Unesco Green Citizens


Water is the lifeline! Freshwater must be preserved and equitably distributed.

How we manage water, bond of life and fragile resource will define our success in achieving sustainable development. Access to water is critical to poverty reduction and human health, impacts gender equality, education, and all human activities. Ecosystems and biodiversity depend on water, and globally three-quarters of it is devoted to food production.

Citizens all over the world are inventing ingenious solutions to respond to increasing water challenges and to push governments to act for sustainable water management!

Learn about UNESCO’s work on water: https://en.unesco.org/themes/water-security/hydrology

Education for Sustainable Development
Indigenous and Local Knowledge
Forests and desertification
Natural disasters risk reduction
Natural resource management
Participatory science/citizen science
Sustainable lifestyles
Democratic Republic of the Congo
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
United States of America

Water for Wildlife

Patrick Kilonzo Mwalua is acting to tackle a fundamental problem: water scarcity in wildlife zones! 

The project is all about water for wildlife as one way of conservation and reducing human-wildlife conflict for competing for the same water resource. Indeed, as the number of conflicts between humans and wild animals started to rise due to water scarcity, Patrick decided to bring in an efficient solution through re-watering the dry wildlife zones. Moreover, Patrick is also looking for innovative methodologies to make sure that animals have plenty of water into the wildlife zones.


Vigie-Nature (Nature Watch)

No matter who you are, children, professionals, retired or simply nature lovers, you can help Vigie-Nature. By collecting data and monitoring biodiversity in your living area, you will help Grégoire Loïs and Vigie Nature 10 Programmes teams to fill the gap on biodiversity. Involving citizens and NGOs in a ground-breaking collaboration, Grégoire has enabled the creation of biodiversity monitoring programmes, covering wider countryside and urban areas in France.


© Erwan Rogard

CityTaps: Running water in urban areas

Witnessing the problems of water scarcity in poor urban areas, Grégoire Landel decided to take action. He created a device that brings water to one billion urban dwellers who do not have access to running water at home. 

To bring running water to every urban home, CityTaps has developed a solution that bridges the gap between water utilities and the urban poor: a prepayment service that comprises the world’s only smart and prepaid water meter, and a billing software. This solution helps utility companies reduce Non-Revenue Water and identify leaks to avoid water loss. It also helps utility companies reduce debts and improve their balance sheet so they can extend their network and serve more people with running water at home, mainly in poor urban areas. 

Running water in the home is substantially cheaper, more convenient and healthier than any alternative. Grégoire Landel’s innovative solution has the potential to dramatically and quantifiably improve the lives and well-being of a billion people who do not have access to water at home. It is their goal to work together to make access to running water in every urban home a reality.



Solidarity for water on Nokoué project (PCSEN)

Seven communities around the lake Nokoué are suffering from the lack of water sanitation. To solve this problem, they have launched a participatory management programme, enabling everyone to take part in looking for water sanitation solutions! 

The PCSEN is a project, structured under the auspices and with Emmaus International’ that enables participatory management and sustainable access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene on the Nokoué lake in Benin. Originally, the project was financed for 52 months (from July 2011 until October 31, 2015), the PCSEN was then extended for six months to end on May 31, 2016. But the consultations started in 2007 and today, Emmaus international continues to dedicate a budget to this project.

The project has several objectives: improvement of living conditions, improvement of health, empowerment and reappropriation of fundamental rights, development of public citizen management of water and sanitation.
The PCSEN was implemented around four main activities:

– Access to drinking water
– Access to sanitation
– Hygiene promotion
– Capacity building

The project went through a first phase targeting 2 pilot sites (Ahomey-Gblon and Gbessou). These positive experiences led to a second phase targeting 7 sites in the municipality of Sô-Ava, that was financed jointly by Emmaus International, the European Union (Water Facility) and the Abbé Pierre Foundation.


Copyrights: The Mountain Institute

Ancestral Technologies and Climate Change

Reconnecting with ancestral traditions has saved communities living near the Peruvian Nor-Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve from water scarcity!  Together with Instituto de Montaña, local communities took the initiative to rebuild an abandoned ancestral hydraulic system, which today provides them with water storage and improved irrigation systems. 

In April 2013, Instituto de Montaña began working in Peru’s Nor-Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve (RPNYC) with communities affected by increasing water scarcity. Together, they rediscovered the existence of a vast, complex and partially abandoned hydraulic system to manage water in the alpine high-plateau, or Puna. Through a complex of dams and open earth canals, these systems increased soil and ground water storage, creating niche plant communities for camelid herds and improved water supplies to irrigation systems. Recognizing the potential of these ancestral systems to address modern-day water scarcity, they organized a process for dialogue between indigenous experts and multi-disciplinary teams of archaeologists, anthropologist and geo-hydrologists.

