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Achieving more with less      08/05/2022 by Sarah Pursey

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Few could have failed to acknowledge how the war over territory in Ukraine is having a major impact on the price and availability of all manner of commodities across the continent and wider world. Food security hangs in balance as access, production and overall availability continue to deteriorate in ‘the breadbasket of Europe’. Meanwhile, dramatic spikes in the price of gas, together with eye-watering shipping costs, are conspiring to compound the cost of living for citizens and the cost of operating for businesses across the globe.

In East Africa, the shockwaves of that far-away European conflict are felt more keenly than one might initially expect, eroding the availability and hiking the pricing of a number of food crops (chiefly wheat and sunflower), as well as jeopardising socio-economic recovery and growth, triggered by rising uncertainties in global financial markets and supply chain systems. These risky dynamics combine with a perilous climate-induced crisis that hangs over the region. Indeed, the World Food Programme has warned that the number of people pushed into hunger because of drought in the Horn of Africa could rise from the current 14 million to hit 20 million by the end of the year. A month into the current rainy season and rains have so far failed to materialise; if they do not, this would be the fourth consecutive failed season as the region reels from food and fuel prices rising to unprecedented levels because of the war in Ukraine. 

 

It is lamentable that those countries who are often the least equipped to withstand such supply-side shocks are invariably the ones hit the hardest, with the extreme weather events induced by climate change serving as a particularly apt example of such cruel asymmetry. Acting early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe is clearly vital in such cases as that currently unfolding across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. However, the ability of many NGOs to launch an adequate response to such disasters has been largely hamstrung by a dwindling pot of funds, as the world’s governments focus investment on rebuilding their own economies post-Covid, alongside funnelling resources towards stymying Mr Putin’s expansionistic ambitions in Eastern Europe.

 

For businesses, the growing constraint on resources as a result of the unfolding geo-political and climate-change-related developments presents myriad challenges. And for the lynchpin Utilities sector, upon which so many other industries are reliant, the pressure to do more with less is perhaps felt nowhere more keenly. 

 

Our cover story on TANQIA (p38) – the first privately owned wastewater collection and treatment Utility to be regulated in the UAE – whose wastewater treatment and collection system is dramatically ramping up capacity to meet demand through a concession period that runs past the mid-century point, exemplifies the vision required to ensure adequate future supply. Tackling such existential threats to countless livelihoods head on, the award-winning company’s technology-driven approach is one that is fully committed to achieving sustainability and a greater reliance on renewable energy – for example, via the use of solar energy, and the treatment of sludge for reuse; rehabilitation of existing development phases of its plant expansions to reduce consumption of conventional energy, and ultra-filtration of tertiary treated effluent for unrestricted use for irrigation. Regarding the latter, TANQIA has been working on a solution that entails containerised polishing units of tertiary treated effluent, with a view to reducing both the cost of polishing effluent and the cost of treatment. Within the next few years, the firm’s on-going R&D work should have determined the commercial potential of the process in low-income developing countries globally. In so doing, the award-winning Utility provides a fine example for how businesses and communities the world over could achieve more with less in the years ahead.

Latest issue – Vol 1/22
Lead stories
– Utilities focus
– World Utilities Congress
– Technology trends transforming the water sector 
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