AHEAD of the World’s water forum in the first quarter of 2012, stakeholders in the African continents are calling on their political leaders and experts to adopt, an innovation known as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), a proven strategy to combat all water related challenges.
According to all the stakeholders, who spoke last week during a two-day Africa Regional Conference on Water held at Africa Leadership Forum (ALF) secretariat, Ota, Nigeria, said the increasing problems facing the water sector could be best addressed by IWRM mechanism. The conference, which was co-organised by ALF and the France-based Melody for Dialogue Among Civilisations (MDACA) with support from United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), had in attendance experts within and beyond the African continent.
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a participatory planning and implementation process, based on sound science, that brings stakeholders together to determine how to meet society’s long-term needs for water and coastal resources while maintaining essential ecological services and economic benefits. IWRM helps to protect the world’s environment, foster economic growth and sustainable agricultural development, promote democratic participation in governance, and improve human health. Worldwide, water policy and management are beginning to reflect the fundamentally interconnected nature of hydrological resources, and IWRM is emerging as an accepted alternative to the sector-by-sector, top-down management style that has dominated in the past.
Some of the principal components of IWRM including managing water resources at the basin or watershed scale, optimising supply, managing demand, providing equitable access to water resources through participatory and transparent governance and management, establishing improved and integrated policy, regulatory, and institutional frameworks and utilising an intersectoral approach to decision-making, where authority for managing water resources is employed responsibly and stakeholders have a share in the process.
According to the 2011 UNDP Human development Index released recently, the world is at the risk of reversal of the moderate development trends achieved in most developing countries due largely to intensified environmental deterioration and social inequalities.
Also different studies have shown that as at today, it is estimated that about 1 billion people around the world live without potable water and 3900 children die every day from water-borne diseases. Of these global estimates, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than a third. Lack of safe water and adequate sanitation are regarded as the top causes of illnesses and diseases in the world, and this is the reality in most African countries.
“The uncurbed effects of pollution have left most freshwater sources in crisis with many rivers and lakes already polluted, severely degraded or disappearing due to destruction of forests, watersheds and other environmental systems. Some key water sources like the Lake Chad are fast disappearing and unless urgent actions are taken to reverse the trend, the lives and livelihood of millions of people will be at risk.
Africa depends heavily on its trans-boundary water sources. The continent has 59 international trans-boundary river basins, 15 principal lakes, 38 trans-boundary aquifer systems, and 24 main watersheds that cross the man-made political boundaries of two or more countries in Africa. These resources cover about 64 per cent of the continent’s land area and contain 93 per cent of its total surface water resources. These water basins are also home to 77 per cent of the Africa population. If the ongoing situations of most of these sources are not addressed, the continent risks a big water disaster” adding “it is almost clear that many African nations will fail to achieve the Millennium Development Goal’s safe water target to reduce by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015, and many more will miss the sanitation target that stipulates that by that 2015, they reduce by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to basic sanitation.”
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