The groundwater resources of the world are suffering the effects of poor governance, experts say
By: UNESCO May 31 2012
In the world 2.5 million people rely exclusively on groundwater resources to meet their daily water needs and hundreds of millions of farmers depend on groundwater to maintain their means of livelihoods and contribute to food security of many others. However, according to experts, the management of most or perhaps all, of the aquifer does not take into account the sustainability or equity necessary to conserve and protect these vital resources of drinking water.
It refers to the lack of effective governance as one of the main causes of groundwater depletion, pollution of aquifers and even inequitable allocation. To reverse this disturbing trend and fill gaps, international experts and stakeholders meet in Nairobi for the 2nd Regional Consultation Draft Governance of groundwater, in order to discuss priorities and regional needs and contribute to a “Diagnosis global governance of groundwater.” This assessment will serve as the basis for a “Global Framework Action” aimed at promoting good governance of groundwater.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the meeting, Alice Aureli, Main Programme Specialist at UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme, said the development of strategies for good water management is needed to ensure the survival of the planet. “Today we are facing global environmental challenges unprecedented as the global population growth. This could reach 9 billion people in four decades, requiring a doubling of food production in three decades, and the energy for basic needs. These global factors have to superimpose the additional risks generated by climate change, biodiversity loss and the limits of natural resources. These risks include hydrological extremes that can cause severe flooding and droughts. In both cases, the formulation of good water management strategies is essential to ensure the survival of the planet, “said Dr. Aureli.
Groundwater provides nearly half of all drinking water in the world and about 43 percent of all water actually consumed in irrigation. In addition, groundwater reserves offer essential for people in arid regions, providing a reliable source of water, even for long periods without rain. Also, groundwater helps maintain many different types of ecosystems on which communities rely. However, the governance of the world’s groundwater resources is still in its infancy. Decision-making processes relating to its management and its use are not supported by sufficient information, resulting in patterns of use that are not viable in long term. Groundwater governance is even more complex when resources are transboundary. In Africa actually have been located more than 40 transboundary aquifers.
The Government of Kenya, the host country of the meeting, said that while the country is still considered a water scarce country, because each person has approximately 647m3 each year, studies show that Kenya has up to 60 billion meters cubic groundwater potential, which needs to be located. “The advantages of groundwater are numerous: its presence in many places, the speed with which they can effectuate his removal, with a relatively low cost, their resilience to drought and ability to adapt to demand, make them a basic component to the water supply in rural areas and small towns as well as for domestic use in irrigation, industrial and commercial, “said Deputy Minister of Kenya, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Hon. Ferdinand Waititu.
“We must stop to consider groundwater only when there are emergencies and as a last resort. This is a narrow view to be addressed and reversed in order to fully implement the principles of IWRM. The Sub Saharan region faces several challenges, which has an insufficient understanding of groundwater systems and the shortage and inadequacy of data and information. I hope that this important regional meeting will allow us to outline practical solutions to meet the challenges specific issues related to groundwater in our region, “said Mr. David Stower, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Water and Irrigation in Kenya.
The regional consultation for sub-Saharan Africa, the second of five planned by the Project Groundwater Governance is being held in Nairobi, Kenya from 29 to 31 May 2012. In this opportunity, more than a hundred prominent African experts and key local stakeholders together to identify characteristics, priorities, visions and challenges of the region, with the aim of contributing to “Global governance diagnosis groundwater. Diagnosis is the first step in developing a “Global Framework Action.” It will provide the technical basis necessary for the design process of a common vision, by compiling the best available recent scientific knowledge and groundwater resources and it governance. Regional consultations provide an opportunity for an unprecedented interdisciplinary dialogue among local politician and stakeholders to exchange ideas and views on regional priorities in the governance of groundwater.
The project “Groundwater Governance: a comprehensive framework for local action” was initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Bank and the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) to respond to new global challenges in the management of groundwater resources. This is a three-year initiative, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF / GEF). The overall project objective is to raise sensitivity and to take awareness of the importance of appropriate behavior in the management and use of groundwater resources to prevent and reverse the global water crisis. As a final result, the project should allow the definition of a “Global Framework”, consisting in a set of effective management tools: policy guidelines, laws, rules and practices for local politician and stakeholders.