Dubai: The UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai hosted the penultimate episode of the Dreamer Dialogues series on Thursday. Innovators, researchers and scientists working in the environmental, technological and academic sectors came together to discuss the importance of water security.
The session, titled ‘Water Security in the Desert: Conserving and Future-Proofing our Oasis,’ was the fourth talk in the panel discussion series and explored the UAE-based approaches to maximise the efficacy of existing water resources and sustainability and ensuring water security. The panel discussed how these efforts contribute to the nation’s environmental stewardship by encouraging more responsible approaches to water management, while also ensuring the agricultural industry can flourish while minimising our impact on the natural ecosystem.
The panel was moderated by Dina Storey, Director of Sustainability at Expo 2020 Dubai, who was joined by panellists Dr Dinesh Shetty, assistant professor of Chemistry at Khalifa University, Dr Saeed Alhassan, founder of Manhat, and Dr Lina Yousef, an entrepreneur and assistant professor of Chemistry at Khalifa University.
Sustainable water systems
The panellists shared their motivation for dedicating their careers to finding solutions to water scarcity and the critical importance of future generations to continue with this ambition. They also provided insights into how ideas and innovations that are helping to shape the UAE’s sustainable water systems have significant potential beyond our borders, in geographies where water scarcity is still a life-altering concern — particularly those with similar arid landscapes.
Dr Shetty, commented: “As a society, we fail to identify the value of water, so we take it for granted and the concept of water scarcity seems far removed from our daily lives. However, the day will come when we won’t have a choice So, we must ask ourselves if we need to wait until that day or act now? As parents and older generations, we can ensure we teach our children the true value of water. We have to make it an academic topic and ensure there is a culture of accepting that we won’t have enough water if we don’t act.”
Prioritising sustainable water systems
Dr Alhassan, while discussing his work’s impact, said: “The technology we are developing at Manhat replicates the natural water cycle — instead of allowing water vapour from the Arabian Gulf to form a cloud that will turn into rain, we capture it and condense it to create pure water. This process does not require any energy, so it is carbon neutral. We’ve been able to diversify to tackle food security by creating floating farms that use pure water to cultivate crops. We are lucky to be in the UAE, where the government prioritises sustainable water systems, so funding is available. However, this is not the case globally. The business community needs to bridge this gap to stop limiting innovative solutions that could help address the water scarcity issue.”
‘Learning from failures’
Dr Yousef shared some advise for the next generation, saying: “My advise to young people looking to pursue entrepreneurship in a field such as water management is to follow your heart and surround yourself with people who will uplift you. Keep your mind open and be fully present. Remember, you will learn from failures and things not working out, as much as you will from the successes.”
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The conversation highlighted how the combination of national investment, new inventions and ambitious innovators behind the latest water security innovations in the UAE enable us to do more with our existing water resources and procure freshwater through more sustainable means, and encouraged more educational focus on water to ensure future generations continue to innovate and discover more sustainable solutions.