Call for water to be prioritised
06 December 2011, 11:20
Durban - Efforts to establish water as an agenda
item in its own right in climate change negotiations are gaining
momentum in Durban.
Water experts say doing this will lead to a
greater focus on developing policy, and attract more resources into the
water sector through adaptation programmes.
"For every one of us,
the first thing you use when you wake up in the morning is water, and
when we are going to bed, it is water. Yet, it's taken for granted,"
said Chris Moseki, research manager at the Water Research Commission
(WRC) in South Africa.
WRC is a member of the Global Water Partnership - a global alliance of organisations working on water issues.
Access to water is an urgent issue in the Southern Africa region, where nearly 100 million people lack adequate access to water.
Modelling by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
(CSIR) shows the region will become hotter and drier over the next 50
to 100 years, putting farms, industry, domestic water supply and natural
ecosystems at risk.
International water experts and policy
makers are concerned that planning for changes to water availability is
not getting the prominence it deserves.
Bai-Mass Taal, the
Executive Secretary of the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW),
said they are working to raise the profile of water within the framework
of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
are saying to the parties, look: We appreciate what you are doing in
other sectors, but without addressing water directly, all of that will
be in vain," said Taal.
At this point, water issues are being
discussed by treaty negotiators as part of wider planning, prioritising
and implementing of adaptation to a changing climate.
Grobicki, GWP Executive Secretary, said that with growing numbers of
countries expected to experience water scarcity, the current position of
water in climate talks is inadequate.
"The GDP of many countries
in the least developed countries is dependent on water. More than 50%
of food for the world will come from Africa in the future, and this is
dependent on availability of water," she said.
"That is why this discussion should go beyond where it's now."
than 70% of the Southern African Development Community's population
depends directly on farming, overwhelmingly on rain-fed agriculture.
CSIR's projections are among many drawing attention to how predicted
changes to rainfall, limited resources for adaptation and a lack of
institutions and capacity to regulate river and stream flow will leave
people in Southern Africa and across the continent extremely vulnerable.
challenges are predicted not only for Africa, but across the world as
weather patterns change, but Africa's lack of irrigation and other
infrastructure is a factor that magnifies the need for urgent
As rainfall patterns change, Africa is facing major
crises. Millions faced famine in Niger and Mali in 2010 after drought
hit farmers and herders.
This year, the Horn of Africa has been
facing its worst drought in 50 years and millions are suffering from
hunger. According to the UN World Food Programme, some 12.3 million
people in the Horn are in need of emergency assistance.
Peace, the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture,
points out that when African leaders talk about climate change; they
invariably talk about droughts and floods', showing that water is
already a high priority.
In 2008, African heads of state agreed to make water and sanitation a priority.
"Leaders agreed to allocate at least 0.5% of their national budget to water," said Peace.
"Now whether that is actually the case is another story, but some countries are doing very well and may reach their targets."
adequate access to water across Africa will cost billions of dollars.
And for the many African governments which are failing to honour earlier
commitments will not be able to raise the required amounts without
Simon Thuo, the Eastern Africa co-ordinator for GWP,
said he is surprised that despite the clear need, even the African
negotiating group's proposals mention water only in passing.
with other experts, he believes that if climate negotiations address
management of this essential commodity specifically, it will not receive
the necessary attention and funding.