Stop singing, start solving

The objective is to maximise the potential economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

“The key word in IWRM is ‘integrated’,” said Dr Jefter Kuziwa Sakupwanya, Zambezi Action Project (ZACRO)’s water resources expert.

“IWRM integrates elements that have not been considered before, such as downstream users, land use and the human element and its impact on the resources. It also recognises that ground and surface water are inextricably connected.”

With equity, efficiency and environmental protection as its main pillars, the IWRM strategy covers a wide spectrum of issues, ranging from protection against floods and droughts to gender empowerment and HIV/AIDS. The issues touch all levels of society, from individual households to government.

It also encompasses initiatives as diverse as simple family water-saving schemes and multi-million dollar investments in hydropower stations.

The Zambezi River Basin is the fourth largest basin in Africa. Spread over eight countries, it is home to almost 40 million of the Southern African Development Community(SADC)’s estimated population of 200 million people.

The region faces several life-or-death challenges, such as floods and drought management, efficient water use and access to clean water ‘ as well as equitable sharing of water resources and their benefits, such as hydropower generation.

A well-managed Zambezi River Basin can make an essential contribution to the achievement of the first goal of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), referring to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

However, the basin’s many stakeholders have disparate interests.

Malawi’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development principal secretary Grain Malunga told the second stakeholder consultative conference on the Zambezi Basin held in Windhoek this week that the success of IWRM would be noticed if the concept is embraced by all the interested parties.

“For the past decade we have been singing this song of the theory about IWRM approaches. What we must know is that IWRM is not an end in itself, but a means to solving water-related issues and challenges. A measure of success in terms of adoption of IWRM approaches will be seen when the approach is willingly taken up by each riparian country,” said Malunga.

He said IWRM demonstration projects currently being executed in Malawi, Zambia and Swaziland by SADC and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) are some of the benefits of IWRM that should be appreciated.

He said since different countries have various background and policies, there is need for dialogue among the stakeholders for the future of member countries while bearing in mind that there would always be resistance to change.

“A dialogue between all the stakeholders concerned is essential for defining a possible future given the state of the water resources of a country. All this is not easy to implement because it implies fundamental changes for the existing water users and they tend, like everybody, to oppose changes in their habits,” said Malunga.

Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Paul Smit, addressing the delegates from riparian countries including Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe and other interested parties that were meeting, said member countries should utilise the opportunity of having the water resources.

“The Zambezi River is a vast, mainly untapped source in our midst, and we, the riparian countries, are fortunate to be members states of this watercourse system. We should, therefore, embrace the opportunities offered by this resource to develop it in a sustainable manner.”

He also underscored the importance of mutual respect and co-operation among the riparian states and the recognition of the stakeholders’ participation.

December 2006
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