On #WorldHumanitarianDay, Grace Tudreu explains how humanitarian engineering can positively impact Fiji’s water
“Water is essential to life” is a statement that has stuck with Grace Tudreu since she heard it during a primary-school water education program.
Since then, the Fijian Women’s Leadership Initiative scholar has gone on to study a Bachelor in Environmental Engineering (Honours), with a focus on sustainable water management and humanitarian engineering.
On World Humanitarian Day the final year student shares her perspective on humanitarian engineering, and water’s role in the development of a more environmentally sustainable Fiji.
Understanding humanitarian engineering in practice
According to Grace, humanitarian engineering adopts a multidisciplinary approach with “the ultimate goal of improving the lives of individuals in our society who do not have access to adequate facilities and aid”.
When applied in real life, designs are people-focused, consider long-term purpose and economic and environmental impact, and developed with a “sustainability mindset”.
Grace says inspiring Pacific examples include Habitat for Humanity Fiji’s WASH program; which constructs or improves water sanitation systems in rural communities.
And a Samoan water and waste-water project that adopted different community approaches depending on the region; delivered by Engineers Without Borders Australia in 2018.
Opportunities for Fiji’s sustainable water management
On her passion for sustainable water solutions, Grace says, “Even at the age of 12, my colleagues and I were being made aware of the issues surrounding water availability, water pollution and water management in Fiji and the Pacific”
“We need to stop polluting our waterways, educate our children and adults about water sensitivity and reflect on how our actions today will impact our nation and the region's future generations – whether negatively or positively,” Grace adds
But things are not always ‘doom and gloom’, as Grace says, “There is opportunity … to ensure water is accessible in both the short and long term.”
Grace says Pacific local governments transitioning to water-sensitive urban design – through which water’s role in improving economic, environmental and societal health is centralised – is one solution.
A more in-depth teaching of humanitarian engineering and sustainable water management in Fiji’s tertiary education system, where “students will be holistically trained and be able to adapt well in this ever-evolving industry” is another.
Water is so intrinsically linked with the health and effectiveness of many sectors and ways of life, including agriculture and the food we eat, our public health and sanitation, and healthy ecosystems.
“We cannot take it for granted,” she says.
World Humanitarian Day is held every year on 19 August to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for communities affected by crises around the world.