Making the UN Sustainable Development Goals a reality

It is sobering that as the world marks World Water Day today (March 22), the storm ravaged US Midwest continues to grapple with floods and Mozambique deals with the devastation left behind by Cyclone Idai. Closer to home, the death toll from flash floods in Indonesia’s Papua province continues to rise.

Water is critical for human survival and economic growth, yet it is also a force that reminds the world of its strength through unpredictable weather patterns, and damage to land, property and reservoirs.

It is no surprise, then, that water is central to many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN General Assembly in 2015. Part of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, these goals address key global challenges, from access to clean water and sanitation to reducing world hunger, poverty, and coping with the impacts of climate change.

As players in the water innovation space, addressing these goals has been both a priority and a commitment for the Hydroinformatics Institute. We harness the potential of data and advanced analytics, hydrodynamic modelling and real-time operational management systems to better anticipate, prepare for, and respond to the risks and opportunities presented by water.  

Our radar rainfall project provides PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, a real-time tool for flood management and operations. Through a web-based interface, radar observations feed into real time rainfall maps, and a now-cast system predicts rainfall for the next 2 to 90 minutes. This allows for timelier mitigation in the event of a heavy downpour.

Further afield, in the Sultanate of Oman, our National Hydrometric Information Management System provides real-time monitoring of water levels and rainfall across the country, allowing for better flood prevention and mitigation measures to be put into place.

Supported by the UNDP Challenge Fund, we are also developing a flood early warning system in the Ričina basin in the Tomislavgrad municipality of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, so local communities in Omolje, Seonica and Crvenica can be warned ahead of an incoming flood.

These projects demonstrate how companies can help countries and communities advance towards Goal 13, which calls for taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. They enable better flood management and strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of nations towards climate-related (flood) hazards. An important aspect of these projects is training local teams to manage these systems in the longer term, improving both human and institutional capacity in climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.

The data-driven approaches we advocate also speak directly to the “critical knowledge gaps” identified by ministers from more than 170 United Nations Member States at the Fourth UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi last week. These include the need for comparable international environmental data and improved national monitoring systems and technology.

Speaking at the Assembly, Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment said, “We will not be able to achieve the 2030 (Sustainable Development) agenda without using frontier technologies and integrated data to influence our behavior.”

As the world enters into the next phase of working towards these ambitious SDG’s, every institution, community and individual has a strength that they can use to help advance these goals.

Our commitment as a start-up in the space of new-generation water management is to keep pushing out the boundaries in water management with the best that science and technology can offer, firm in our knowledge that available and emerging technologies can help close the distance between vision and reality.

Nishtha Manocha
Senior Consultant