Cooperation activities between UNESCO-IHP and the GEF International Waters Focal Area

Strategic Partnership for the Mediterranean Large Marine Ecosystem – Management of Coastal Aquifers and Groundwater (MedPartnership – Groundwater Component)

In the framework of the GEF funded Strategic Partnership in the Mediterranean Large Marine Ecosystem "MedPartnership", implemented by UNEP-MAP, UNESCO-IHP is executing a component dedicated to the "Management of Coastal Aquifer Management and Groundwater". The objectives of this project are to promote harmonized policy, legal and institutional reforms and fill the knowledge gap aimed at reversing marine and coastal degradation trends and living resources depletion in the Mediterranean, in accordance with priorities agreed by the countries as follow up of the Barcelona Convention with the ICZM Protocol (Integrated Coastal Zones Management).

In particular, UNESCO activities aim at providing assistance to Member States to address the issues related to coastal aquifers and groundwater (assessment of the risks to coastal aquifers, vulnerability mapping, groundwater dependent coastal wetlands,…) as well as the development of legislative and policy recommendations in the context of ICZM plans. Activities will be implemented in coordination with UNESCO Field Offices, IHP National Committees and GEF Focal Points of the 13 Mediterranean recipient countries.

Protection and Sustainable Development of the Dinaric Karst Aquifer System (DIKTAS)

Based on its broad experience on groundwater resources in general and management of Karst Aquifer Systems in particular, UNESCO-IHP has been entrusted with the execution of the GEF-UNDP Regional Project on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Dinaric Karst Aquifer System (DIKTAS).

The DIKTAS project intends to develop sustainable integrated management principles for regional transboundary karst aquifers in the test case of Dinaric Karst Aquifer System. At the global level, the project aims to focus attention of the international community on the huge but vulnerable water resources contained in karst aquifers. The Dinaric Karst Aquifer System, shared by several countries and one of the world's largest, has been identified as an ideal opportunity for applying new and integrated management approaches to unique karst water resources and ecosystems. At the regional level the project's objectives are:

  • to facilitate the equitable and sustainable utilization of the transboundary water resources of the Dinaric Karst Aquifer System, and
  • to protect the unique groundwater dependent ecosystems that characterize the Dinaric Karst region of the Balkan peninsula.

These objectives are expected to be achieved through a concerted multi-country effort involving improvement in scientific understanding, the building of political consensus around key reforms and new policies, the enhanced coordination among countries, donors, projects and agencies, and the consolidation of national and international support.

Following the timely and successful completion of a one year project preparation phase (PPG) the Full Size Project was endorsed by the GEF Secretariat in January 2010 for the duration of 4 years.

Development of the Methodology and Arrangements for the GEF Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP)

The GEF-UNEP project "Development of a methodology for the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP) is a GEF medium-size global project that has started in mid 2009 and will run until the end of 2010. The transboundary groundwater systems, transboundary lakes/reservoirs systems, transboundary river systems, Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) and open ocean areas on which the socioeconomic development and well being of a significant part of the world’s population depends, continue to be degraded by anthropogenic and natural pressures, including global climate change. Among the constraints to effective management of transboundary waters is the lack of a systematic and scientifically-robust methodology for assessing the changing conditions of five different types of transboundary water systems resulting from human and natural causes, which would allow the policy makers, Global Environment Facility and international organizations to set science-based priorities for financial resource allocation. Such a methodology also would facilitate identification and assessment of positive changes in the environmental and resources situations in the transboundary water systems resulting from interventions by national authorities and international/regional communities.

UNESCO-IHP has been entrusted with the execution of the transboundary aquifers component of the project. Based on the UNESCO-IHP global network of high level multidisciplinary groundwater experts a working group was set up for the execution of project activities within the IW:Science groundwater component. The composition of the working group includes expertise in the fields of hydrogeology, socio-economics, environment, policy, institutional and legal aspects and reflects well the multi-disciplinarity needed to address the complex issues related to the management of transboundary groundwater resources.

Having convened several meetings of the TWAP groundwater expert groups and a workshop on the New technologies for the acquisition of information on transboundary aquifers UNESCO-IHP is currently working on the draft methodology for the assessment of transboundary aquifer systems.

IW:Science: Enhancing the Use of Science in International Waters projects to Improve Project Results

GEF International Waters (IW) projects aim at sustainable management of global transboundary water systems. Over one billion dollars of GEF funds, matched by over four billion dollars of co-financing, have been invested in ca. 150 IW projects covering an exceptionally broad spectrum of systems – from lake and river basins to groundwater aquifers to near-shore and open ocean ecosystems. This portfolio has created a large amount of new scientific knowledge. The GEF-UNEP global project "Expanding the Scientific Basis for GEF International Waters Projects (IW:Science)" is aimed at recognizing, capturing, analyzing and integrating the scientific findings from projects funded by the GEF in its International Waters (IW) Focal Area and to disseminate them across the IW portfolio and beyond.

The GEF Medium Size Project started in mid 2009 for duration of 2 years. It is expected that such an interdisciplinary, multi-system exercise will strengthen the understanding of transboundary water challenges, and enhance the exchange and uptake of knowledge and best practices for sustainable water resources management. The scientific knowledge created during the Strategic Partnership for the Med LME will be captured by the project and be made available across the IW portfolio.

The groundwater component of the project is executed under the responsibility of UNESCO-IHP. For this purpose, an interdisciplinary expert group has been established and has convened its first meeting. A thematic review as well as a synopsis report on groundwater related lessons learnt that can be extracted from ongoing and completed GEF IW projects is currently being prepared and will be submitted to the Project Management Unit at UNU-INWEH by the end of June 2010.

MENARID - IW:LEARN: Strengthening IW Portfolio Delivery and Impact

The projects under the MENARID program, in the Sustainable Land Management FA are focused on sustainable use of land and water resources for improved socio-economic land productivity for mitigation of rural poverty. The MENARID projects include the coastal countries under the Regional Project, with linkages with the activity on of sustainable land and water resources management under the coastal aquifer Sub-component 1.1 focused on land sustainability to reduce erosion and transportation of sediments with LBS pollutants and nutrients into coastal and marine waters. The demonstrated land areas on sustainable coastal land and water resources management will consider the relevant cases under the MENARID programme. The land-water integrated methodology and references on the assessment and significance of land degradation and costal and marine water pollution will be assessed and valued for global dissemination under the MENARID_IW-LEARN project, in which UNESCO has been charged with the development of mechanisms for integration of groundwater dimensions within the MENARID program projects.

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