This transdisciplinary approach resulted in a suite of green-grey hybrid solutions adapted to the existing demographic, organizational and economic context of highland communities.


Eden In Iraq's Team

Eden in Iraq WasteWater Garden Project

Meridel Rubenstein and the Eden In Iraq team co-created this project with the goal of providing effective sewage treatment for the marsh arab community, one of the world’s oldest cultures, in southern Iraq. Currently, untreated sewage endangers both their health and the historic marshes.

The final aim: Eden In Iraq will transform human waste into a public wastewater garden and cultural heritage park using green plant’s phyto-remediation.

Eden In Iraq is a humanitarian water remediation project, expressed through wastewater garden design and environmental art, which will provide urgently needed health and clean water for southern Iraqis, their children, and future generations to come. Their solution utilizes simple and sustainable wastewater recycling technology to support a garden that embodies the rich cultural heritage and tradition of the marshes and the Marsh Arab community.

After seven years of intensive fieldwork, groundwork, and design preparation, they seek funds to realize this important ecological and cultural heritage project. they are ready to break ground on their given site in El Chibaish to begin the first third of the 26,500 square meter (6.5 acre) Public Wastewater Garden. Eden In Iraqseek a total of $1.7 million dollars to complete the detailed floral and cultural heritage design work for the entire garden in 2021.The wastewater garden features locally significant design details, making it a public site that emphasizes cultural heritage, while restoring health and offering ecological education.


-In the early 1990s, Saddam Hussein’s forces secretly drained the immense Southern Iraq wetlands to punish the Shi’a rebels hiding there. They transformed it into a desert, murdering tens of thousands of Marsh Arabs and compelling hundreds of thousands more to flee. Conflict and violence altered the Marshlands into a decimated parcel, disturbing its ecological composition, and leaving detrimental vestiges that still pose serious challenges to its survival.

-Since Hussein’s demise in 2003, three hundred thousand of the expelled Marsh Arabs have returned to re-green and restore the marshes, with the help of Nature Iraq NGO their sponsor. Due to the rapid environmental changes in the marshes, with the return of inhabitants, serious sewage and health problems have ensued. There is currently no sewage treatment in the Marsh Arab towns and cities–at most, sewage is pumped into a collection site and discharged without treatment into a river or marsh. This is causing odour and damage to the long-term ecology of the marshes and the health of the community.

The inauguration of Iraq’s first national park in 2013, the Mesopotamian Marshes National Park, demonstrates the country’s hope for environmental restoration and future tourism.
In July 2016, UNESCO designated the marshes and surrounding ancient sites of Eridu, Uruk and Ur, a World Heritage Site. Due to this recent designation, the traditional arts, crafts, and cultural heritage of the Marsh Arabs and the ancient Mesopotamian societies, as well as the landscape and biodiversity of the marshes, are being revived and preserved.

Eden In Iraq plans to build the very first demonstration Wastewater Garden in El Chibaish, Southern Iraq, in order to help the Marsh Arab communities, in the process of rebuilding their war-devastated homeland, solve issues of sewage, renew environmental stability and conserve a natural environment of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

Between 2014 and 2016, three of the largest town councils in the region enthusiastically approved of their garden by donating the use of five large sites, each serving 5-10,000 people. They understood that their current situation endangers both their health and the health of the wetlands. With the support of mayor Mr. Badeaa Al-kayoun, and regional governor of Dhi Qar, Mr. Yahya al-Nasiri, Eden In Iraq chose to build the first constructed wetland and wastewater garden at El Chibaish, along the north bank of the Euphrates River, in the Central Marshes. The city is an important urban area along the main road from Nasiriyah and Basra. Eden In Iraq hope this initial garden will serve as an important example of how this system can be implemented elsewhere within the country.

The site in El Chibaish is 26,250 square meters (2.5 hectares/6.4 acres), which allows for treatment of the sewage wastewater of 7,500 people. Currently, this wastewater is being discharged along an open canal and channeled into the marshes. It has a terrible smell and is unhealthy for all the boat traffic through the canal to the marshes.
The constructed wetland treatment will start with 7,000 square meters of reeds, which grow 1.8 meters tall. This first reed bed will immediately diminish the odor from the sewage. The wastewater will then go into the second phase of the garden: the “subsurface flow wetland.” Here, organic material of the sewage will be transformed by bacteria into mineral substances, cleaning the wastewater and simultaneously creating a beautiful and culturally significant garden by providing nutrients for plants and fruit trees. 

