Climate change and water crisis: Where should we head to?

60th Annual DPI / NGO Conference
Eduardo Mestre, B. Sc., M. Sc. Water Tribune Director Expo Zaragoza 2008 UN New York September, 2007


Prevailing conditions are bad, good news Future conditions could be worse, bad news
• • • • • • • • Partial visions blur reality and obstruct finding solutions to cope with climate change effects Excessive emphasis on government oriented solutions reduce success. Centralized water governance obstructs basin management and weakens local action Lack of real public policy; lack of planning; incapable institutions; Improvisation to address or solve climate change effects, are common in many countries: Nicaragua, Bangladesh Legal frameworks, too old, nonexistent or inadequate to address climate change; weak law enforcement and weak penalties: both in developed and underdeveloped countries Science is advancing but translating scientific knowledge to real time solutions takes too long. Scientists, policy makers, managers, water users and society run at different paces & objectives Knowledge on water matters is poor or insufficient. Biased education and poor culture to cope with climate change effects Little is done in underdeveloped countries. Media experts on water matters are scarce. Unknowledgeable reporters contribute to blur reality. Social awareness: weak, badly informed, lack of interest: little knowledge, little concern


Prevailing conditions are bad, good news Future conditions could be worse, bad news
• Water quantity and quality; scarcity and water pollution, water conflicts – – – – – – • • • • Lake Chad – Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad River Tieté, Southern Brazil; Hermosillo Coast, Mexico; Río Paute, Ecuador; Okavango River - Angola, Namibia, Botswana, South African RepLempa River, shared by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Expected water shortages in El Salvador. Political pressure among neighbor countries.

Safe drinking water goals are yet far away. Water public services, including sewage treatment, lag. Flood damage and increasing negative side effects, such as food shortage, will increase Poor people will become poorer Governance, sustainable development and well being are endangered.

How can we stop these unfavorable situations? Are we really able to turn the tide?


River Lempa Basin: Guatemala, Honduras and
El Salvador
Shared by three countries through a primitive and unsustainable water allocation scheme

18,311 km²
4.7 million inhabitants 83% live in El Salvador


Okavango River Basin


Río Paute, a bitter
road towards sustainable development

680 700 720 740 760








# #

# # # #

















20 0 20

40 Kilom

ESCALA 1:600.000






The seek for truth and knowledge, the quest for real-life solutions and less hype
• Enough diagnosis, let’s move to action – Is it solely a matter of government capabilities?, Social participation? or Both? • • • Water management is based on conflict management: capacity to mediate, mitigate or solve conflicts among water users, government & other stakeholders The challenge is clear: find solutions at a quicker pace, well founded, reasonably approved by stakeholders and less time to pass from ideas to practical solutions. Time, willpower and money should be dedicated to mitigation planning, solving crisis and ensuring public policy, strategies, and management tools are timely in place


Some basic elements to start with
For starters, there is a clear cut need to go back to some basic elements:
• • • • • • • A new relationship of human beings with water An improved scheme for fruitful interaction of social organizations and government bodies; a better allocation of activities among them A new approach on how to use and protect water A new paradigm on water and sustainability, based on concrete solutions, strong sustainable concepts, vastly diffused information globally, and indeed, on good will. A new water culture, including mankind’s experiences – good or bad --, good practices, replicable situations, innovative projects and recommendations. Water management should focus on managing conflicts, making it its primary role Most water conflicts are of geopolitical nature, with economic, social, cultural, environmental and legal features.


Water governance: hints to change course
• • Socially oriented integrated water management. Think globally, act locally: local governments are the basis to improve water management

Improve water allocation; manage conflicts

Better schemes for social – public participation

A new equilibrium: Social well being, economic growth and environmental Improve geopolitical relationships: among users, within and between
basins, between government levels and among riparian countries


Extra care when exporting solutions
• • • • • • • What has worked in developed countries not necessarily will work in underdeveloped countries Solutions are, in many cases, context oriented – time, place, background, et alUnderstanding locals and respecting their roles is of paramount importance Thus, cooperation from rich to poor countries has to be thoroughly revised A crucial matter: export knowledge, concrete projects or money? Is developed world support really making a difference?: it all depends; in
general, NGOs support is being more fruitful than foreign government support

How should we move ahead?


A few final remarks and steps ahead: What is needed
• • • A new order with an improved role of society on water matters around the world A new order to help things improve at a faster, sustainable pace A new order where communities may be able to cope with climate change through appropriate tools, resources and political support A new order where efficiency substitutes improvisation and lack of transparency Education is indispensable; the role of mass media is crucial A new order with streamlined institutions, improved policy making and planning (ban improvisation), improved human resources development and periodically presenting results to be socially assessed Accountability has to become a way of life

• • •


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