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

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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

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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

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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

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Submitted by guest blogger on Mon,08/18/2014

By Amita Rajguru of IUCN’s Water Programme.

We are living in a new reality; we are faced with a world where the destabilising effects of climate change are unprecedented in living memory, and the demands on the environment are greater than they have ever been.

In the western world, where household taps flow freely, it’s too convenient to forget that clean drinking water is already a scarce resource in many parts of the world. In the face of both ridiculous wealth and incredible poverty, how can we look past our materialism and solve critical water issues before it’s too late?

The way I see it, we can’t. Materialism has permeated our lives too deeply – we need to embrace it and use it to create positive social change. NGOs used to have a reputation for sitting in research labs and collecting data that would eventually decorate shelves. And the public saw environmental issues as a game of hot potato – always the responsibility of someone with more authority… but not anymore. It’s our responsibility, as the face of conservation, to get people interested and engaged with our work! We need to step up our game and show the world how to achieve all the solutions that our research says will work. And to do that, I propose that we use the crème de la crème of materialism for all it is worth: social media.

facebook grab
In a world with an attention span of 140 characters or less, I see a road forward which is paved with photos, videos and hashtags. With over 1.8 billion social network users around the world, the best way to be heard is to simply say something, and to say it simply.

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Submitted by James Dalton on Fri,06/27/2014

Flooding is the most common hydrological hazard – with global economic losses from floods averaging US$3 billion a year, predicted to become US$1 trillion a year by 2050. Over the last 100 years they have also been the most fatal disasters, ruining families, communities, and at times, setting back national development and progress.

A recent study suggests that the annual cost of flooding across Europe could become €23.5 billion by 2050. At current prices this represents more than the annual GDP of 93 countries. And in reality, it’s an insurance bill. It is an astounding number given the human, financial, and technical capacity that exists across Europe. Two-thirds of these total costs are due to socio-economic growth – we have as a continent more people living in flood-prone areas, and everyone has more to lose because of higher incomes.

It’s a point echoed by Lord Smith, Chairman of the UK Environment Agency following the devastating floods in the UK this winter and spring. ‘Think about the risk that your property faces’ he said. Not an easy task if you have little choice where you live, but equally it’s a logical question. Ten years ago we bought a house in the UK, but only after my wife, who worked for the Environment Agency at the time, had checked out the online flood risk maps.

The Environment Agency (EA) has come under a lot of pressure in the UK for how it deals with protection from flooding. Critics – understandably those immediately affected, sometimes disastrously – have voiced their anger at the lack of river dredging and protection, a lack of finance available for the EA to ‘do their job’. It has also provided a political platform, with the Environment Secretary and Communities Secretary both venting steam – calling the lack of...Read more

Submitted by guest blogger on Mon,11/25/2013

By James Dalton of IUCN’s Global Water Programme. Version française

A year ago I wrote a blog post on a workshop that we jointly held with the Ramsar Secretariat in partnership with Danone Waters – the bottled water arm of the French multinational. It caught people’s attention, partly because of what we were doing, and partly because of who we were doing it with. We made a commitment at that workshop, with Danone Waters, to follow up on the workshop, and to report back to the participants about corporate changes in water management practices.

Last year’s workshop was designed to jointly review an internal water management tool Danone had developed. We brought together a diverse range of people to help us do this – a remarkable group in their openness and willingness to collaborate beyond ‘expert silos’. This year we re-convened the same group with the company to discuss progress in adopting the recommendations made a year ago.

We saw great change in the work that was presented to us by Danone Waters. The water management tool had been revised based on many of the recommendations made last year. It was one of those moments where you realise that working with the private sector can bring rapid change.

We had also identified the need for policy change within the company on water management. The company had clearly listened to this. We were presented with a draft outline of a new corporate water policy for the Danone Group (soon to be announced). Reviewing the technical nature of the work had clearly helped identify the need to expand groundwater policy into wider overall corporate water policy for the Danone Group.

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Submitted by guest blogger on Mon,11/25/2013

By Jane Lawton, Head of Communications, IUCN Asia.

