Ecuador seeks a sustainable water management.

Moreno V. Ecuador seeks a sustainable water management.

May 2005, Ecuador.

Ecuador is one of the countries with the largest water reserves in the region. However, its poor management and inequitable distribution generate serious environmental, social and economic conflicts. Several issues are being discussed around the water. First, the drastic reduction of the flows. Reportedly Training System for the Management of Renewable Natural Resources, CAMAREN, in the ’60s, a stream in August provided an average of 100 liters water per second, now only has 40 l / sec.

Robert Hofstede, Andean Páramo Project Coordinator, said that this is due to lack of knowledge of the hydrological cycle and the role of ecosystems. In Ecuador, there are no measures to prevent degradation of protected forest and wilderness, natural systems of water storage. “Nor is there an understanding that the water comes from a place and goes to another, which is the linchpin that helps maintain the ecological relationship and economic and cultural development.”

In rural areas, conflict over water is enormous due to its low availability,the 85% of water used in Ecuador is used for irrigation. For about 30 years, this activity was carried out by the Ecuadorian Institute of Water Resources, INERHI. Unfortunately, according to a report by the Global Water Partnership, in this period, the facility neglected the water management and definition of policies, plans and strategies, it focused its efforts on the design and construction of irrigation systems. Today is the National Water Resources Council, is the agency responsible for regulating the activity, however, as determined by Antonio Gaibor, Coordinator of the National Forum on Water Resources of Ecuador, the CNRH still has a narrow vision and limited budget .

The country has 25, 2 million hectares of arable land, of which only eight million are under production processes of which 843 000 have irrigation, accounting for 12%. In 150 thousand hectares., the irrigation systems were built by the state. The remaining number is private irrigation of two types: rancher and farmer. “The farmer irrigation was done without help from the state, with intelligence and peasant force, but has shortcomings,” says Gaibor. “As channels built on land, there is a high  water that is filtered.”

Water pollution is another factor that influences the availability of water for human consumption as well as in the survival of  plants species and animals that depend on it. One reason is industrial development “unfriendly” to the environment. This clearly shows the oil industry, whose development, for over three decades, highlights the lack of environmental awareness. Another example is pollution from solid waste disposal. “The municipalities do not have waste treatment systems, simply throw its to the rivers (with exceptions in Loja, Zamora and El Oro), nor systems are wastewater treatment,” says Gaibor. Water management is a complex issue that involves different actors. For the peasant the water give life to their crops, for the city people the water is a basic service, indigenous cultures water is generating life, for nature is the element that gives life to an ecosystem.

We can not ignore the problem of inequity in resource distribution, which requires urgent action. The coverage of safe water and sanitation in homes does not exceed 40%. The differences in coverage between urban and rural areas is disproportionate. For Hofstede, is unfair that poor people have no access to the resource and at the same time, whoever pays a higher price for a low-quality resource. Hofstede as Gaibor are agree that a sustainable and equitable management of the resource demand a long-term perspective that allow: Develop an enormous awareness in the society about the importance of water and the threats faced by the poor management, observe the water interrelationships with biodiversity, its sources, ecosystems and the people who live in them, see the need to address the problem of inequity in access. This change in the look on the productive use of natural resources demand, also, a different institutional, democratic, that encourages participatory process, strengthening the management capacity of institutions, increase efficiency and technical, economic, social, and development of local capacity for water management so that users can take responsibility for the care, management, operation and maintenance of the systems directly.

by  Verónica Moreno

UICN – Sur

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