FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

On International Day of Forests, students in Asia debate the important link between the region’s forests and its fresh water supply

21/03/2016 Bangkok, Thailand

With ongoing drought and farmers facing some of their most serious access to water issues for many years,  students from a number of international and local high schools and universities in Bangkok have held a lively debate on the future of the region’s forests and their link to our critical supply of fresh water.

Students from eight Bangkok-area schools and universities participated:  Panyarat High School, Mahidol University International Demonstration School, Anglo Singapore International School, Garden International School, Traill International School, NIST International School, AIT and Kasetsart University.

The debate was held on International Day of Forests, celebrated 21 March each year.  IDF was established by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness of the importance of forests and trees in ensuring the sustainability of ecosystems, providing valuable goods and services, supporting livelihoods, and reducing hunger.  The theme of this year’s International Day of Forests is “Forests and Water,” which was also the topic of today’s debate, held at FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok.

“The ‘Forests and Water’ theme is particularly relevant this year, as we are reminded every day in the news about the ongoing and intensifying drought, the farmers who are suffering from lack of water for their crops, and even potential water shortages in urban areas,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative in welcome remarks. “I want to say how great it is to see all of you, the students and teachers from the participating schools and universities for your participation. This event is about you and for you,” Kadiresan added. 

The debates were co-organized by FAO, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests – and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The participants heard how forests filter and clean our water, and how deforestation and land degradation are threatening that important function. They discussed a variety of ways and methods that could be utilized to protect both forests and water resources.

Access to clean water a fundamental human right

Access to clean water for meeting basic needs such as health, hygiene and food security is one of the most fundamental human rights.  Yet, worldwide, more than one in six people do not have access to safe drinking water and approximately 80 percent of the global population live in areas where water resources are insecure.  The critical importance of water to humanity and development is also reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

In announcing the winners of the debates, the judges – from FAO, UNEP and RECOFTC – agreed the issues were complex and noted that in general even global discussions about the importance of forests and their link to water can be clouded by misperceptions and conventional wisdom that is not always based on science.

“The outcomes of these debates actually showed us how important it is for people to come together and develop a common view and understanding about these topics,” said Milan Momiroski, a Year 10 student at Traill International School, and a member of the debating team.

“What I realized when researching for this debate was that we all have only basic information and knowledge about forests and (the link) to water – we all have different perspectives but not the full (picture),” said Phurtharalsa Jintavutipong, a Year 12 student at Panyarat High School, and a debate-winner.

Four categories of debates were conducted. The winners were: Panyarat High School, Garden International School, AIT and Anglo Singapore School.

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