The 165 students from 54 countries who are starting their Master of Science education at IHE Delft received a big assignment during the Opening of the Academic Year ceremony, held 21 October: find ways to help your countries become healthier and happier without harming the planet.
The assignment was delivered by Joyeeta Gupta, IHE Delft and University of Amsterdam Professor of Law and Policy in Water Resources and Environment, who discussed why gross domestic product (GDP) is a bad indicator to measure whether a society is healthy, as it does not include societal and environmental issues such as poverty, biodiversity and health. “Every country needs to find an inclusive pathway to development, and find their unique challenges to overcome”, she said, urging the students to remember trade-offs as they work to solve the big problems.
Dr. Gupta also discussed challenges related to action to tackle climate change, noting that richer countries’ motivation to reduce their carbon emissions is low because they are less affected by the problems caused by climate change. Poorer countries have lower emissions and suffer more, she said, but often want to increase their GDP first before thinking about social and ecological issues. The challenge is compounded by the influence of (social) media, fake news and the misinformed view that science can be regarded as an opinion.
The chair of the IHE Delft Student Association Board, Sherine Elwattar of Egypt, asked the new students to take a moment to think about where they are and what sacrifices they had to overcome to get here. “If we share one thing together, it is our drive to use academic education to be able to tackle the water problems we see around us. We are very needed,” she said.
IHE Delft alumna Nadhifa Kemikimba, who graduated in 2006 with an MSc in Water Management and now serves as Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water in the United Republic of Tanzania, called on the students to study so that they can help solve world problems.
“As you keep the pace of learning, remember the world is waiting for you,” to contribute to fulfilling the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and end poverty, she said in a recorded address.
She told the students that their education will help them tackle global problems, including those caused by climate change. “There are many opportunities which have to be grabbed by you. With expanded knowledge, you are in a better position to bring forth the solution.”
IHE Delft Rector Eddy Moors, noted in his remarks that the ceremony, held face to face, was a joyful occasion, not the least because Covid-19 had forced the 2020 ceremony to be held online. In a closing statement, Vice Rector Charlotte de Fraiture encouraged the students to seek out contacts beyond their fields and backgrounds.
“Diversity in culture and nationalities is what makes IHE Delft unique. An international network of water professionals is one of the most precious assets you can have in your future career. All these different perspectives on water makes you learn outside of your comfort zone,” she said.