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Cairo to Host UN-ESCWA Meeting on Regional Water Management


Beirut, 27 July 2007 (UN Information Services)-- On 30-31 July 2007, Cairo will host a workshop organized by UN-ESCWA on “Evaluation and Adaptation of Existing Water Visions and Forecasts for Shared Aquifer Management in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Region (MEDA)”, which includes Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Palestine (Gaza and the West bank) at the Mena House Oberoi Hotel. Participants in the meeting, which will open at 10:00 am on Monday 30 July 2007, will be representatives of water management institutions in selected MEDA countries. Participants from UN-ESCWA, UN-ECA (the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) and UN-ECE (the United Nations Commission for Europe) regions will attend the meeting. A Visionary Regional Project The meeting is the third workshop held within the scope of an inter-regional project implemented by UN-ESCWA in collaboration with UN-ECA, UN-ECE, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) and UN-DESA (the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs). The project aims to strengthen the capacity of water management institutions in the Mediterranean region in view of implementing sustainable forms of utilization, management and protection of shared groundwater resources. The project would thus contribute to the reduction and prevention of conflicts between countries sharing the same aquifer system and would also contribute to water sustainability and the availability of water for drinking and food production. The main objectives of the project are (a) to increase awareness and application by MEDA countries of the international norms in the sustainable management of shared aquifers – by providing analysis and discussion of existing instruments for shared groundwater management with a view towards developing a policy framework for facilitating inter-State cooperation in the management of shared aquifers; (b) to transfer and exchange know-how on various shared aquifer management issues and the management of data on shared aquifers – by evaluating and adapting existing water visions and forecasts on shared aquifers to regional circumstances, developing a database on shared aquifers in the Mediterranean region, and providing training; and (c) to Strengthen capability of MEDA countries to engage in inter-State cooperation regarding shared aquifers and to plan and manage their groundwater resources by using the tools and mechanisms developed in this project – by preparing case studies and pilot projects that support the establishment of joint measures for the management of shared aquifers in the Mediterranean region through consultative arrangements. Efficient Objectives and Outcomes The Cairo meeting is intended to address the second objective of the project. In this respect, a comprehensive study on the issue of water visions and forecasts for shared aquifers management in the MEDA region was prepared. The final report of the study is made available to participants for review and discussion. It is intended to assist various groups and stakeholders in managing shared groundwater resources in the MEDA region. It is particularly addressing stakeholders who are not water sector professionals (especially politicians) who often find it difficult to understand what the issues are and the seriousness of the risks associated with the increasing overdraft of the resources. For politicians, the report is expected to assist them realize the urgent need to prepare comprehensive policies and strategies in order to ensure establishing sustainable development, based on the prevailing conditions. Lessons learnt from previous agreements and cooperation procedures can be withdrawn and adapted to the situation. Not only decision makers but also researchers can benefit from the analysis of the current situations, including visions, policies and strategies in the preparation of information and capacity building needs, and in supporting strategy development. In the Cairo meeting, the main findings, as summarized in the final report, will be discussed and evaluated. Presentations and discussions will focus on the evaluation and adaptation of existing water visions and forecasts for shared aquifer management in the MEDA region. Participants are expected to discuss step-by-step measures for translating the proposed visions into actual strategies for the sustainable development of shared aquifers in the region incorporating the technical, socio-economic, legal, institutional, and environmental aspects. The result of all discussions will be incorporated into the study. The Cairo meeting is expected to reach efficient outcomes, namely (a) enhancing knowledge on the prevailing issues and driving forces related to the management of shared groundwater and the information required to facilitate the development of a regional vision for shared groundwater management; (b) transferring and exchanging know-how on various shared aquifer management issues; (c) increasing awareness of existing policies and the framework for action; and (d) setting guidelines for translating the proposed vision into practical implementation measures. A Regional Vital Need It is worth noting that groundwater resources of the Mediterranean region are either the main sources of fresh water or are vitally needed to supplement surface water sources. However, they are under severe stress, in many parts of the region because of the excessive abstraction, which in many cases is coupled with deterioration in the water quality. This is particularly true for the Euro Mediterranean Partnership (MEDA) countries where seawater intrusion is an additional risk to the coastal aquifers. With increasing water scarcity and water quality deterioration in the MEDA region and current trends towards drought and climate change, the contribution and role of shared aquifers in meeting the growing demand for freshwater is likely to rise, thereby increasing competition over these fragile resources. Because of increasing competition, cooperative arrangements to jointly develop, manage and protect shared aquifers has become a necessity, not only to avoid conflict but also to optimize the utilization of these resources and ensure water security.