Published on The Water Blog

Ideas 4 Change: How youth everywhere are putting their best ideas forward to fight climate change

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An image for the winners of the Ideathon 4 Climate An image for the winners of the Ideathon 4 Climate

Young people worldwide are passionately working to address climate change. The World Bank is creating opportunities to engage youth to tap their energy and out-of-the-box thinking as the world comes together in this fight. An Ideathon 4 Climate organized by the East Asia Pacific (EAP) Water Unit of the World Bank called on young people across the world to pitch how Pacific Islands, which are significantly impacted by climate change, can tackle climate risks head-on and provide safe water and sanitation services to a growing population . Here are some of the stories from the winners of the Ideathon. 

Harmanbir Brar was born in Punjab, India. Growing up in a farming family meant water was integral to his life. However, as time passed, he saw how the groundwater levels had dropped dramatically over the past 20 years. This has been the direct result of indiscriminate water use for growing water-intensive crops such as rice. Now climate change has exacerbated challenges through more frequent and intense weather events, resulting in Himalayan glaciers projected to lose one-third of their ice by 2100. This will affect both river water supply and groundwater recharge leading to severe water shortages in the Northern Indian region putting a large population at risk. Tackling climate change thus became a personal journey for Harmanbir after experiencing the impact of climate change firsthand. Even though he’s no longer living in India, he still carries the same passion for helping his community.  
In another region of the world, Dwinita Wulandini from Indonesia heads to work at non-profit organization every day, where she manages programs that help provide clean water and sanitation to people in the archipelago. As part of her work, she has seen how climate change impacts the ability to provide essential services to vulnerable groups and thus embarked on a journey to explore how innovation can fight climate change and reach critical development goals, particularly related to universal water and sanitation. 

Biyasa Markus witnesses the dire consequences of people who consume contaminated water in Nigeria. The country is already struggling with water scarcity, and in many cases, the little available water is not suitable for human consumption. Climate change is also exacerbating this issue as it contributes to more frequent and more intense droughts, and erosion and sedimentation lead to additional pollution sources. Her passion to create positive impact in her community led her to learn how to tackle climate change and make clean water available to people everywhere. 
The winning solution: 
Amongst the several innovative entries received, the winning solution of Team Blues was selected by an eminent jury consisting of three present and ex-CEOs of water utilities in the Pacific region. Team Blues looked into rapid groundwater depletion and high non-revenue water consumption in the agriculture and tourism sectors in Paradisia islands – a fictional nation - in the Pacific. The team’s proposed solution is to monetize water usage by introducing licenses for existing groundwater borewells; installing smart-water meters that relay water usage data to a centralized database; and introducing tiered groundwater tariffs depending on usage. For example, for the first year, there would be no charge if use is up to 5,000 m3 then a 5 USD/ m3 for usage between 5,000 m3 and 50,000 m3 will apply. This would help reduce the water usage from the sectors that use water the most and generate much-needed revenues for the Paradisia corporation that manages water and sanitation services. In addition, the increased revenue from water would be used to strengthen rainwater harvesting, which is one of the critical measures to recharge groundwater. Other actions with increased revenues would be to enhance water supply and sewerage infrastructure and increase the proportion of the female workforce in the water corporation. This solution aims to create a positive feedback loop that will benefit future generations in tackling the adverse effects of climate change.

The winning solution as well as the other teams’ proposals show the complex scenarios that the Pacific Islands face and the need for multi-dimensional interventions. It was presented at an event that featured stakeholders from the region that benefitted from the insights showcased by the team. As a result, utilities in the region can adopt the proposed response. 

The Ideathon was an opportunity to harness the innovative approaches in the water sector that young people bring to the table.  Passionate youth everywhere applied to be part of the Ideathon and got the chance to work alongside other equally passionate peers worldwide. The World Bank will continue to foster opportunities for engaging with young people in addressing climate change and other development challenges. 

Background of the Ideathon4Climate: 
Climate change poses significant challenges to environmental stability, economic growth, and human development in EAP . The region includes 13 of the 30 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Without concerted action, the region could see an additional 7.5 million people fall into poverty due to climate impacts by 2030. Climate change will also have a disproportionate effect on future generations. Young people worldwide, like Harmanbir, Dwinita, and Biyasa, are actively working on developing innovative approaches to address the impacts of climate change and contribute to mitigation efforts. Against this background, the Pacific Regional unit of the Water Global Practice of the World Bank, the World Bank’s Utility of the Future (UoF) Program, in partnership with the Pacific Water and Wastewater Association (PWWA), launched the Ideathon4Climate, as part of PWWA’s 13th annual conference in Nadi, Fiji, in November 2022. The conference featured water and wastewater ministers from seven Pacific countries and senior government representatives from other countries in the region, who issued a joint communique on the threats of climate change for the region, identified the way forward and acknowledged the importance of young water professionals’ contribution to the water and sanitation sector.  In this context, the aim of the Ideathon was to crowdsource ideas from youth around the world on how to help water utilities in the region become more resilient to climate change. For this, a fictional utility of Paradisia Islands was featured at the heart of the Ideathon, with conditions and challenges commonly experienced by utilities in the Pacific Islands. Young people were then asked to develop their most innovative ideas for resilience-building against multiple climate-driven shocks and stresses.

The Ideathon received entries worldwide, spanning different professional and educational backgrounds, ages, and gender. After a thorough competitive process, six teams made it to the final round at the conference. Harmanbir, Dwinita, and Biyasa worked together as ‘Team Blues’ and became the ultimate winners with Harmanbir as the captain of the team.


Raghava Neti

Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist

Shona Fitzgerald

Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist

Lala Fabella

Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist

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