The garden will draw attention to Mesopotamian design and history. Woven embroidered Mesopotamian Wedding blanket patterns have inspired the garden’s blueprint and layout of its planting areas. The designs of this ancient woven craft are inspired by “nature and its biological diversity and also the spirit of ancestors”* within Marsh Arab culture, and are being passed down to new generations. 3,000-5,000 year old Sumerian Cylinder seals will inspire graphic design elements and ceramic wall reliefs.  Drawings and Blueprints are available. Eden In Iraq are ready to build…


Meridel Rubenstein, Project Director, conceptualized Eden In Iraq as a symbolic restoration of the fabled Garden of Eden. The Marsh Arabs, descendants of the original people of this historic area, are a preeminent example of refugees returning from exodus to their homeland. Rubenstein is an adjunct Professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, 2015-.  She was a Visiting Associate Professor at the School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University(NTU), 2007-18. She is also an internationally recognized artist working at the intersection of nature and culture, especially in relationship to ecological and social imbalance. Her photography, site-specific installations and research practice demonstrate skilled communication and collaboration with distinct groups around cultural and environmental issues. She has received numerous grants and awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, and her work has been featured in exhibitions and publications worldwide. Her art and design studio is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

Jassim Al Asadi is the managing director of the regional Southern Iraq office of Nature Iraq (NGO). He has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Technology, Baghdad, 1980, and extensive work experience as an engineer on water remediation projects throughout Iraq. He was Director of the socio-economic studies section for CRIM (Center for Restoration of Iraqi Marshlands) from 2003-05, and for MWoR (Ministry of Water Resources) from 1985-2003.
He has participated in numerous international meetings and conferences on the Iraqi wetlands, held in Switzerland, Italy, Jordan and Egypt. He also participated in the Strategic Plan for the Wetlands, the architectural sites in Iraq and the infrastructure planning in Southern Iraq.
He has lectured internationally: at the Workshop on Sustainable Communities, Cairo, 2006, UNEP meetings with Iraqi MoWR, Amman 2004, the International Conference of Donor Nations on Iraqi Marshlands, Venice, Italy, 2004, and workshops in Iraq related to the Iraqi Marshlands 2004-2012. He was the driving force at Nature Iraq to help bring the designation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site to the marshes and the ancient sites in 2016.

Mark Nelson, PhD, is a founding director of the Institute of Ecotechnics and has worked for several decades in closed ecological system research, ecological engineering, the restoration of damaged ecosystems, desert agriculture and wastewater recycling. He is Chairman and CEO of the Institute of Ecotechnics (www. ecotechnics.edu), a U.K. and U.S. non-profit organization, which consults to several demonstration projects working in challenging biomes around the world, and head of Wastewater Gardens International (www.wastewatergardens.com). He has written many books and has helped pioneer a new ecological approach to sewage treatment, “Wastewater Gardens®” which are constructed subsurface flow wetlands with high biodiversity and has created such systems over 150 countries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Explorers Club and the World Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In one of Dr. Nelson’s book, features an essay on the Eden in Iraq Project with photographs by Meridel Rubenstein. 

Davide Tocchetto holds a PhD in environmental agronomy. Presently, he is a lecturer of Agronomy at an Italian high school. He developed his first career at Padova University with research in sustainable agriculture and wastewater treatment with constructed wetlands. He was a founding member of a University start-up to develop a water treatment patent. He was awarded an Innovation Prize for the “Techia” floating wetland patent and the “2008 start-up of the year” prize in Italy.
He is a freelance partner with numerous national and international companies in developing varying projects in different fields of operation outside of Italy. He was also a partner in the United Nations project “Green School for Gaza” where he studied and developed (with MCA Architects and UNRWA) the whole water circle and reuse system in a new school in the Gaza Strip. 

Zahra Souhail ,Project Manager, is a Dutch-Iraqi, born in Baghdad and raised in the Netherlands. She is a certified project manager with more than 10 years of professional experience working at some of the largest corporations in the Netherlands including Achmea and presently for the Municipality of Amsterdam. Having survived war and turmoil in her native country, Zahra is passionate about civil society and volunteering. She is a firm believer in the importance of education and knowledge exchange in the development of children and societies at large that have suffered from conflict and violence. Since 2018, Zahra has been a contributing member and Project Manager of the Eden of Iraq Wastewater Garden Project, a humanitarian water remediation project to provide urgently needed health and clean water for southern Iraqis, their children, and future generations to come. Fluent in English, Arabic and Dutch, Zahra is a keen explorer and has visited more than 40 cities around the globe. Traveling satisfies her curiosity about different people, cultures and history. 

