Submitted by guest blogger on Thu,08/27/2015

Authors: Laetitia Pettinotti (BC3), Marloes Mul (IWMI), Beatrice Mosello (ODI) and Naomi Oates (ODI)

At the Stockholm World Water Week and in the run up to the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development goals, “water for sustainable development” is top of the international agenda. Ensuring that investments will benefit all, from national to local interests, is the challenge at hand.

Over the last decade, there has been a revived interest in large scale water resource development. The argument is that large dams for irrigation and hydropower generation can contribute to adapting to climate variability and to mitigating risks, while boosting economic growth and reducing poverty.

However the potential for ecosystem services to contribute to water management, thus for nature to perform as natural infrastructure has frequently been neglected. The key question is: how can portfolios of built and natural infrastructures support pro-poor and climate resilient development? Drawing on research from the WISE-UP to Climate project, we pose this question based on two proposed developments in the Tana and Volta River Basins.

Rural-urban water transfers in the upper Tana, Kenya

The Tana River Basin provides over 70% of Nairobi’s water supply and produces a significant proportion of the country’s hydroelectric power. Many rural households intimately depend on the river’s ecosystem services to support their livelihoods and food production - crops, fish and livestock.

Although the river is coming under increasing pressure and its catchment is being degraded rapidly, the Tana Basin is relatively water rich compared to the neighbouring Athi Basin, where Nairobi is located. To help meet growing demands, the proposed ‘Northern Water Collector Tunnel’ (NWCT) has been designed to transfer an additional 140,000m3 from the upper Tana to the capital. The project is estimated to cost 6.8 billion Kenyan shillings.

Inter-basin transfers are a means to tackle imbalances...Read more

Submitted by Claire Warmenbol on Tue,08/04/2015

Did you know that the world today creates as much data in 10 minutes as in all of human history up until the year 2003? That is a lot of information. Amongst all this noise, how do environmental messages stand a chance of being heard? Or better, to have an impact and instigate change?

This interesting fact – and many others – I learned at the recent European Communications Summit in Brussels, a yearly conference organised by the European Association of Communications Directors (EACD) attracting over 700 communication professionals from around the world. The EACD had invited me to speak on the new IUCN Water infographic ‘Going with the Flow’, recently published in The Economist, along with a blog post on valuing water infrastructure services. ‘Infographics: how to speak ecology to economists’ was the title of my presentation, and I later realised this fitted perfectly with the tone and topics of the conference.

The Summit focused on ‘disruptive innovation’; the impact of game-changing developments on our work, industries, and the way we live – and how to anticipate this. “We can now safely say we live in disrupted times, when the frequency of disruptive innovation is higher than ever before”, said Herbert Heitman, EACD President.

Some of the big trailblazers in 2015 are AirBnB and Uber, in the top five of start-ups revolutionising business. For a full listing, check the CNBC Disrupter 50 List of companies whose innovations are changing the world as we know it.

No example could have illustrated this better than the news of Paris being gridlocked by angry taxi drivers over the mobile application ‘Uber’. The news was making headlines whilst Uber’s Head of Communications, Gareth Mead, was speaking. “The fear instigated by disruption can upset progress, but it can also greatly serve as a catalyst for change”,...Read more

Submitted by Mark Smith on Fri,06/05/2015

Article originally posted in Economist Insights on World Environment Day.

Can you manage what you don’t measure?  Produce such as coffee, cotton, and oil are traded commodities that are measured, managed, negotiated and priced based on market supply and demand.  Yet, what happens when measuring things of great value that are more nuanced, more complex, not commodities, not privately owned and not traded in markets,  such as rainfall, rivers, wetlands, or biodiversity?

Designed for the World Forum on Natural Capital, this infographic illustrates the short-term value of felled trees to the timber industry when compared to the long-term benefits of healthy forests to society. The numbers speak for themselves, $0,4 trillion versus $3,7 trillion.

 This valuation approach is not new. Inspired by the Stern review, TEEB or ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ is a global initiative set up in 2007 that focuses on making nature’s values visible. As Prof. Ed Barbier (a member of TEEBs Advisory Board) puts it, “we use nature because it is valuable, we lose nature because it is free”.

 Adam Smith’s ‘Diamond-Water paradox’, differentiating value and price, states that water is considerably more valuable than diamonds, yet diamonds command a much higher price. This resonates with more people than ever before.  Daily news on floods and droughts, and the loss of services we receive from ecosystems is concerning.  Securing Water, Sustaining Growth from the Global Water Partnership/OECD Task Force on Water Security and Sustainable Growth, reports the ‘monetization of environmental risks, and the ecosystem services the aquatic environment renders’ – is classed as a pressing challenge we have still not been able to address. 

 Pollution, over-abstraction, dams altering river flows, deforestation causing soil erosion and desertification, and climate change can all have devastating impacts on our water resources. The...Read more

Submitted by James Dalton on Tue,05/05/2015

This year the focus of the 7th World Water Forum was on implementation – something everyone strives for but which can become forgotten at events often more intent on policy debate. Implementation of better water management has to scale-up to reach ambitious Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, and solve problems quicker than they accumulate. Reflecting the cross-cutting nature of water in society and in the economy, the Forum brought together a diverse range of stakeholders – from engineers to conservationists, from financers to farmers, from local government to Parliamentarians and Ministers.

