The First International Environment Forum for Basin Organizations launched its technical discussions on Wednesday with a series of panels and open discussions on water-related issues. Participants addressed water quality and ecosystem health in the morning, and the water-energy-food nexus and adaptation to climate change in the afternoon.
Speakers from river basin commissions, technical assistance agencies and academia presented a wide range of experiences and lessons learned from on-the-ground work in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Their presentations were followed by question-and-answer sessions in which participants discussed to what extent river basin organizations should go beyond their traditional role of water resources management, noting that organizations are diverse and there is no “one size fits all” approach.
Official Opening of the Technical Segment
The dais during the opening of the technical segment
Mette Wilkie, Director, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, UNEP, opened the technical segment of the First International Environment Forum for Basin Organizations, saying that smart and collaborative management of water basins has never been more important than now, and encouraging participants to take urgent action.
Jean-Francois Donzier, International Network of Basin Organizations, said that without changes to management approaches, freshwater resources are “a time bomb for humanity,” and pressed for urgent restoration of aquatic ecosystems.
A bird’s eye view of the room during the opening of the technical segment
Chaiporn Siripornpibul, Department of Water Resources, Thailand, highlighted the application of integrated water resource management (IWRM) in river basins, and encouraged “strong cooperation” in the sustainable governance of freshwater.
Thomas Chiramba, Chief, Freshwater Ecosystems Unit, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, UNEP, introduced the opening speakers.
Theme 1 – Water Quality and Ecosystem Health
The dais during the session on Water Quality and Ecosystem Health
Aruwa Bendsen, Freshwater Ecosystems Unit, UNEP, explained the threat posed by untreated wastewater to human health and food security, noting the importance of inland fisheries that are a major protein source for populations.
A slide from Aruwa Bendsen’s presentation
A slide from Jan Leentvaar’s presentation
Jan Leentvaar, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Institute for Hydraulic Engineering (UNESCO-IHE), speaking on water quality guidelines, called for strengthening the mandate of basin organizations with regard to enforcement.
Session Moderator Abd Salam El Vilaly, Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)
Xia Jiang, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Science, presented lessons learnt in successful water quality restoration in Taihu Lake Basin, which has been affected in the last 20 years by high population density, rapid economic development and urbanization.
A slide from Alfredo Mamani Salinas’s presentation
Alfredo Mamani Salinas, Executive President, Bi-national Autonomous Authority of the Lake Titicaca, discussed water pollution issues, saying that water treatment alone will not solve the problem, and that programmes are needed to avoid pollution in the first place.
A slide from Joana Akrofi’s presentation
Joana Akrofi, Division of Early Warning and Assessment, UNEP, presented the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP), highlighting progress in the global comparative assessment for transboundary water systems for groundwater, lakes, reservoirs, rivers and large marine ecosystems.
Harry Liiv, Estonian-Russian Transboundary Water Commission, outlined working arrangements for joint water management between the two countries, noting that the Commission aims to keep water quality status under control and take measures to improve it, keeping in mind the significant fishery resources of Lake Peipsi.
Leszek Jeremi Bialy, International Hydrological Programme, UNESCO, highlighted challenges encountered in the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme, including limited and scattered data, variability in data quality, and difficulties with harmonization of data, indicators and classification.
A slide from Jean Baptiste Bahama’s presentation
Jean Baptiste Bahama, African Union Commission (AUC), talked about the Fouta Djallon Highlands and the way that regional basin organizations have been able to work with the Economic Community of West African States to facilitate resource mobilization and improve monitoring and assessment.
Hellen Natu, The Nile Basin Discourse
Hassen Chourabi, Ministry of Agriculture, Tunisia
Anna Tengnas, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Sylvester Matemu, Ministry of Water, Tanzania
Theme 2 – Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Adaptation to Climate Change
The dais during the afternoon session on Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Adaptation to Climate Change
A slide from Eric Hoa’s presentation
Eric Hoa, Freshwater Ecosystems Unit, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, UNEP, discussed opportunities for basin organizations to take a “nexus approach” to water governance by considering relationships among the water, energy and food sectors.
Lenka Thamae, Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM), reported on lessons learnt from Orange-Senqu River basin, stressing that transboundary water cooperation requires long-term commitments to reap water governance benefits.
Alexandra Carlier, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, discussed conflicts associated with competing uses of river basins, giving the example of indigenous peoples' struggles in the mining region of Cajamarca, Peru.
A slide from Jonathan Lautze’s presentation
Jonathan Lautze, International Water Management Institute, said that applying the water-energy-food nexus concept can lead to co-benefits without displacing other forms of planning such as IWRM.
Callist Tindimugaya, Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda, moderated the afternoon discussions of the water-energy-food nexus, and adaptation to climate change.
Charles Biney, Executive Secretary, Volta Basin Authority, presenting on decision support systems for management of floods and droughts, said that “water resources management at any level is a process, it’s not an event.”
Audra Vilaly’s presentation
Audra Vilaly, University of Arizona, presented research on the impacts of climate change on river basins in West Africa and discussed with participants the value of working with end-users as well as representative organizations.
Yurii Nabyvanets, Ukrainian Hydrometrological Institute, outlined steps in developing a strategic framework for basin adaptation to climate change for the Dniester Basin, shared by Moldova and Ukraine.
A slide from Yurii Nabyvanets’ presentation
A slide from Roland Treitler’s presentation
Roland Treitler, GIZ Thailand, discussed lessons from GIZ’s experience of working with local communities on water resource management in southern Thailand, noting that their construction of “Living Weirs” based on tree roots is in keeping with the King of Thailand’s “Sufficiency Economy” concept.
Around the Venue
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