Water and development seems to be a popular topic for discussion, but about as popular as the Ebola virus when it comes to taking any action. Richard Jones highlighted yet another talking shop over at Soft Machines, and one that look depressingly familiar.
The most bizarre water project I came across was a Middle Eastern country which was looking for a (nano)technology based solution. After flying people in from around the world and organising a few days of meetings, the foundation concerned then suggested that we should pay half a million dollars to get the ball rolling.
The Demos forum looks to have almost the same participants as a Meridian Institute forum a couple of years ago which was one of the most depressing meetings I have attended in a long while. Most of the meeting was more concerned about whether the use of the word ‘poor’ was demeaning to people who cannot afford the luxury of clean water, and the rest was taken up with making plans for future conferences and meetings, and the possibility of commissioning a report with the authors to be chosen on geographical grounds (developing countries) rather than on the basis of having any experience in water or nanotechnology.
It turns out that the backers of many of these initiatives don’t actually have a budget to do anything other than fly people around in order to pass resolutions saying poverty is a terrible thing and that something should be done about it. If thus funding had been diverted to actually trying to develop solutions, we might be a couple of years closer to finding a solution rather than a couple of months away from another meeting.