We borrow water from future generations – an account of the Big Jump Challenge

The Big Jump Challenge is a water conservation campaign, in Europe and beyond. Mari Gigauri is part of the Big Jump Team Tethys from Georgia and this summer she went to Brussels to help present the Youth Manifesto for Water Protection in the European Parliament. Here she describes the purpose and her experience of that eventIF_Blog_Mari_Big_Jump_Challenge

The Big Jump Challenge is the youth campaign of the Big Jump – an initiative of the European Rivers Network (ERN), also known as European River Swimming Day.

Every year thousands of people all over Europe simultaneously jump into their rivers and lakes in a co-ordinated event that aims to both highlight the importance of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) to decision-makers and reconnect citizens with their rivers, drawing public attention to the need for water protection. Under the WFD, all member states have committed to ensuring healthy aquatic ecosystems by 2015. But many water authorities are still a long way from achieving this.

The Big Jump Challenge is a project that supports active and innovative youth campaign groups in water actions.

Such challenges do not only arise in the European Union but also in Europe more generally as well as on many other continents. Therefore, the Big Jump Challenge is also open to participants from non-EU countries. For example, a group of Big Jumpers from Israel, Palestine and Jordan joined the campaign – and made a beautiful song and video about their initiative.

Team Tethys from Georgia

I joined the Big Jump Challenge (BJC) as a participant of the team Tethys. Our team is from Georgia and all the members were students. For me it was interesting to work with them, and to meet with other students on the training sessions. We also went to visit primary schools and showed a cartoon to motivate the very young to think about water protection. The goal of team Tethys: to upgrade everyone’s knowledge in ecological subjects.

Many BJC teams carried out research and organised meetings and major water events in advance of the Brussels meeting. They researched the biological communities of rivers, and conducted freshwater experiments; they met decision-makers and discussed the most important parts of the Water Framework Directive with them; and they organised contests, seminars, lectures and different kinds of activities to spread the information among young people.

Youth Manifesto for Water Protection

As part of the Big Jump Challenge, 60 young “river ambassadors” – selected from over 120 youth campaign groups from 28 countries – brought their ideas and demands for water protection to the attention of policy-makers in Brussels to highlight the fact that 2015 is the deadline year for the WFD. The week was organised by the social-ecological research group GETIDOS in cooperation with the European Environmental Bureau, Good Planet Belgium and further national partners. The final event was a European Rivers Parliament that marked the conclusion of the Big Jump Challenge European youth campaign for water protection.

Following a performance focusing on local water protection, young activists from the Big Jump Challenge presented their Youth Manifesto for Water Protection. I was one of the people presenting the manifesto. I was happy to have the opportunity to represent everyone’s ideas that we had included in our Manifesto but I was nervous at the same time, as I felt I had a big responsibility.

The Youth Manifesto for Water Protection highlights key challenges for water protection in 2015. It also presents ideas for the better inclusion of youth in water protection.

The difficulty of achieving the European water protection goals makes water protection an intergenerational task. As the Austrian BJC participant Valentin Lechner put it, concluding the Manifesto presentation: “We do not inherit water from our ancestors; we borrow it from future generations.” The Manifesto notes: “Learning how to borrow water from future generations starts with education from an early age up to university.” That is why you have to start in primary school!

In the short term the Manifesto offers a youth perspective on the discussion about the second round of the European Water Management Plans. In the long term it contributes to a critical revision of the European Water Framework Directive, scheduled for 2018.

The session, hosted by MEP Bas Eickhout, concluded with cocktails prepared from river water. My group had brought water from River Mtkvari, which is the main river in Georgia – and one of the dirtiest.

After the week in Brussels, going back home was a bit sorrowful. But after this time I feel much more confident, much more conscious of this subject, and hopeful – after meeting people from European Environmental Bureau – that everything will be better.

The Big Jump Challenge unites people who have one common interest, which is passion for a healthy environment! Join us now!