The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have launched concrete initiatives to achieve more sustainable management of precious water resources in the Asia Pacific region.
IUCN stressed its commitment to establishing a network of people focussed on promoting and apply environmental flows in the Asia Pacific region. Environmental flows refer to water within a river, wetland or coastal zone which maintain ecosystems and their benefits where there are competing users.
IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre stressed that in order to realise environmental flows there needs to be more integrated thinking to recognise the environment as a stakeholder in water-related decisions. She also called “for a balance in technical and institutional innovations for water resources management and work on practical solutions”.
The FAO unveiled a joint initiative with the International Water Management Institute to re-invent irrigation and agricultural water governance in the Asia Pacific region to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Dr Changchui He, Assistant Director General and Regional Representative of FAO stressed that irrigated agriculture is the major water consumer and backbone of food security in the region, thus development and environmental targets will not be met if this sector does not adopt forward-looking strategies. He said: “Five hundred million people in the region are undernourished. Achieving food security with a rapidly growing population is an enormous challenge.”
These commitments were launched at the Asia Pacific Water Summit, held in Beppu, Japan, as part of the high level session on Water for Development and Ecosystems.
Governments, NGOs, international and regional organizations present at the summit confirmed their commitment to moving forward with the necessary institutional reforms and technical innovations to ensure that water is managed in a way that provides both environmental and development benefits.
Participants stressed a sense of urgency in taking concrete action towards integrated thinking in which development enhances sustainability instead of threatening it. The session highlighted the need to invest in ecosystems as development infrastructure which must be maintained, restored, monitored and managed. The session also reiterated the dependence of the region on water for food security under further threat from climate change, on agriculture and irrigation as a key area for reform and investment to increase its productivity and social economic and environmental outcomes.
In her summary comments, Ms Margaret Catley-Carlson, the Chair of the Global Water Partnership, observed that the challenges to implementing recommendations remain formidable. The full range of difficult governance issues need to be addressed if further progress is to be made. The challenge will be implementing the policy recommendations of this summit which participants have committed to.
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