The word ‘dialogue’ may be somewhat overused in our development lexicon, but the recent meeting of the Mekong Water Dialogues I attended in Siem Reap, Cambodia provided a powerful example of what we really mean by effective dialogue in action.

The meeting brought together national teams from Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to plan activities for the Mekong Water Dialogues (MWD) project for the year ahead. A project coordinated by IUCN, MWD works on improving water governance in the Mekong Region countries by promoting transparent and inclusive decision-making that will protect water resources while also improving people’s livelihoods and ensuring the health of ecosystems.

I came to the meeting having read all the documents and reports about MWD but with only a vague sense of what the project actually did. That was until the dialogue began.

First to strike me was the wide range of activities, each tailored to the local context, but all working towards common goals. In addition to project-related action around wetland protection and supporting community livelihoods, in all the countries there has been significant progress made toward enacting new legislation that will protect water resources. In Thailand this has been achieved through community meetings – ‘waterlogues’ – that are contributing to recommendations to government. In Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, through more direct interaction with the policy process.

I was also struck by the nature of the project structure, and how MWD is as much about the process of dialogue and sharing information as it is about the outcomes. Each country has a National Working Group (NWG) that includes representatives of government and civil

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Submitted by guest blogger on Wed,11/06/2013

By Juan Carlos Sanchez of IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre.

One of the key messages coming from this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm is that climate change presents an opportunity for transboundary cooperation. After a series of seminars on this topic, there seem to be several arguments that support this.

It is clear that a growing number of eco-regions and countries are experiencing increasing water stress exacerbated by climate change seen by higher variability, intensity and frequency of droughts and floods. In a transboundary situation, the additional pressure on water resources leaves two options.

States can either opt for unilateral action motivated by self-interest and competition over water which can heighten existing regional tensions and may eventually lead to conflict. Or they can see the essential commodity of freshwater as a key ingredient for cooperation.

It’s clear from the discussions at Water Week that transboundary water cooperation in relation to climate change adaptation takes place at various levels. These range from top level, formal discussions between government agencies, with diplomatic relations and treaties framing the terms of engagement, to community engagement in smaller parts of shared river basins.

What we’re finding is that negotiations often get ‘stuck’ at the high level over issues of sovereignty and treaties, when in fact, sharing of water resources is already taking place at the local level. Communities often engage with their neighbours across borders to find solutions to common problems.

Considering that the impacts of climate change are most felt at the local level, it is at this level that we see the importance of community and stakeholder participation. This ensures more effective implementation

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Submitted by Claire W on Tue,10/15/2013

As part of the ‘Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure Solutions’, I recently attended a workshop in Bogotà, Colombia – the second in a series of three regional workshops, jointly organised by IUCN and theInternational Water Association.

Before I share some thoughts on this event, I should quickly remind you what the ‘Nexus’ is all about. The ‘Nexus’ refers to the intricate link between producing enough food, meeting growing energy needs, and ensuring sufficient water for people…and nature. My colleague Rebecca explains it well in her blog post (understanding the relationship between water energy and food security). Even though a recentGuardian blog rightly criticises the unappetising ‘Nexus’ word, it is nevertheless a useful denominator to summarise the relationships and start tackling the issue.

So, the Bogotà meeting, another workshop you may think? Not so. What sets these Nexus workshops apart is that firstly, participants come from a wide variety of sectors. Hence, no preaching to the choir, but rather a colourful ensemble of participants with different company interests and agendas…but all with the same aspiration: keeping water flowing and healthy.

For example, a river basin manager found himself working out future water scenarios with a hydropower engineer from an electrical company and a farmers’ representative from a grassroots network. Had these people met before? Not necessarily. Yet they face the same issues and seek answers to similar questions: “What ways of operating dams sustain wetland fisheries?”, “What technologies make irrigation more efficient?”, “How are water trade-offs negotiated”, etc.

Secondly, the nexus workshops are more like visionary brainstorm sessions. No long speeches or extensive Powerpoint presentations. The engineer, farmer, corporate manager, basin expert, all work together solving water challenges, and through that, discover the concerns and solutions existing in other sectors, be it agriculture, energy, biodiversity… for...Read more