IUCN Head of Global Water Programme, Ger Bergkamp visited IUCN WAME office in Jordan to develop the water programme based on IUCN’s vision of water management in arid areas in response to one of the top conservation needs of the region “If you look at the map, you see that WAME is the most water scarce and water stressed regions in the world,” Bergkamp said during a field visit to the Zarqa river in Jordan
IUCN also wants to develop the water programme in WAMEand other parts of the world because the conservation community is realizing the growing role of water in environmental protection.
“Up until recent years, the conservation community ignored water,” Bergkamp said. “Conservation work rather focused on specific emblematic species and Protected Areas .”
IUCN’s approach to tackling water issues in the region would be an integrated one and by trying to reach short-term results through demonstration sites. One of the opted for demonstrated sites is Zarqa river in Jordan that is suffering from severe pollution resulting from domestic and industrial wastewater. The plan for Zarqa is to work closely with Jordanian government and donors to restore the river. “It’s a ten year process to bring the river back to life,” MrBergkamp said. “Restoring a river or lake can really improve the quality of life.”
Mr Bergkamp added that decision makers, prominent figures and organizations, who would support reversing pollution in the river, can guarantee that their name would be eternally linked to the process as such sites often become famous venues and tourism attractions.
The head of the water program backed up his argument by bringing up the example of Lake Geneva, which was very polluted in the 1970s and people could not use or benefit from in any way, not even economically. But today “it is a re-discovered treasure” because the water quality has greatly improved. “People can now swim. The fish are back, the birds are back, tourism is on the rise and the prices of houses went up,” he said.
The manager of the program concluded the field trip to Zarqa, which he carried out accompanied by WAME team members and representatives from the Ministry of Environment, by saying that restoring the river is not the difficult task as it has been done before all over Europe. “The real challenge is building hope,” he said. Developing an integrated approach to restore the Zarqa River Basin in Jordan, Mr Bergkamp visited Minister of Environment Khaled Irani to discuss mutual cooperation, highlighting the importance of this partnership which aims at applying IUCN global knowledge, approaches and tools developed by the Water and Nature Initiative.
On the other hand, Mr Bergkamp conducted a presentation during his stay in Jordan on the IUCN Global Water & Nature Initiative to an assembly of water experts, local ministries, donor agencies, embassies, private sector, academia and NGOs in Jordan. Mr Bergkamp focused on the importance of bringing stakeholders together to demonstrate the sustainable management of water resources, and he shed light on successful examples in ten water basins. This event was organized by IUCN WAME Regional Office on the occasion of the World Environment Day.