Addressing Global Challenges: A Hub Assembly on Water Security

Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) was part of the Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub Assembly, a global event that took place at Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour, Johor Bahru, from 23 – 26 September 2019.

Funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub, which is one of 12 hubs set to tackle the greatest challenges in society, gathered acclaimed researchers from countries such as Malaysia, India, Columbia, and Ethiopia for a collective discussion on water quality and quantity.

Led by principal investigator Prof. Richard Dawson of Newcastle University, UK, and collaboratory leads Prof. Azmi Aris of University Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Prof. Michaela Goodson of NUMed, the assembly paved the way for deeper understanding of water issues, including the increasing impact of water pollution and sustainability of water resources in Malaysia, consequently identifying ways to address these issues.

Governance of water supply is an issue in every country. Therefore, the hub promotes a collective decision-making approach to figure out ways to manage water security locally using citizen science and local stakeholder engagement,” explained Prof. Goodson.

The assembly put forth cross-cutting themes across each country; these include ways to standardise water quality assessments, address health concerns, and create thresholds of safe water for drinking, irrigation, and bathing purposes.

Several Work Streams that focused on building an international network for water security and its governance, and managing risk and values placed on water were also held. The discussion inspired great synergy between the researchers from the different countries in addressing the challenges and existing practices to develop potential research projects that will produce common solutions.

Moreover, the participants were also brought for a field trip to local villages in Johor where they experienced the nature and biodiversity along the riverbank of Sg Johor while observing the income activities of the community and land-use activities along and within the river buffer strip.

When asked on the collaboration of the researches in tackling global challenges, Prof. Goodson related the hub to the ethos of global research.

Whereas there are subtle differences in politics, economics, and water security management in low and middle income countries, bringing researchers together allows sharing of knowledge and is able to expedite physical, human, and technological solutions concerning any water security issues,” she explained.

Prof. Dawson concurred. According to him, the enormity of the problem means it can only be solved if everyone works together – from researchers, local communities, and governments to water providers, businesses, industries and global organisations.

I am delighted to have formed a quality partnership that has a truly global presence. The key will always be to learn from one another, share examples of good practices, and look at how these can be transferred and translated to ensure water security around the world,” he expressed.

As we move into the 70th year of water research at Newcastle University, we will definitely build on our expertise via this hub,” he added.

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