Business and Sustainability: Water Quality and Biodiversity

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By Parmita Protik Das, CNN

The issue at hand for UNDP was Business and Sustainability, which deals with the impact of economic activities on biodiversity and water quality around the globe. The committee vouched for increasing government regulation and waste water filtration. They believed that the industries themselves should undertake waste water treatment and that there should be specific qualifications that such businesses should be required to meet in each industry. USA referred to microfiltration and reverse osmosis as potential treatments that industries can adopt.

The issue of eutrophication and how it disrupts the foodchain was brought up to link the impacts of water quality to biodiversity, and the impacts of loss of biodiversity was explored in depth. UNDP recognized the need for businesses to update the machinery to be more efficient in water use and preservation of water resources. The fact that water contamination affects over half the lakes in the world left a resounding impact across the floor. China proposed sampling water wells and publishing annual reports on water quality. Another innovative idea was the categorization system based on the level of polluted water in order to better target efforts. They also talked about the need for investment in countries who cannot afford the technologies available to address water pollution. The delegates referred to the problem of water scarcity to stress the need for preservation and increasing the quantity of clean water resources. The sentiments that stood out the most were the need for a balance between industrialization and sustainable development and the fact that sustainable business practices were a humanitarian issue of the utmost importance because of the resounding impacts it has on the general populace.

At that point, a crisis erupted where the runoff from antiviral drugs which polluted water bodies in Nepal caused endangered water fowl to die off at an alarming rate. The President from Big French Pharma was disappointed that the news coverage wasn’t prioritizing the jobs and technology the company brought to the people of Nepal. In response to an inquiry by the journalist, the President of BFP mentioned that all the company’s practices were perfectly legal. When the citizens of India and Nepal were questioned they mentioned that the company was very important to their livelihood and that the actions of the company were no crime at all. The government officials were conflicted between expelling the company and continuing to reap the economic benefits it provides.

The Dais expressed the hope that the delegates would think broadly about the crisis and note the loopholes in current business regulations of MNGs, which started an in-depth analysis regarding the ways to solve such threats to biodiversity without sacrificing the economic benefits enjoyed by the people. The delegate of USA called for further development of existing policies to remove drugs from water bodies. The delegates expressed a strong desire to increase awareness in countries that were vulnerable to environmental exploitation by MNCs. They disagreed with companies which sought maximization of profit forsaking the environmental aspects of business activity. The call for a partnership between businesses and the government beautifully summarized the arguments on the floor. The concessions that the delegates were willing to make was the existence of a profit motive but they believed that economically viable solutions were possible. Suggestions such as a quota  on how much water an industry could use and strengthening of environmental law and environmental education in LDCs were raised. As the moderated caucuses progressed, a solid plan manifested in the form of the creation of a partnership between developed and developing countries to provide the most effective water treatment technology to developing nations and an UN funded program to help governments create legislation regarding environmental regulations.

Let the birds fly free: a crisis in the UNDP

It seems only fitting that the United National Development Program presides over the third floor Prudential Center room titled ‘Commonwealth.’ After all, the issue they are tackling today does have to do with the common good – the preservation of biodiversity and how to best protect them from water pollution. Stepping into the room is to witness delegates firmly locked in debate over how best to solve the issue of water contamination. All the delegates agreed that the preservation of clean water was of the utmost importance, especially as, as the delegate of Turkey so simple put it, chemicals have the great power to “disrupt and destroy biodiversity.” Polluted water has the capability to do ever-increasing harm to precious species, which these delegates are fighting to protect.

Delegates proposed a range of solutions: from the delegate of Belgium came the idea to “update factory equipment that deals with fresh water;” from the USA came the proposal to utilize the process of reverse osmosis – a system that uses semipermeable membranes to remove large particles from water; from France came the motion to implement “froth flotation” – which separates water fearing (hydrophobic) materials from water loving (hydrophilic) ones.

These innovative ideas were cut short when suddenly, committee doors flew open to reveal an intricately dressed crisis committee, donning colorful, striped ponchos meant to represent endangered water fowl and declaring an urgent situation in Nepal. The crisis team of ‘birds’ tweeted futilely as retro viral drugs from the drug company Big French Pharma entered into water runoff and led to their demise. A bird researcher in the region lamented the loss of her study.

It is “very unfair to blame my company,” said the president of Big French Pharma (another crisis member). The president reminded the committee that what had happened was “completely legal,” and that his company had been working with the government the whole time, which sanctioned their actions.

To the consternation of the UNDP, a committee charged with preventing this very type of issue, crisis members representing Chinese and Indian civilians exclaimed how happy they were to have Big French Pharma providing them jobs, and how sad they would be to see the company be punished for their legal actions. Providing a contrasting view, the delegate of Nepal remarked that the crisis “could have been avoided” if actions such as these had serious consequences.

Their crisis was a stark reminder to UNDP delegates of the struggle between industry and the protection of biodiversity. The delegate from Switzerland aptly stressed that “economic pursuit [such as that of the Big French Pharma] has benefited the job industries but harmed research.”

Unfortunately, due environmental pressures such as water pollution, the endangered birds of the world may not have the opportunity to pick up and fly away like the birds of the crisis committee. It is up to the UNDP to figure out how to give all species a safe, clean future.

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Welcome to HMUN 2017!

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