Regional consultation on groundwater resources governance in the Arab region addressed worsening water crisis
In cooperation with the Jordan Ministry of Water and Irrigation the regional consultation groundwater consultation of the “Groundwater Governance: A Global Framework for Country Action” project was successfully hosted from 8-10 October 2012 in Amman. The consultation meeting saw the participation of high level regional governmental and institutional representation, groundwater experts from fifteen countries from the region who discussed groundwater governance in the region. During intense consultations the importance of a sound management of groundwater resources necessary to prevent and reverse the global water crisis were successfully addressed.
Jordan is moving towards increased reliance on groundwater as an alternative to surface water and according to the 4th United Nations World Water Development Report 2012 co-authored by UNESCO, it is the fourth most water scarce country in the world. Reliance on groundwater however is highly problematic as the exploitation of non-renewable groundwater resources and aquifers are irreversible and difficult to monitor. During the consultations governance challenges in arid and semi-arid areas were discussed and how institutions can be better equipped to deal with risks and uncertainties, emerging out of climate change, population growth, urban-rural tensions and groundwater pollution. Next to Jordan, participating countries to this consultation included Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The consultation was successful in reflecting the perspective of the regional stakeholders of the Groundwater sector, on the current status of groundwater governance and on-going efforts and in clarifying some of the most pressing challenges and presenting some immediate needs. Some of the main concerns that emerged were that existing data and monitoring systems in the region are perceived to be inadequate and weak and that stakeholders, the public, and even decision makers need to be better involved.
In her closing remarks UNESCO’s Representative in Jordan, Ms. Anna Paolini reminded participants that it is imperative that already existing groundwater policies and legal frameworks are being implemented in order meet the regional water challenge. The results of the regional consultation for Arab States will be compiled in a global "Framework of Action" (FA) document, which will consist of a set of effective governance tools to guide policies, legislation, regulations and customary practices, which will be distributed among Groundwater practitioners and policy makers worldwide.
The Regional Consultation for Arab States forms a part of a project that was initiated by UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP), Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) and the International Association Hydrogeologists (IAH) in January 2011, entitled “Groundwater Governance: a Global Framework for Country Action”. A fundamental component of the joint project is the establishment of a series of regional consultations encompassing the Americas, Africa, the Middle-East, Asia and Europe. To date two regional consultations have taken place one in Uruguay and the second in Kenya, the Jordanian consultation marked the third in the series. A fourth consultation meeting for Asia will be held in China in December 2012 and the fifth consultation for Europe event will be hosted by the Netherlands during the first quarter of 2013.
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