A clear subject in the thematic events was natural or green infrastructure. Natural infrastructure is by design, nature for development and development for nature. It recognises the intrinsic links between environment, people, and economy. It speaks to many communities-of-practice and their multiple policy objectives and indicators. It goes beyond carbon mitigation to include mitigating the current practical problems that exist – to highlight that natural systems are a sensible and attractive place to invest when you are trying to reduce flooding, build water security, grow food, conserve habitats and species, grow industry, provide livelihoods and employment, and store carbon. Sessions on natural infrastructure ranged from business investing in natural infrastructure to disaster risk reduction interventions, from community scale to city scale, and watershed protection by utilities who recognise the need to protect ‘upstream’, to give everyone enough water ‘downstream’. Sounds simple right?  Yet getting to collective implementation is a challenge.

We were able to sit with our co-authors, UNEP-DHIThe Nature Conservancy (TNC) and World Resources Institute (WRI) to discuss the further development of our Green infrastructure Guide, and were joined byForest Trends and Wetlands International to look at learning and scaling-up our knowledge with others. OurWISE-UP programme is currently looking at how natural infrastructure can support low carbon pathways for...Read more

Submitted by Isabelle Fauconnier on Fri,05/01/2015

By Isabelle Fauconnier, Water Policy and Sustainability Adviser, IUCN Global Water Programme.

As I reflect on the rich sessions of the recent 7th World Water Forum, I feel buoyed by the stimulating challenges that water management offers us but also curious as to how we – the global water community of practice and beyond – will actually tackle these in the coming years. For example, there is now a consensus that water-food-energy ‘Nexus’ thinking and transboundary water cooperation are each good ideas. These are two complex propositions that share a common obstacle: they are not easy to implement. Yet in many shared basins, as we move from policy talk to action on the ground, we must often overlay and take on these two very challenges.

We at IUCN, along with others, have made the case that nature is a solution for water, and not just a competing use for water. Ecosystems, as natural infrastructure, perform vital functions like water storage by forest soils and wetlands, soil nutrient cycling for food production, water purification, and more. In turn, it is healthy ecosystems that provide a key input, water, for the production of food and energy, and for human consumption. So if ecosystem functions are depleted, energy and food production and basic human water needs will suffer considerable losses.

Shutterstock SJ Travel

Healthy river basins – healthy water supplies © Shutterstock SJ Travel

The tricky thing is that because ecosystems don’t follow political boundaries, they are often a shared resource between neighbouring countries. And in both transboundary and national river basins, they are a shared resource among user groups across food, energy and other economic sectors. So what will propel stakeholders – be they countries, basin institutions, user groups,

...Read more

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Submitted by guest blogger on Mon,04/27/2015

Lara Nassar of IUCN’s Regional Office for West Asia reflects on the power of networking from her experience at the recent 7th World Water Forum.

To many people in my region, networking is theoretical. It will not lead to action on the ground and more importantly, resources should be put into projects that directly benefit the local community in developing countries. For many years, being from Jordan myself, I thought so too.

During the World Water Forum, I helped staff the IUCN booth (which, if I may add, was amazing). I took great pride in sharing our activities with participants, showcasing our achievements, and explaining our work in West Asia and North Africa. I was able to share A toolkit for increasing climate change resilience in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) with many people, mostly from that region. These professionals were genuinely interested and willing to share it with others. This will help increase awareness about the participatory approach to environmental management that we use in the region to increase local community climate change resilience. But, I still ask myself, is this what networking really means?

At IUCN’s Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA), after two years of working with member organisations and partners under the Regional Knowledge Network on Water (RKNOW), this is no longer a project but an initiative, a strategic vision, a NETWORK.

During one of the forum meetings, ROWA partners and members took turns in voicing their long-term vision for this network. It was very interesting to notice that they saw this as a long-term partnership, a collaborative environmental network which will in turn create change on the ground, that will not end when the project itself expires.

From the past few years with IUCN, I have learned how beneficial networking can be....Read more

Submitted by guest blogger on Fri,04/17/2015

Raphaël Glémet, Senior Programme Officer for Water and Wetlands within IUCN’s Asia Regional Office, talks to us about his passion for all things water, and shares his excitement about innovative approaches to transboundary water governance.

Yesterday was our third day in Daegu, and the World Water Forum is now in full swing. I’m happy to be here to immerse myself in the incredible opportunities to learn and to share what every day provides.

While trying to build a summary of my day for the blog I soon realised that a lot of the talks here actually go way beyond water-related topics. The topics are so diverse, so cross-cutting, that on occasion I’ve almost forgotten that I’m at a forum about water and not at one of the big meetings on climate change, food production, energy, international diplomacy, the economy or biodiversity conservation. The attendee list is just as varied as the topics covered, with participants stemming from various backgrounds, including ministries of environment, foreign affairs, energy and agriculture. In addition, there are numerous representatives from international and local NGOs and the private sector.

