French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once predicted: "The next century will be that of water. He who has it will be a rich man, he who wastes it will be an idiot, and he who pollutes it will be a criminal."
Swarovski, the world's leading crystal manufacturer, treasures water as a valuable source of energy used by the company during its development and expansion. Today, the Austrian company still uses energy produced by its own hydroelectric power station.
It has recently launched "The Living Yangtze" project in China, as the first of its global "Water for Nature" program from 2008 to 2010. It aims to help people better manage their water resources to improve their life quality, and to help endangered species by improving the quality of their natural habitat.
Swarovski's "Endangered Wildlife" is a trilogy celebrating one species facing extinction. (photo: Shanghai Daily)
According to Shi Zheng, managing director of Swarovski China, China faces severe water challenges. More than 400 Chinese towns and cities currently face major water shortages, with the country suffering from more soil erosion problems than anywhere else in the world, she points out. Furthermore, "300 million people still have no access to clean drinking water in China."
Shi says workshops, tuition, discussions and practical exercises will be carried out among children in 20 selected schools along the Yangtze River.
"We want to build awareness and instruct Chinese children about the importance of water, and how to save, manage properly and preserve the natural resource," she says.
The Austrian company initiated the first "Swarovski Water School" as early as in 1999 in Austria to teach young people about the environmental issues concerning water. It came up with the idea after discussions with national park directors and school teachers.
About 15,000 students, aged between eight and 13, have attended the one-week program at the Hohen Tauern National Park in Austria and at the Keoladeo National Park in India.
Shi says Swarovski plans to raise about 1.5 million euros (US$2.2 million) worldwide for the project in China this year.
The company will donate two euros from each membership fee for its Swarovski Crystal Society (SCS)-the company's association for crystal lovers and collectors with a worldwide membership of 400,000-and from each item sold in its new "Endangered Wildlife" collection.
The collection, available to the SCS members only, is a trilogy celebrating one species facing extinction, through 2010. The 2008 annual edition features two pandas - a mother panda holding a branch of matt crystal bamboo and her cub - in transparent and opaque black diamond crystal.
One piece is a seated panda cub holding his favorite food, a bamboo shoot. A rhodium bracelet featuring a chic panda and crystal bamboo charms is also part of the collection.
Partners in the project include the Chinese Ministry of Education, the country's panda reserve authorities, Shanghai University and Buddhist monasteries in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The "Water for Nature" program will be carried out in two other thirsty regions in 2009 and 2010. To join the Swarovski Crystal Society, check out the Website www.swarovski.com/scs.
(Shanghai Daily February 1, 2008)