The Catamayo-Chira basin straddles the Ecuadorian and Peruvian border in the south of Ecuador. It is one of the 275 transboundary basins in the world. With a population of approximately 280.000 on the Ecuadorian side and 580.000 on the Peruvian side, the basin is of huge importance to the region.
The Catamayo-Chira is one of 14 basins in which the IUCN BRIDGE initiative is active. It was the location of a recent BRIDGE meeting field trip as it functions as a good example of the work that BRIDGE does fostering hydrodiplomacy and integrated water resource management across continents.
In this particular basin, BRIDGE has enabled cooperation through continuous support of national water institutions and building a network of Champions, which are committed to promote shared water governance. This work has led to the development of a unique agreement that will establish a Binational Commission for all the shared basins between Ecuador and Peru. Additionally, the collaboration between BRIDGE and other projects in the area such as the European Union’s “Proyecto Agua sin Fronteras” enabled the establishment of a Binational Platform in August 2017. The difference with the binational Commission is that the Platform is a cooperative association of local governments which share a common goal towards the sustainable use and conservation of water. The Platform encompasses ten municipalities (four from Peru and six from Ecuador) as well as two provincial governments (one on each side of the border).
In Quilanga, a municipality located in the south-eastern part of Loja Province inside the Catamayo River Basin the BRIDGE team were welcomed by the Mayor, Francisco Jaramillo. Mr Jaramillo is a BRIDGE Champion and the current President of the Binational Platform and with him, Quilanga has been at the forefront of introducing local level measures to protect water sources in the area.
“We have brought concepts learned through IUCN/BRIDGE workshops to the Binational Platform such as biodiversity, ecosystem services, hydrodiplomacy, benefit sharing etc. This has helped consolidating shared water governance and slowly we hope to build solid institutions and financial mechanisms such as payment for ecosystem services etc.” - Helmer Castillo, BRIDGE Champion
Arriving in Loja, the main city in Loja Province, the BRIDGE team were met by the Basin Coordinator of the Water Services of Loja Municipality, Eduardo Rengel, who presented the inspiring work that they have been doing for over ten years for implementing a water fund to conduct basin conservation activities. By first letting the population answer how much they would be willing to pay for clean water through a survey, a water tariff scheme and a water conservation fund was introduced. The system has been widely praised throughout the region with state representatives coming from outside the South American region to study it.
“The most important aspect for a water conservation fund is to create a trust to manage the collected resources and ensure that they are effectively invested in the basin through a wide range of activities including conservation, restoration and sustainable livelihood alternatives”.
- Eduardo Rengel
Moreover, the reduction in potable treatment costs obtained thanks to the improved water quality is a good example of the considerable positive economic co-benefits nature-based solutions can provide.
The global BRIDGE team was able to witness the results of multi-level governance and water conservation practices in Ecuador whilst also bringing with them experiences, approaches and tools from other basins to the Andean team.
“Every basin has a particular context but the interchange of perspectives is crucial to help shed new light on diverse challenges and opportunities. These exchanges will strengthen our work and collaboration towards improving hydrodiplomacy at a global level. During these fruitful days the BRIDGE Global team discussed common challenges and innovative solutions to increase BRIDGE’s incidence on multi-level governance processes. The field visit was a perfect opportunity to understand better the critical factors affecting water governance, ecosystem services, and leadership processes. During the visit our team learned on practical examples of basin-level actions undertaken with the Champions.” - Emilio Cobo, IUCN South America Office