Climate hazards: ‘Need to strengthen monitoring and early warning systems’
New Delhi: Global Water Partnership (GWP), established in the 1990s, is a global action network with over 3,000 partner organisations in 179 countries to advance integrated water resources management.Earlier in March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major new report, showing how increasing weather and climate extreme events have exposed millions of people to reduced water security. Over half of these events since the 1970s involved water, with an estimated 44 per cent being flood-related and a further seven per cent drought-related.IANS spoke to Senior Network Specialist at the GWP, Julienne Roux, on integrated water resources management (IWRM).
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Year 2021 witnessed several worst flood situations in western countries, as the poor countries have suffered almost every year. Many in the developing world would be keen to know what kind of action for mitigation (or even adaptation) is the EU taking to lessen the damage?
A: GWP was established with focus mostly on supporting low- and middle-income countries, so we don’t proactively work in Western Europe. We do however have regional water partnership and country water partnerships in Central and Eastern Europe. Some of the ideas as to how to do better with flood management originated from richer countries, more advanced economies and the institutional systems.
The philosophy in our network is that we are extremely de-centralised and a lot of the work we do in countries is actually carried out by people from the country and by entities established by the partners of GWP. But we try to adapt it and have it very contextualised, to rely as much as possible on national and local expertise. There is a huge capacity in terms of hydraulics management, hydrology in many countries like India.
Q: So, the focus would be on infrastructural solutions?
A: Our focus is water management in water governance, but infrastructure is part of the solutions, especially for flood management. The work on flood management is called integrated flood management.
The pillars of integrated flood management include, first, reducing the hazard with landscape management, restoring wetlands, peatlands, and doing green infrastructure upstream are some of the measures to limit how much water gets in the risk area.
Second pillar is infrastructure for flood protection measures such as flood barriers, some embankments with knowing limitations that once in a 1,000 years’ flood or one in 10,000 years will go beyond the protection measures. At the same time, reducing human exposure, avoiding people settling in flood prone areas with urban planning and land management.
Then, are there monitoring systems and modeling systems for early warnings. There are huge data gaps. The last pillar, of course, is emergency responses.
Q: You mean, there are data gaps even in the Western European countries, a problem common in the developed world?
A: There are fewer gaps, but it still remains a huge area of work and an area in which we need to keep on investing, keep on working; we need early warning systems. So, definitely, richer countries need to continue investing, the only difference is they have a much better starting point than a lot of poor countries.
Q: One of the topics in GWP’s Water Strategy 2021-2025 deals with ‘Climate resilience through water’. Does GWP plan to introduce the steps mentioned for resilience-building water projects in Europe?
A: Starting in the year 2010, a lot of focus in the climate space was on climate mitigation like trying to reduce Greenhouse Gases, how much climate change we’re going to be facing. But the climate is changing already… It’s going to get worse and a lot of the impacts of climate change will be felt through water – not enough water, too much water, whether or not at the right time for human needs etc. The water lens is very important to that.
A lot of our work focuses rather on low- and middle-income countries, so we haven’t been directly active in Western Europe. But we also engaged a lot in the global level discussions. For example, we always participate in the climate COPs.
We do have activities in Central and Eastern Europe, but Western Europe, (we are) not directly working there on climate adaptation.
Q: Are there some examples from other parts of the world that can be replicated for Western European countries as you say you have expertise from other parts of the world?
A: That’s an interesting question. There is no directly one practice, one way of doing it specifically, but we’re definitely trying to bring up the good practices from the countries where we support actors. For example, two years ago, with many international partners and national partners, some strong works in actions that people have taken in the countries and brought a change were brought together.
Q: Maybe now it’s time, GWP starts work in Western Europe
A: There’s been a lot of really good work done on water resources management in Western Europe and some other organisations are doing it. But yes, it’s not a done deal. You have to continue working, you have to continue investing.
Also, when it comes to the government support, if we spin it positively, they also respond to what the population says, what voters argue, what the civil society advocates.
Q: But do the voters have environmental or climate change on their minds? In India, it’s not the scene, environmental issues are nowhere on the voters’ mind.
A: Unfortunately, I think too often water is not a priority until there is a really big crisis. Like, when there is suddenly a massive flood impacting people, or suddenly there is a drought or even sometimes pollution issues, like when people can’t drink their water at home anymore, (only) then it becomes this huge crisis.
But, especially with the younger generation, there is more attention to the topic of climate change to natural resources.
Q: How does the GWP Toolbox for designing and implementing integrated water resources management (IWRM) work for any given country?
A: You need some generic frameworks and ways of looking at things to be able to engage people to say what we need to do and follow these pillars like integrated flood management. But you also need people absolutely on ground actually engaging with these frameworks and bringing them to life that makes sense for the country or for the watershed. And also, for example, through the work on the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 6.51 is about integrated water resources management.Countries need to work on enabling the environment, on institutions and participation, on management instruments, on financing.