The Swedish Embassy in Hanoi is organising the Smart Water Innovation Contest with the aim of inspiring Vietnamese university students to think freely and innovatively on how to tackle water-related problems and to get people involved in environment and climate issues in general.
Vietnam faces major challenges regarding pollution, resource use in agriculture and equal access to clean water. The country’s long coastline and large deltas are being seriously affected by climate change and rising sea levels. At present, the water level in the Mekong Delta is at the lowest level in 90 years. Dam construction along the entire Mekong River and mangrove forest clearance means that salt water leaks into drinking water and rice fields, making them unusable. However, in 2012, Vietnam adopted a very ambitious Green Growth Strategy, and in addition to acceding to the COP21 climate agreement, has committed to contributing USD 1 million to the Green Climate Fund in 2016–2020.
Vietnam also has a very young population – the average age is 29.6 years and 40 per cent of the population are under 25 years old. So there are great opportunities for change. With the Smart Water Innovation Contest, the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi wants to reach out to university lecturers and students with the message that they are the most important components of the #FirstGeneration that will realise the Global Goals.
The Smart Water Innovation Contest is designed to generate ideas, services and solutions that contribute to sustainable water use. It may be a matter of technical solutions, but also ideas in agriculture, forestry, economics or social issues. The contest attaches great importance to the students’ ability to take on challenges facing Vietnam and the world, and ties in with the #FirstGeneration campaign and a majority of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 6 – ensuring access to sustainable water and sanitation for all.
The aim is to hold the contest annually and in close cooperation with universities to provide professors and teachers with better opportunities to support their students in finding support and also include the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in their teaching. In the spring, the Embassy will visit universities around the country to encourage students to participate in the contest, but also to talk about innovation, creativity and the Global Goals. In connection with three university visits in southern Vietnam, lectures will be combined with the exhibition Facing the Climate, which addresses climate change using satire and drastic humour.
There is considerable media interest in the contest and around 40 different newspapers, and radio and television stations were present at the opening press conference. The press conference was then followed by a road show with embassy staff at universities in Hanoi, Hue, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho and An Giang. The contest is open until 17 April and the winners will be awarded a trip to Stockholm and World Water Week in late August, where they will have the opportunity to learn even more and hopefully develop new knowledge networks.
The jury consists of Swedish and Vietnamese experts in environmental technology, aquaculture and agriculture. The Smart Water Innovation Contest is organised in cooperation with Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
For more information about the contest, visit the Embassy website at www.swedenabroad.com/Hanoi
Photo: Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi
Text: Camilla Bjelkås/Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi