Members of the network pledge to recognize water and sanitation as a human right, to end the use of bottled water products, and to promote public management of water and wastewater services. The Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná currently has about 39,000 students and 1,500 professors.
“Brazil, unfortunately, has poor management of water resources and both the culture of waste and proposals for the commodification of water are accentuated,” writes Brother Mateucci in a letter in which he requests certification as a Blue Community and expresses the university’s commitment to promoting the better care of water. “In recent years, the growth of deforestation and pollution of the air and rivers, the unregulated use of chemicals for agricultural production, industrial production, among others, make the problem of water scarcity worsen daily,” he adds.
Brazil has 12% of the world’s water resources. Yet, about 35 million Brazilians do not have access to safe water. Seventy percent of the rivers are polluted.
Through its “Ecumenical and Interreligious Nucleus,” the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná already participates in the Brazilian Ecumenical Water Network. To strengthen awareness about the importance of taking care of water, the university created a “Water Club.” It is composed of students and provides a space for dialoguing, reflecting, praying, and taking action on water.
“With over 35,000 students and over 1,500 faculty members, the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná is one of the largest universities to join the Blue Communities network and we are overjoyed about your decision,” responded Marcela Olivera from Blue Planet Project. Blue Planet Project is co-founder and coordinator of the network.
Rector Mateucci outlined concrete steps towards further improving its water stewardship as a Blue University, such as supporting public utilities in the management of water and sanitation services in the city of Curitiba, the university’s hometown. The university also plans to stop using plastic water bottles and will look at how to de-commodify water on campus and at events.
Fr Dr Elias Wolff, professor of theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Water Network, and co-founder of the Ecumenical Water Network Brazil, stresses that the university both views water as a gift of God and advocates for treating access to clean water and basic sanitation as a human right. “Human rights” is one of the university’s six strategic areas, expressed in interdisciplinary research, advocacy initiatives, and hands-on social education in the field of human rights and public policies.
With the facilitation of the WCC Ecumenical Water Network, the university has been invited to officially join the Blue Communities network and to receive its membership certificate during a meeting on “Horizons of Community Water Management meeting” which will take place 22– 28 September in Popayán, Colombia.
Wolff recently addressed the university’s commitment to human rights and sustainability at a seminar on ethics in higher education, organized by the university and Globethics. “University has a social function,” he emphasized then. The Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná—as well as other universities—could provide crucial services to society, for example, by working with public agencies to ensure public management of water and by providing water-related expertise from a variety of academic fields.
Karl Heuberger, thematic advisor on access to water at Swiss Church Aid, welcomed the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná joining the Blue Community movement. “In Switzerland also, the number of Blue Universities is growing – the accession of the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná is a sign of hope. The Blue Community network has a high potential for joint efforts and cooperation in the promotion of human right to water,” Heuberger commented. Swiss Church Aid, a member of WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network, promotes the Blue Community’s causes through its networking activities in Switzerland and internationally.