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It is not only about “water”management

Aid workers, researchers and politicians are going to attend the World Water Week in Stockholm from 26 to 31 August in order to talk about the probably most important resource: water. The last months have already shown what impact too much (floods) or too little water (droughts, fires) has on us. Therefore, the World Water Week could be a platform where issues, such as water management, can be discussed and may also lead to decisions (details on themes and background information in „Feeding a Thirsty World“).

On the occasion of the World Water Week, UN experts demanded a system to monitor management of water resources worldwide. The system could provide indicators with which data from developing countries can be analysed. Given the rapid population growth and urbanisation, water resource management needs to be implemented and improved (see Alertnet).

Actually, the UN experts demand a sustainable water management: They want to secure water supply today and in the future (see definition on dainet.org). The idea of water management is actually nothing new:

  • The German Development Institute carried out a study which analysed the impact of climate change on cross-border water management. However, cross-border water management – besides bringing benefits – is overshadowed by national self-interests. These interests may actually cause long-term disadvantages for the country’s future generations. The availability and volume of water will be changing temporally and geographically because of climate change. Water management systems will easily lose track of the negative impacts of existing water management if they only focus on the state’s national interests and forget to look at the development of neighbouring countries. Environmental migration triggered by flooding respectively the loss of livelihood due to sea level rise are not only visions but are already happening (e.g., in Bangladesh and Kiribati). Regions which share a river or glaciar with other countries and experience decreasing water availability will be facing possible conflicts over water (e.g. in the Tien Shan, see comment from 2 August). Here, water is mainly seen as energy source, for irrigation and nutrition.
  • According to the GTZ study “Climate Change and Security”, “declining levels of hydropower generation can further heighten competition over fossil energy sources“ (GTZ, 2008, p.7). According to the study, especially urban areas are lacking (adapation) strategies in the event of disasters. Besides the bad health effects and the increasing spread of slums, the city’s public order is at risk to break down. This theory is supported by new regional studies, for instance by Farhan Anwar (see comment from 14 August). Both studies recommend the development of strategies in order to solve problems or to fill gaps.
  • Claudia Pahl-Wostl (NeWater, GTZ Workshop) specifies the claim for sustainable water management: She demands a transition from the current water mangement to adaptive water management. Some of her claims are:
  1. New perspectives on problems and results already obtained by current water management
  2. Active participation of affected people in the development, implementation and monitoring of management plans
  3. Identification of barriers
  4. Development of different strategies (using different scenarios)
  5. Evaluation of strategies with regards to the possible costs of reversing them

However, studies up to date have all recommended that further research and data collections on water management and consumption need  to be done. Only then local strategies can be developed and implemented effectively. Cultural, geographical, political and religious criteria of a region should not only be considered locally, but also in their interrelation with neigboroughing (international) regions.

If the UN experts want to implement a monitoring system of water management they should take account of a diverse set of criteria, such us national and international interests/politics, migration, policy on minorities, water access for different groups of the population, tradition, culture, religion, education, climate change and current and prospective economy.

For some time now, far more has been at stake than refreshing water when talking about water mangement. Now it is mostly (only) about politics and power.




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