In October 2019 Eden In Iraq were set to receive funds from the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources to begin building the first third of the wastewater garden this past winter with workers and equipment commensurate with $250,000.   This would immediately remove the sewage odour from the marshes. Just as they prepared to return to build, popular protests erupted causing the fall of the National government. The newly approved Minister of Water Resources, Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani, has written a new letter of support for the project. But with the fall in oil prices and Covid-19 affecting the Iraqi economy, the National Budget of which they once were part, is very diminished. New elections are now set for June 2021. So huge changes lie ahead but they will continue their fundraising efforts elsewhere until they can return.


Founders of The Great Bubble Barrier

The Great Bubble Barrier

Saskia Studer has co-created a new technology to fight plastic pollution of rivers and oceans. A barrier of bubbles holds back the plastic, which is then picked up without disturbing our precious biodiversity. The Bubble Barrier is the first in the world which is used to capture plastic. They noticed that local people are always very interested and enjoy being involved. The Bubble Barrier is innovative because it is ship and fish-friendly and the Bubble Barrier reaches the entire width and depth of a river or canal. It helps to keep the local rivers clean as well as the oceans.

The Great Bubble Barrier has developed a technology which can intercept plastic pollution in rivers before it reaches the ocean: The Bubble Barrier, is a bubble curtain with a catchment system. The Bubble Barrier is a curtain made of bubbles that prevent plastics from floating down the river into our oceans. They create a Bubble Barrier by pumping air through a perforated tube on the bottom of the waterway. This bubble curtain creates an upward current which directs the plastics to the surface. The Bubble Barrier is a unique system that catches plastic over the whole width and depth of the river. By placing the Bubble Barrier diagonally in the river, the natural flow of the river will push the plastic waste to the side and into our catchment system. Here it will be retained and can easily be removed from the water by the authorities. A tailored design to local conditions will ensure optimal performance and requires no change in local infrastructure. An additional advantage of the system is that the oxygen level of the water increases, which can benefit the local ecology and restrain algae blooms.


Snowchange Näätämö River Sámi Co-Management Project

Tero Mustonen has created Snowchange, a unique co-operator, working closely with local fishermen in Finland, to ensure the safety of their practices and create innovative fishing methods without abandoning their ancestral practices and damaging rivers, lakes and the northern ice pack.
Guided by the various traditions of the North, and being community-based, with a strong Russian Indigenous focus, Snowchange is a unique organization. Funding of Snowchange comes from a vast range of funders, from NSF, various foundations and funds, to Ministries of Finland and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Snowchange is a strictly not-for-profit, independent Co-op without any political affiliations.

The project also takes into consideration the ecological restoration of rivers and lakes damaged by overfishing or other human activities. By educating the fisher peoples about the impact of climate change, they can collaborate with them in creating innovative ways of fishing without forsaking their ancestral practices and damaging northern rivers, lakes an ice floe.


Aqualuz – Safe Drinking Water For All

Today, 785 million people (1 in 9) do not have access to drinking water. Water connects all aspects of life, that is why Anna Luísa Beserra Santos has created an affordable device that uses the sun to purify water in cisterns. This system already gives 1500 people in Brazil access to clean water.

The device works for up to 20 years and there is no need to use chemicals or complex filters. It can provide a family with clean water, with a daily cost of US $ 0.02 per 10 L of treated water.

This innovative technology applies the methodology of solar water disinfection (SODIS), an already globally well-known and validated technology, to focus on the needs and pains of the public that use rainwater harvesting systems in rural, semi-arid areas in Brazil. As the Aqualuz technology is given out, general training is given to the families so they can all actively participate in the deployment of the technology. Each Aqualuz unit is able to sustain a family of 5. Summing all units already installed, the technology has positively impacted 1,500 people.

This makes a big difference for them, as they help people understand the importance of using technology and they become replicators for neighbours, increasing the rate of use and impact of Aqualuz. It also enabled the evolution of the technology as families were able to give great insights and advice in to how to improve the product.



Punas-Agua: Promoting citizen innovations in Peru

Punas y Agua is a citizen-led initiative responding to the challenge of climate change by developing solutions to water quality problems and water management issues with local communities in Peru. Through participative action-research, Punas y Agua secures communities’ traditional water sources and allows them to carry on living in harmony with their traditions.
Solutions are holistic responses that include technological, social and cultural components that support the sustainability of solutions.

The core approach of the project is the application of participatory action research methods:

– Define the problem precisely with the participation of as broad as possible representatives of the community’s women and men

– Organize and train the community and local researchers to conduct research

– Conduct field experiments, evaluate the best possible solutions

– Share results with the community and other stakeholders

– Implement the solutions with the community

– Evaluate results and continue conducting research to improve solutions.

Punas-Agua has developed solutions to water quality problems as well as livestock and grassland management problems. The approaches developed under the Punas-Agua have been replicated in other areas and through other projects implemented by Instituto de Montaña.


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