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Wastewater and Emerging Pollutants: Unfolding A Toxic Story

September 9, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


Emerging pollutants is a term used by water quality professionals to describe contaminants that have been detected in water bodies. These may cause harm to human health and the ecological systems and are typically not governed under the current environmental laws, posing as a greater risk to our livelihood.

Heavy metal contamination is an issue of utmost importance as it has harmful effects on both, the environment and on humans. Some of these negative impacts include the death of aquatic life, algal blooms, habitat destruction from sedimentation, debris, increased water flow, other short and long-term toxicity from chemical contaminants. The main threats to human health from heavy metals are associated, for example, with exposure to lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic. Most of the plastic produced in the world is not recycled but ends up in landfills or open dumps which makes it more likely to reach rivers, lakes, and eventually oceans. Microplastics (MPs), defined as less than 5 mm in diameter, can be directly released in the water or formed by the degradation of bigger pieces. Many issues are linked to the presence of MPs in water, such as damage to airways and stomachs of animals, blocking canals and sewers, and creating breeding habitats for mosquitoes. Excessive nutrient loading is a major threat to aquatic ecosystems worldwide that leads to profound changes in aquatic biodiversity and biogeochemical processes. Nutrients in excess can come from various sources. They can occur naturally, however, human-related inputs are much greater than natural inputs.

This webinar aims to discuss these matters with reference to wastewater and will focus on case studies, projects, and examples that will present the current trends and ways to tackle these issues.

Join the webinar on Thursday, 9 September 2021, from 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM Nairobi time (EAT). Please register using this link.


The Global Wastewater Initiative (GW²I) is a multi-stakeholder platform that brings together UN agencies, international organizations, governments, scientists, the private sector, and non-profit organizations with the goal of information-sharing and cooperation for an effective and comprehensive response to the challenges posed by wastewater management.

The GW²I is chaired by Turkey and hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Together with its partners and through the Global Wastewater Initiative, UNEP seeks to enhance the understanding of wastewater as a resource and works on various issues related to sustainable wastewater management including policy guidelines, technology, knowledge generation, capacity building, and awareness-raising that contribute to the implementation of the sustainable development goal 6, target 6.3.1, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater discharged in our water bodies.

Do you want to join the Initiative? Please contact riccardo.zennaro@un.org and avantika.singh@un.org.


Sarantuyaa Zandaryaa – Programme Specialist, Division of Water Sciences, UNESCO

Sarantuyaa Zandaryaa is a Programme Specialist for water quality in the Division of Water Sciences—the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) of UNESCO in Paris. Working for UNESCO since 2007, Sarantuyaa leads IHP activities on water quality and wastewater management, including the UNESCO Project on Emerging Pollutants in Water and Wastewater, which aims to enhance and generate knowledge, promoting research, providing policy advice, and building human capacities on emerging pollutants. Sarantuyaa has a Postdoctoral Degree in Environment and Sustainable Development Policy and a Doctoral degree in Environmental Engineering. Before joining UNESCO, she worked at the United Nations University in Tokyo.

Javier Mateo-Sagasta – Senior Researcher and Coordinator on Water Quality, International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

Javier has 20 years of experience as an agricultural engineer and environmental scientist in programs and projects aiming at the control of water pollution, the safe use of marginal quality water in agriculture, integrated water resources management, and sustainable agricultural production in both developed and developing countries. In IWMI Javier is a senior researcher and coordinates IWMI’s work on water quality across research groups. Javier is the chair of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Global Water Quality Alliance, a member of the Steering Committee of the Global Wastewater Initiative, and a member of the Management Team of the CGIAR Anti-Microbial Resistance Hub. He currently leads the “ReWaterMENA project, and undertakes regional and global assessments on wastewater, water pollution, and resource recovery and reuse with UN partners.

Ramesh Ramachandran – Director, National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM)

As Former Chair of Future Coasts (formerly Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone; LOICZ) from 2011 to 2015, Prof. Dr. Ramesh implemented the LOICZ Nutrient Budget for major estuaries on the east and west coast of India among several other studies globally. For the past decade, Ramesh Ramachandran has been involved in coupled land-ocean interface studies, its management, to aid policy decisions of the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change. As the Founder Director of the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management of the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, several trans-disciplinary research studies spanning coastal vulnerability, socio-economic development, coastal/ marine conservation, spatial planning, land-based pollution, island management, integrated coastal zone management, and climate change are being undertaken under his leadership. Currently, he is also chairing the steering committee of Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM)-UNEP.

The webinar will be moderated by Riccardo Zennaro, Associate Programme Officer, UNEP, and Avantika Singh, Intern, UNEP.

Riccardo is an Associate Programme Officer for wastewater management at UNEP in Nairobi, Kenya. He is passionate about wastewater management and sanitation and has experience working on environmental and water-related programmes and projects in Europe and Africa. He holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Technology and International Affairs.

Avantika is supporting the wastewater management portfolio at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, Kenya. She has recently completed her under graduation in Genetic engineering from Chennai, India. She has also interned with AstraZeneca in Bangalore, India, and has worked with wastewater during this period as well. She aims to be able to contribute effectively towards improving the current water management and sanitation scenario in developing countries and make an overall impact on the environment. Avantika looks forward to completing a Master’s degree in the associated fields to become an effective contributor.

The original webinar announcement is available here.


September 9, 2021
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
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