Don’t get me wrong, the forum is targeted, professional and there is an ocean of water-related knowledge to absorb, but I think the real magic here is how water topics have the capacity to overcome boundaries, to traverse levels and to embrace environmental, political, economic and societal issues as a whole.

Throughout my career I have always been fascinated by rivers especially for this reason, for their capacity to federate, to gather and merge interests, and to connect countries, communities and other stakeholders. This week I’ve had the opportunity to introduce the BRIDGE (Building River Dialogue and Governance) project facilitated by IUCN, and again this goes

...Read more

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Submitted by guest blogger on Tue,04/14/2015

IUCN representatives are currently taking part in the 7th World Water Forum in the Republic of Korea. Marcello Rocca, Communications Officer for the Water and Wetlands Programme within IUCN’s Central and West Africa office, reports back on his experience of this important event so far.

What are IUCN’s interventions in the water sector?” This simple question came from a Cambodian forty-year-old man who came to talk to me at the IUCN stand. The World Water Forum is an opportunity to present our activities in water governance and wetlands conservation. During the discussion my interlocutor had the opportunity to learn that I work in IUCN’s Central and West Africa office, and he seemed very interested in the partnership approach we adopt to implement integrated, cross-border water management, and in the results we have achieved. In turn, I was surprised to find that the problems he encounters in his work are similar to those I have experienced, and I asked him many questions in order to try to understand what solutions he adopts to achieve satisfactory long-term results. We parted ways after exchanging business cards and promising to keep in touch.

The 7th World Water Forum officially started on Sunday with the opening ceremony. Experts from numerous countries passed by the stands. Voices from Niger, the Mekong, the Rhine and the Mississippi all mixed; groups of people from various backgrounds shared their experiences and discussed possible future collaboration.

Fishing in the Mekong

Fishing in the Mekong

“It is not the pearls that make the necklace but the wire.”

Everyone is aware of the importance of this forum and the need to act together to ensure participatory and sustainable water management.

We are using our participation

...Read more

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Submitted by guest blogger on Mon,02/02/2015

By Dr Christopher Briggs, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

World Wetlands Day, 2 February, celebrated around the world, came out of a desire to help more people learn about these incredible ecosystems and how we can help protect them. Led by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, that now includes 168 contracting parties, the overarching goal of World Wetlands Day is awareness and education, helping people to understand what constitutes a wetland and their vital role in our lives.

Most importantly, wetlands are the source of our daily water. They are also home to over 100,000 freshwater species and essential to bird life, breeding and migration.

 IUCN Bangladesh

Fishing season in the Tanguar Haor wetlands of Bangladesh. Photo: IUCN Bangladesh

Wetlands play other crucial roles too:

Wetlands feed humanity: rice, grown in wetland paddies, is the staple diet of nearly three billion people. The average human consumes 19 kilogrammes of fish each year. And most of the fish sold breed and raise their young in coastal waters and estuaries. Moreover, 70% of all fresh water extracted globally is used for crop irrigation.

Wetlands purify and filter harmful waste from water, helping to absorb harmful fertilizers and pesticides, as well as heavy metals and toxins from industry. As an example, the Nakivubo Swamp in Kampala, Uganda, filters sewage and industrial effluents for free; a treatment plant to do the same job would cost US$ 2 million per year.

Wetlands act as nature’s shock absorbers: peatlands and wet grasslands in river basins act as natural sponges, absorbing rainfall, creating wide surface pools that ease any flooding in rivers. The same storage capacity will also safeguard against the impact of drought.

Wetlands provide sustainable

...Read more

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Submitted by guest blogger on Sun,02/01/2015

World Wetlands Day, celebrated 2 February, is an opportunity to highlight some of the many examples of how conserving natural resources can reap tangible benefits for people. Here we revisit a story from journalist Wayne Arnold, writing for IUCN’s Water Programme, describing how changing the way wetlands are managed in southern Laos improved the nutrition of local villagers.

They live in a forested swamp that is submerged by floodwaters for part of the year, eking out an existence on the fish they catch and whatever they can grow or gather. Malaria and malnutrition are rife. To say that the wetland communities of Attapeu province in southernmost Laos are poor would seem an understatement.

 C. Hicks, IUCN Lao PDR

Fishing on Lao wetland. Photo: C. Hicks, IUCN Lao PDR

For government officials back in the capital, the solution to Attapeu’s problems was much the same as their approach for the rest of their impoverished nation: clear the land, fill the swamps and enable the poor to grow and sell rice. But overturning the natural environment in favour of a cash crop like rice can disrupt traditional livelihoods and leave rural communities worse off than they were before.

“People think if they have rice, they’re well off,” said Mark Dubois, a British marine biologist who spent almost three years working on a study of Attapeu’s wetland communities for the Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Programme (MWBP). “But rice doesn’t provide for all the needs that people have nutritionally. It’s not a panacea.”

On the contrary, the flooded forest offers a rich provender if it isn’t overexploited. Yet governments in Laos and elsewhere often tend to overlook the importance of aquatic resources to the rural poor. To

...Read more

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