From 27 to 31 May, 2019 the Taiwan International Institute for Water Education in cooperation with ICOMOS Netherlands and the Centre for Global Heritage and Development of The Netherlands will organize the international conference ‘Water as Heritage’, that will take place in Chiayi, Taiwan - named Formosa since the 16th century - a beautiful island on the Pacific rim as a gateway of Asian continent.
Water is an essential and dominant component of human bodies and of the earth’s surface. Water is an integral part of the natural environment and is necessary for all life on the planet, including for human existence. Water is essential for drinking, agriculture, transportation, and energy generation, for example; and is integral to the worldviews of all human societies. However, in the contemporary world the functional and heritage dimensions of water management are typically treated separately. Thus, engineers are concerned with supplying/treating water and governments with regulating water supply and use; while local communities may use water for recreation as well as in rituals and ceremonies.
The phrase ‘water-as-heritage’ serves as a reminder that water is the heritage of the planet and of all human societies and non-human species. Water is life – literally, since up to 60% of the human adult body is water, about 71% of the Earth’s surface is water, and the oceans hold about 95.5% of all Earth’s water. Water is ‘living heritage’ as water and water bodies typically have functional, historical, spiritual, and aesthetic dimensions.
Many issues, including climate change, today challenge the world. A key impact of climate change is and will be on the water cycle (precipitation, run-off and catchment, and evaporation). Water-as-heritage is a concept that raises two current and related questions:
How can the supply and treatment of water be made more sustainable under current climate change and forecast scenarios through?
How can science and traditional knowledge about our heritage in water management help to increase resilience to and adapt to a rapidly populating and changing world?
The Water-as-Heritage International Conference is not a one-off event, but rather part of a series of activities aimed at better connecting heritage organisations and wider water sector industries, regional interests, and communities.
The Conference is the third in a series concerned with the broad topic of ‘Water and Heritage for the Future’. The previous conferences took place in Amsterdam (2013) and Delft (2016) . Beyond explorations of the topic, the conferences are supporting the proposed creation of an ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Water and Heritage for the Future. This proposal was supported at a meeting of the ICOMOS Scientific Council held in Delhi, India, in December 2017.
The 2019 Water-as-Heritage Conference is also part of a longer agenda of conferences, symposia, and meetings that will consider the topic of ‘Water and Heritage for the Future’. The key events at which activities associated with the topic will be proposed are:
20th ICOMOS General Assembly (Australia, October 2020; Theme: ‘Shared Heritage’)
9th World Water Forum (Senegal, 2021; Theme: ‘Water Security for Peace and Development’)
The 2019 Water-as-Heritage International Conference has three primary objectives
To bring into dialogue those organisations and communities concerned with water from functional and heritage perspectives. Currently there is little interaction between heritage groups concerned with the cultural heritage of water (International Council on Monuments and Heritage, The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage, and Centro Internacional de Água e Transdisciplinaridade, for example), groups with a commitment to the natural heritage of water (International Union for Conservation of Nature, Wetlands International, and Ramsar, for example), and other actors working in the water sector (International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, World Water Council, International Water Association, and Food and Agriculture Organisation, for example). We see considerable benefit from such diverse groups working together to seek sustainable solutions arising from modern world challenges (climate change, population growth, and urban development, for example).
To bring together a diversity of communities of practice (engineers, chemists, hydrologists, planners, historians, architects, anthropologists, economists, and lawyers, for example) to explore opportunities for working together and with communities of interest (indigenous groups, farmers, and neighbourhood groups, for example).
To continue to work towards the creation of a scientific group on the topic of ‘Water and Heritage for the Future’ within the umbrella organisation ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites). Developing a network of like-minded organisations and communities is seen as important in achieving this goal.
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