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May 14, 2009 / zanzi

Day Nine-Ten

Day Eight was dedicated to group work in order to consolidated the learning that emerged from the climate change dialogue into our progress on specific themes. This is documented in the outcome of the urban sustainability group, which is a work in progress. Hence this post covers Day Nine, the 13th of May, which saw a dialogue on water resource management (WRM). This was superior in quality to the one on climate change, partly because of resource persons with a diverse set of experiences and more capability at engaging with the dynamics of our group and the fishbowl, and in part due to our group becoming more seasoned in the process.

The panellists consisted of Dr Sreelakshmi from TERI, Dr DC Sharma from RAMKY, Mr Prasada Rao from EPTRI, Dr Alice Kagoda from Makerere University, Uganda, Dr Krishna Reddy and Dr Priyanie Amerasinghe from the International Water Management Institute. The session began with the question of how WRM is influenced by climate change impacts. A couple of responses are of interest. One is that the baseline scenario projects a business as usual (BAU) analysis across 30 years, as practiced by UNDP. It has taken up four sectors under adaptation and mitigation strategies – education, health, forestation and water. Investment in these will be done across 20 developing countries impacted by climate change. As for the Indian government, there is the watershed management programme and also water-related activities under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) includes water as one of its eight missions, adopting both supply-side and demand-side measures for adaptation. Chennai is the only example of a city where both recycling and auditing mechanisms are in place, and this needs to be widely promoted.

The Ugandan example of flooding due to actions by Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya brings into focus cross-border problems. Uganda and Brazil provide instances of successful Public-Public Partnerships (PuPs), which are antithetical to PPPs, and also enable public utility partnership with communities, technical, managerial and financial support across utilities, and community management and ownership of water delivery systems. The question of the role technology and investment have to play is an important one.

The outcomes from this dialogue included the issues of collective responsibility, institutional frameworks, multi-stakeholder forums and the role of international dialogue. The need for coordination between scientists and policymakers, issues concerned with implementation, the role of decentralization, taxation relief measures, user charge related issues and incentivizing in various ways was emphasized. The importance of monitoring and assessment mechanisms as well as research and data collection was mentioned, and social engineering at the ground level stressed upon. Broadly, this points at the need for knowledge at the policy and implementation level.

The questions next looked at were what comes in the way of the transfer of best practices, and why projects initially run on external funding often turn out to not be sustainable. Towards answering these, the critical role of soft factors (such as charismatic leaders, who are communicative geniuses and almost invariably hail from within the community) and trust was underscored. It was acknowledged that investment might be most effective in areas where soft factors already exist. Some international programs make the mistake of trying to find shortcuts to what is essentially a long process, consequently not embedding it within its social setting, which leads to its disintegration once the role of a foreign agency stops.

The final solutions to emerge were in terms of pathways, best practices and suggestions. The discussion still fell short of outlining a comprehensive model for how to address the issues that came up, but a rough and ready roadmap would include the constitutive elements that follow. There is a need for inter-institutional dialogue, capacity building of community-base projects, awareness in rural areas, women empowerment and a gender perspective, agrarian investment, for corruption to be addressed, evaluation and implementation of case studies, and area-specific traditional knowledge to be utilized. Patience and an approach that is willing to take its time often bears fruit in a more worthwhile manner, and issues of ownership and stakeholder responsibility must be taken into consideration. Overlapping must be avoided while bridging gaps, and a hybrid of traditional and modern concepts used. Local planning is key, but at the same time it is the government that has the responsibility of guaranteeing a platform.


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