the solutions. This challenge is complemented by what our planet faces at an environmental level and dealt with at the COP21, the summit about the climate in Paris: climate, water and contamination are in the same equation as sanitation. Today there is nothing that can be dealt with in isolation and we must work on each problem with the same global vision.


The We Are Water Foundation, promoted by the Roca company, has as objectives, on the one hand, to raise awareness amongst the general public and the administrations about the need to promote a new culture of water and, on the other hand, relieve the negative effects related to the lack of hydric resources, through the development of cooperation and aid programmes alongside diverse organisations such as Education without Frontiers, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, Intermón Oxfam and UNICEF.