The parliamentary meeting was an opportunity to get in touch with the new president of the ETH-board, Professor Alexander Zehnder. The meeting was again very well attended.
In his first presentation A. Zehnder posed the question whether water would become a key driver for globalization. His conclusions can be summarized as follows:
- Water will become an economic driver thus accentuating economical and political dependencies.
- Many countries, especially the developing countries, will not be able to produce the food they need because of a lack of water. In order to be able to satisfy their requirements on the world market they must gain economic prosperity.
- The water infrastructure will be an economic challenge also for industrialized countries.
- Escalating water conflicts can be avoided only by global solidarity among industrialized countries and new distribution approaches.
- In this regard the conservation of vital ecosystems is particularly important.
Prof. Zehnder pointed out that during the last decade the inflation corrected financial contribution to the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) has decreased by more than 10% while the number of students has increased by nearly 20%. To him it is therefore not surprising that the ETHs can no more attract the best scientists and faculty members. Prof. Zehnder predicts that the consequences may show in the years to come. He warned that the current funding policy would be detrimental to the quality of education, the innovative power and finally the reputation of the ETHs.