Friday, August 25th, 2006
Stockholm – Indian origin scientist Asit K. Biswas, a tireless water proponent who constantly challenges the status quo, received the 2006 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate (SWP) known as the Nobel prize in environment.
Biswas, an Indian-born Canadian and president of the Mexico City-based Third World Centre for Water Management, received the award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall attended by some 800 people.
Biswas is the third Indian recipient of the award since its inception in 1990. Prabhakar Chitale received it in 1993 and Sunita Narain in 2005.
‘India is quite on its way to monopolize the SWP,’ said Dave Trouba, in
charge of the prestigious annual event that has come to be known as the
Nobel Prize in Environment.
Akissa Bahri of the independent international Nominating Committee read the citation: ‘Professor Biswas is awarded the Stockholm Water Prize for his outstanding and multi-faceted contributions to global water resource issues, including research, education and awareness, water management, human and international relations in both developed and developing countries.
‘While many highly-qualified experts in aquatic disciplines distinguish themselves as academicians, others as practitioners, others as government advisors, and others as writers and lecturers, Professor Biswas with his wide knowledge is highly recognised in all of these areas and, most importantly, has over a broad front applied his skills internationally, thereby adding new
dimensions to the wise use and management of the global water resources.’
The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1990 and presented
annually to an individual, organisation or institution for outstanding
water-related activities. The activities can be within fields like education
and awareness-raising, human and international relations, research, water
management and water-related aid.
The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives US $150,000 along with a glass sculpture. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the Patron of the Stockholm Water Prize.
‘While many water experts have through the years contributed highly effective methodologies to the rational use and management of water resources, Professor Asit K. Biswas, as a science-driven water advocate fostered a pioneering socio-economic and political climate which enabled the effective translation of scientific — both natural and social — and technical advances into meaningful measures,’ explains Gunnar Jacks of the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, and the University of Coimbatore, India.
‘Four of his many achievements exemplify his role as a global facilitator of international platforms where organisations and individuals can take concrete action on water,’ said Jacks, a renowned water scientist who has known Biswas for a long time.
Biswas has a breath-taking bio-data:
He was the main scientific advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Water Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1977. In that capacity he helped to formulate and promote the International Water Supply and Sanitation Decade.
After approval of this initiative by the UN General Assembly, Biswas advised international and national institutions on how the Decade could be implemented. By all accounts, the Decade significantly improved the lives of millions of people in the developing world.
While conventional wisdom holds that water problems are similar in the developed and developing worlds, and that the same solutions apply, Biswas has always argued otherwise.
He also chaired the Middle East Water Commission from 1993 to 1997, with the support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. He managed to involve high-level personalities from most countries in the region to review and assess the water problems in the region face to face.
The actual treaties on water issues between several countries were based on many of the recommendations of this Commission.
In water circles today, many experts counter the argument that water may be a source of conflict in the future with the empirical evidence that it, in fact, promotes collaboration of the kind which Biswas encouraged.
He also initiated a three-year programme with the support of the Nippon Foundation, to select and mentor potential water leaders from all over the world who were below 40 years.
The remarkable success of this programme is demonstrated by the fact that all the eight potential leaders he mentored now hold very senior positions.
In his multi-faceted roles as a scientist and educator, he has acted as an advisor and confidant to policymakers in water and environmental management in 17 countries, to six heads of the United Nations agencies and to other
intergovernmental and international organisations.
The Third World Centre for Water Management, a ‘think tank’ initially set up by Biswas to give independent and authoritative policy and knowledge support to developing countries, also regularly advises many industrialised countries.
He founded the International Journal of Water Resources Development and continued as Editor-in-Chief for the past 21 years. He has been involved in the writing of 64 books, among them ‘Water as a Focus for Regional Development’, ‘Integrated Water Resources Management in South and Southeast Asia’ and ‘Water Institutions: Policies, Performance and Prospects’.
Under his leadership, additional books on burning issues are presently in preparation, including ‘Water Management in Mega-cities’ and ‘Impacts of Large Dams and Poverty Alleviation and Water as a Human Right’. He has also published over 600 scientific and technical articles (mostly on interdisciplinary topics). His work has been translated into 31 languages.