By Thabani Okwenjani
HARARE, 5 June 2012 - The Southern African Development Community's protocol on shared watercourses is recognised as one of the world's best. But sound agreements on the sustainable and equitable management of joint water resources require effective means to implement them.
Water officials from across Southern Africa are meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Jun 5-6 to develop a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the regional agreement.
SADC's 2003 Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses stresses a basin-wide approach to managing transboundary waters, rather than an emphasis on territorial sovereignty. It spells out the objectives of sound management as including coordinated management, sustainable use, and environmental protection.
The river basin organisations that are holding their fifth meeting in Harare are charged with promoting equitable use, setting out strategies for the development of shared rivers and lakes, and developing a policy for monitoring shared watercourses.
Armed conflict over water has long been predicted; most recently the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence said such wars would break out within the next decade. But although many parts of the region are already facing water stress, SADC expects its numerous transboundary watercourses to be the basis of closer cooperation rather than conflict.
"They say the next wars will be fought over water," Dr Kenneth Msibi told IPS in Harare, " but with these agreements, we are making sure that water will instead be an instrument of peace."
For the complete article, please see IPS.
By Danilo Valladares
GUATEMALA CITY, 21 May 2012 - "People haven’t been coming in for the past month or so because they are afraid again, like during war-time," complained Juan Gaspar, a shopkeeper in the northwestern Guatemalan town of Santa Cruz Barillas, where a fierce battle is raging between locals opposed to a hydropower dam and the security forces.
The conflict broke out in the town on May 1 when private security guards, police and soldiers cracked down on a protest by local residents opposed to the construction of the five-MW Canbalam I hydroelectric complex by the Spanish firm Hidralia. One local peasant farmer was killed in the clashes and two were injured.
In response, right-wing President Otto Pérez Molina declared a state of siege in the town and sent in troops and police with the order to "capture the ringleaders." The measure was lifted on Friday May 18.
So far, 17 community leaders have been arrested. Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets on May 15 to demand that they be released, and that the state of siege be lifted.
Gaspar told IPS that before investing in a project such as a dam or mine, investors should engage in dialogue with the local population and take their views into consideration, in order to avoid regrettable incidents. "That’s how it should work," he said.
When asked his opinion about the dam, the shopkeeper first said he did not support it. But immediately afterwards he said "We have nothing to do with these things; I don’t care one way or the other."
Perhaps the abrupt turnaround was a result of the heavy police and military presence in the town, reminiscent of the 1960-1996 civil war.
For the complete article, please see IPS.
NEW YORK/ NAIROBI, 4 May 2012 - Pre-publication results: UN Survey of 130 countries provides in-depth status report on global efforts to improve water management; over 80 per cent of countries have reformed their water laws in the past twenty years as a response to growing pressures on water resources from expanding populations, urbanization and climate change.
In many cases, such water reforms have produced significant impacts on development, including improvements to drinking water access, human health and water efficiency in agriculture.
At the same time, global progress has been slower where irrigation, rainwater harvesting and investment in freshwater ecosystem services are concerned.
These are among the findings of a United Nations survey of over 130 national governments on efforts to improve the sustainable management of water resources.
The survey focuses on progress towards the implementation of internationally-agreed approaches to the management and use of water, known as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).
Backed by UN Member States at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit as part of an overall action plan on sustainable development (known as Agenda 21), IWRM is a way forward for efficient, equitable and sustainable development and management of the world's limited water resources.
Amid increasing and conflicting demands on the world's water supply, IWRM integrates domestic, agricultural, industrial and environmental needs into water planning, rather than considering each demand in isolation.
The latest survey is intended to inform decision-making at the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012. Twenty years after the Earth Summit, world governments will once again convene in Rio de Janeiro to take decisions on how to ensure sustainable development for the 21st century.
The survey, which was co-ordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on behalf of UN-Water (the UN inter-agency co-ordination mechanism for freshwater issues), asked governments for their feedback on governance, infrastructure, financing, and other areas relating to water management, to gauge how successful countries have been in moving towards IWRM.
Overall, 90 per cent of countries surveyed reported a range of positive impacts from integrated approaches to water management, following national reforms.
Other key findings include:
Water-related risks and the competition for water resources are perceived by a majority of countries to have increased over the past 20 years;
Domestic water supply is ranked by most countries as the highest priority for water resources management;
The majority of countries reported an increasing trend in financing for water resources development, although obstacles to implementing reforms remain;
Progress on water efficiency is lagging behind other water management reforms, with less than 50 per cent of national reforms addressing water efficiency.
"The sustainable management and use of water - due to its vital role in food security, energy or supporting valuable ecosystem services - underpins the transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient green economy," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
"As well as highlighting challenges, this new survey also shows important successes regarding integrated water resources management, where a more sustainable approach to water has resulted in tangible benefits for communities and the environment. At Rio+20, governments will have the opportunity to build on these innovations and chart the way forward for sustainable development, where the water needs of a global population set to rise to 9 billion by 2050, can be met in an equitable way," added Mr. Steiner.
The UN survey shows the major environmental changes that have taken place between 1992, when IWRM was firstly widely backed by governments, and today - and how water resources are managed in the face of such challenges.
The world population, for example, increased from 5.3 billion in 1992 to just over 7 billion today, with impacts being felt most strongly in developing countries. This has been accompanied by increased rural-to-urban migration and high refugee movements due to climatic and socio-political disasters.
For the complete article, please see UNEP.