Session FT 4.04
Wetlands, water and livelihoods : healthy wetlands are essential to help make poverty history
The session was convened and successfully illustrated the need to integrate wetlands considerations into large scale infrastructure development and national or international policy actions for reducing poverty. The session showed:
§ The importance of wetlands as critically important ecosystems that keep people out of poverty and support livelihoods
§ How to integrate wetland management and development objectives
§ Opportunities and threats to maintaining and realizing the potential of wetlands in reducing poverty
§ The specific role of fish in wetlands as sources of nourishment that help to reduce poverty and support livelihoods
The lack of integration of freshwater management issues into the agendas of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers was highlighted. Moreover, the contributions of fish biodiversity to meeting the Millennium Development and Biodiversity targets were also addressed.
Wetlands must be acknowledged or mainstreamed into development planning and the participation of local people/stakeholders is essential at all levels of mainstreaming wetlands into development planning.
Upstream benefits from water infrastructure may lead to increased risk of drought and famine and decreased livelihood in downstream communities.
Integrated basin management is needed and planning must be informed by science-based information that evaluates the socio-economic impact of water allocation decisions on communities across the whole basin.
Strategies for poverty reduction need to recognise the importance of water management for wetlands and vice versa.
The participation of local communities is crucial for success and sustainability of restoration and management of wetland and its drainage basin as well as the coastal system. The adaptive successive restoration plans within the principles of the ecosystem approach and its implementation with active support of the local community is a key to success.
The local action demonstrates the mainstreaming of the notion of “ecosystems as legitimate users of water and the strong link between ecosystem and livelihoods”.
It is an example of a paradigm shift from traditional sectoral approach of implementation to a more sustainable assortment of technology,
Institutions & social marketing implemented through local stakeholders is needed to sustain this shift from traditionnal sectoral approach. Management steps must be widely debated, researched and implemented and this extensive consultative approach is a key to the success. This should go through participatory planning, awareness and education, capacity building & empowerment of the local community, community level organizations and the local NGOs .
Addressing livelihood issues is key to success of a participatory project: It is possible to combine biodiversity conservation with success in reducing the vulnerability to shocks, seasonality and trends of those employed by the programme, especially though food security. Wetlands are also important for fish harvest as a source of food and generation of income
Integrated approaches to water resource management should include the environment and specifically wetlands.
The integration of wetland ecosystems into poverty reduction focused strategies and plans is critical
A stronger focus on the participation of local people and civil society in planning and implementation of water resources management for agriculture, supply and sanitation is essential.
Planning for the construction of water infrastructure must include evaluation of upstream and downstream costs. Such evaluations must take into account the costs and benefits to local communities
The project is an ecological success in many respects, notably, there have been increased earnings from land and non-land activities, reduced debt, conflict resolution and social integration and improved livelihood and food security leading to further poverty alleviation, reduced environmental degradation and reduction in the silt load into the lagoon.
Creation of participatory management institutions (including local people and NGOs) at the site level with a legal status, with a mandate, accountability and authority to make decisions.
Orientations for action
The focus on local participation should be strengthened to ensure wetlands are sustainably managed and appreciated at all levels for sustainable poverty reduction and water usage.
Sustainable wetland management and use must be an integral part of policies, strategies and actions to reduce poverty. Fora such as the World Water Forum should further integrate freshwater issues into the debate and discussion and acknowledge their contributions to solving the issues to be resolved.
Local actions presented
Research into Effective Water Management in the Upper Niger Basin: Mali, Inner Niger Delta
Water shortage has been identified by the United Nations Environment Programme as one of the most serious problems of the new millennium. For many decades however, it has already been a dire problem for the communities living in the semi-arid Western Sahel zone.
Mali is a classic case of a river dependent economy that is subject to enormous seasonal variation in rainfall and river flow. A popular solution to this climate dependency has been the development of hydro-electric and hydro-agricultural irrigation schemes.
Although Mali’s hydro-electric and hydro-agricultural potential has yet to be fully realised, this local research action questioned whether the costs and benefits of such mega-investments are properly estimated. It investigated three different scenarios: no dams, the current number of dams, additional dam constructed upstream of the Inner Níger Delta.
The results showed that dams bring undoubted benefits when considered in economic terms through the generation of electricity, increased agricultural and fish harvest. However when balanced against the economic costs of maintenance and management and the costs to the livelihoods of downstream dwellers in the Inner Níger Delta area (such as fishermen, cattle breeders, farmers) the net benefit of additioional dams was less clear. Benefits from dams are not evenly distributed and create clear winners and losers. With additional dams, downstream inhabitants of the Inner Niger Delta area would be losers whilst those receiving electricity and increased agricultural and fish harvest upstream will be winners.
Chilika Lake Development Authority
Ajit Pattnaik, Chilika Development Authority, India
Chilika, the largest lagoon along the east coast of India, is a unique assemblage of marine, brackish and fresh water eco-system with estuarine characters. It is one of the hotspots of biodiversity and shelters a number of endangered species listed in the IUCN red list of threatened species, and also is a designated Ramsar site. The highly productive ecosystem of Chilika lagoon sustains the livelihood of 0.2 million fishermen and 0.8 million in the watershed community. The ecological and the hydrological functions of the Chilika lagoon are influenced by the fresh water flow from drainage basin and the exchange of water with Bay of Bengal. The lagoon encountered a combination of increased siltation due to changes in the land use pattern and degradation of the drainage basin, as well as partial closure of the outlet channel connecting the sea. During the years the construction of major hydraulic structures and anthropogenic activities upstream has altered the flow pattern to Chilika. These changes had significant biophysical impacts on the lagoon including drastic changes in the salinity and hydrological regime, and reduction of fishery resources. The overall decline in productivity both in the lagoon and the drainage basin adversely affected the livelihood of the local community. Due to changes in its ecological character, it was included in the Montreux Record maintained by Ramsar Bureau, in 1993. Degradation of the life support system, in the lagoon and the drainage basin had an adverse impact on the livelihood of the local communities. Included in the Montreux record (threatened list of Ramsar site) in the year 1993 due to change in ecological character. From 1992, onward the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in cooperation with several other institutions and the local communities implemented an assortment of interventions combining technology, institutions that demonstrated beneficial changes in a short period of time. The hydrological interventions undertaken to restore the lagoon have resulted in considerable improvement of its fishery resources, water quality and a positive impact on the biodiversity of the lagoon and the adjoining coastal ecosystem.
South Africa: Working for Wetlands Project.
David Lindley, World Wide Fund for Nature, South Africa
Working for Wetlands combines three concerns:
(i) the conservation of South Africa’s wetland biodiversity;
(ii) securing water resources, and;
(iii) systematic efforts at poverty relief, job creation and skills development.
Given this approach of linking wetland conservation to sustainable economic development, the programme has formed part of the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and shares the focus on incorporating unemployed, poor people into employment and skills development opportunities. Projects are thus focused on rehabilitation, conservation and appropriate use of wetlands in a way that attempts to maximize employment creation, support for small business and the transfer of skills to the unemployed and poor.
A variety of participatory methods are currently used by Working for Wetlands when employing workers from the communities surrounding wetlands selected for rehabilitation, as well as involving the wetland owners and users in the rehabilitation and wise use processes.
A model identifying which wetlands in which priority catchments should be prioritised for rehabilitation has recently been developed, and is currently being implemented. The model uses a variety of socio-economic, ecological, hydrological, climatic and other variables to guide the identification of priority wetlands.