Tuesday, May 15, 2012

African countries now going for integrated water resources management

By Ochieng’ Ogodo
[Cairo, Egypt] More than seventy-five percent of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) member countries are implementing national water laws with nearly half are executing national plans for integrated water resources management in line with the Africa Water Vision for 2025
The finding is contained in a new survey by the United Nations launched during the 8th General Assembly of AMCOW May 14-18.
Based on data collected from 40 member countries by UN-Water to determine progress towards sustainable management of water resources using integrated approaches the survey “2012 Status Report on the Application of Integrated Approaches to Water Resources Management in Africa”  found that 18 of those countries have integrated water resource management (IWRM) plans under implementation.
This is a marked increase from a similar study conducted in 2008 that found 5 countries, out of the 16 that responded had IWRM plans or were in the process of developing them.
According to the new survey, several respondents had improved performance in water resources management providing direct benefits towards their national social and economic objectives.
“I am encouraged by the progress that has so far been made with integrated approaches to water resources management, which establishes a solid foundation for development and peace,” said immediate former AMCOW President, Hon. Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa
She said in a press release, “It is crucial that we increase our efforts to implement past declarations on water and sanitation to advance the well-being of Africa’s people, environment and economy. This is in the spirit of the Africa Water Vision 2025.”
But despite the progresses made so far, the report said, there were still many challenges and a great deal more, in terms of commitment and resources, was required to assure food and energy security, as well as access to safe drinking water and sanitation to a growing population.
Top among these challenges are flooding, droughts and pollution that threatens Africa’s water resources and it is feared these could become more severe due to climate change and variability.
The survey recommends targeted action to intensify efforts and opportunities for country-to-country knowledge sharing, especially on disaster preparedness and water risk management as a means to increase resilience to climate change. 
Financial constraints, institutional capacity gaps and weaknesses in coordination mechanisms between sectors and government departments have also been highlighted in the report as key challenges to integrated water resources management in Africa.
Delegates at the 4th Africa Water Week in Cairo
It emphasises the need to carry out far reaching reforms aimed at strengthening the capacity of relevant institutions for managing trans-boundary water systems, as well as the capacity of local river basin organisations and national apex bodies.
“Water resources are an essential ingredient in the advent of a green economy in Africa,” says AMCOW Executive Secretary, Bai-Mass Taal. “All nations must create transparent and integrated approaches to prioritise wise and efficient allocation of water. The outcomes of the survey should be utilised as a first step towards the development of a permanent reporting mechanism on each country’s progress towards that goal.”
The report produced jointly by the African Union Commission (AUC) and AMCOW, the AUC’s Specialised Technical Committee on Water and Sanitation, pointed out that detailed documentation of these benefits, including better and more consistent indicators, could increase government commitment and financing for water management and infrastructure.
It recommends that a more rigorous reporting system on progress in water management in Africa is initiated by AMCOW to provide a better basis for informed decision making at the national level.
And in efforts aimed addressing the twin challenges of water security and climate change AMCOW also launched The Strategic Framework for Water Security and Climate Resilient Development during the Global Water Partnership and partner Climate Development  Knowledge Network, the framework is designed to  help senior professionals and decision-makers to identify and develop “no or low regret” investment strategies, to integrate these into planning processes, and to influence future development activities so they become more resilient to climate change and variability.
It will also contribute to the implementation of climate change related commitments that were made by African Head of States in 2008 in the Sharma el Sheikh declaration on water and sanitation. 
Molewa said that the increased frequency of droughts and floods in Africa are sober warning of future climatic changes introducing new risks and treats viability of African development.

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