Better use of water leading to positive impacts on development
Sustainable water reforms are having a positive impact on countries’ development, according to the results of a United Nations survey released today.
The survey reveals that countries that have implemented water reforms backed by Member States at the UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20 years ago have had significant improvements to drinking water access, human health and water efficiency in agriculture.
“[The survey] shows important successes regarding integrated water resources management, where a more sustainable approach to water has resulted in tangible benefits for communities and the environment,” said the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.
More than 130 governments participated in the survey, which focused on progress towards implementing internationally-agreed approaches to the management and use of water, known as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), which was backed by countries in Rio.
The survey, which was coordinated by UNEP on behalf of the UN inter-agency coordination mechanism for freshwater issues (UN-Water), asked governments for their feedback on governance, infrastructure, financing and other areas relating to water management, to gauge how successful countries have been in moving towards IWRM.
Overall, 90 per cent of countries surveyed reported a range of positive impacts from integrated approaches to water management following national reforms. However, the report showed that global progress has been slow in the areas of irrigation, rainwater harvesting and investment in freshwater ecosystems.
The report provides examples of countries that have shown progress since implementing water management measures. In Estonia, for example, the introduction of water charges and pollution taxes contributed to improved water efficiency and a reduction of pollution in the Baltic Sea.
In Costa Rica 50 per cent of revenues gained from water charges are now re-invested in water resource management, and in Ghana, 40 per cent of irrigation schemes for more effective water use and productivity have been rehabilitated.
Mr. Steiner emphasized the importance of these findings to build on water management initiatives at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil next month. The survey includes recommendations and suggested targets designed to inform policymakers at the conference.
“At Rio+20, governments will have the opportunity to build on these innovations and chart the way forward for sustainable development, where the water needs of a global population set to rise to nine billion by 2050 can be met in an equitable way,” he said.Back to Top
New report stresses benefits of reducing UN peacekeeping’s environmental footprint
Reducing the environmental impact of United Nations peacekeeping operations can lead to increased financial savings for the missions as well as improved safety and security for local communities and UN personnel, says a new report by the world body.
“Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations,” released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), presents the findings of a two-year analysis of how peacekeeping missions around the world affect, and are affected by, natural resources and the broader environment.
The 16 missions currently led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and supported by the Department of Field Support (DFS), constitute the largest environmental footprint in the UN system.
In December 2011, DPKO had 121,591 personnel deployed across those 16 operations. “These personnel and their supporting infrastructure contribute to the recovery and security of countries emerging from conflict, but also place considerable demands on the local environment, including natural resources,” states the report.
In fact, a 2008 inventory conducted by the UN Environment Management Group calculated that peacekeeping operations alone represent over 56 per cent of the UN system’s total climate footprint of approximately 1.75 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year – about the same size as the climate footprint of the city of London.
“Greening the Blue is not just our motto, it is also our commitment to ensuring that peacekeepers have a lasting and positive impact in countries where they are deployed,” said the head of DPKO, Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous.
To avoid and minimize the environmental impacts of peacekeeping missions, DPKO and DFS adopted an Environmental Policy for UN Field Missions in June 2009. It provides a series of minimum operating standards and requires each mission to adopt environmental objectives and control measures through all phases of the mission.
The policy focuses on a range of issues, including water, energy, solid and hazardous wastes, wastewater, wildlife and the management of cultural and historical sites. The policy’s objective is to decrease the overall consumption of natural resources and the production of waste, protect local environmental and public health and establish UN peacekeeping as a role model for sustainable practices.
The report identifies the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as having made the most progress in introducing environmental practices, with initiatives ranging from the use of electric cars at its headquarters in Naqoura, to energy efficient power generation and the establishment of a community-led recycling plant for plastic bottles, cans and glass.
“The case of UNIFIL illustrates what all our peacekeeping missions are now trying to achieve,” said the acting chief of DFS, Anthony Banbury.
The report also discusses natural resources as drivers of conflict, and recommends that where diamonds, gold, oil and other resources are factors in a conflict, peacekeeping missions should be given a more systematic mandate to support national authorities in restoring the administration of natural resources, monitoring sanctions and prosecuting violations.
UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said that addressing the ownership, control and management of natural resources is crucial to maintaining security and restoring the economy in post-conflict countries.
“There has been little progress in systematically considering and documenting how natural resources can support, advance or undermine the aims of a peacekeeping mission so this report is the first attempt to understand the links and identify good practices and gaps,” he said.
The report is based on desk research, field visits and consultations with DFS and DPKO, including ten peacekeeping missions.Back to Top
UN report: climate change to exacerbate freshwater problems of Pacific Islands
Climate change will exacerbate water stress in Pacific Islands, particularly small islands that rely on seasonal rain for their freshwater needs, according to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, issued in Bangkok, Thailand, today.
“The challenges facing the region in terms of freshwater resources are immense. Many of these islands have limited water resources, not to mention human, financial and management resources,” said the Regional Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Dr. Park Young-Woo. “It is imperative that we improve water use efficiency to meet the basic human needs and to support sustainable development.”
The report, “Freshwater under Threat – Pacific Islands,” found that the almost total reliance on rain-fed agriculture across all islands puts economies and livelihoods at risk.
Nearly 10 per cent of deaths of children under five in the region is attributable to water related causes; and, 90 per cent of these deaths, according to the report, can be traced to poor sanitation treatment systems.
The delivery of water supplies and sanitation services in many Pacific countries currently falls well short of the targets outlined by the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), the globally agreed blueprint for halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of diseases, promoting access to education and improving health care by 2015.
According to the report, access to improved drinking water sources in Fiji and Papua New Guinea – at 40 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively – is about half the global average and it is anticipated that both countries will fall significantly short of the MDG for improved drinking water access.
Ecologically, smaller islands are under greatest stress, with 85 to 90 per cent of vegetation cleared on Majuro Atoll, Nauru, Fongafale and Upolu. These islands also have the smallest capacity to absorb wastewater generated from urban areas, polluting critical groundwater lenses.
The report cited water management as one of the greatest challenges to water resource vulnerability, particularly the limited technical and governance capacity partly due to the high emigration of the region’s skilled and educated workers. All Pacific Islands are struggling with Integrated Water Resources Management (IRWM) capacity, with only Samoa and Nauru having IWRM policies.
According to UNEP, these challenges will require innovative approaches and tailoring solutions that take into account the complex geographical and socioeconomic constraints of each island, as there is no one solution and would need a mix of policy intervention and preferred management measures.Back to Top