IUCN Shares Experience in Water Governance in Mesoamerican Transboundary Watersheds

14 June 2012 | News story

Presentation by the IUCN Water Management Unit on fostering dialogue in the region’s shared watersheds, at the international seminar on transboundary watersheds organized by Universidad de Chapingo, Mexico, and Instituto Chi Pixab, Guatemala

Guatemala, May 2012 (IUCN) – An international seminar on “Management of Natural Resources, Shared Watersheds and Local Development” was held as part of the masters program on Land Ordering and Environmental Management with Cultural Relevance at Instituto Chi Pixab in Quetzaltenango, with support from Mexico’s Universidad de Chapingo. The event opened with a presentation on IUCN’s Mesoamerican experience, focusing on comprehensive management of watersheds in Guatemala and Mexico.

Special emphasis was on work carried out through BRIDGE , which stands for “Building River Dialogue and Governance,” in the transboundary watersheds of the Coatán River (Mexico-Guatemala), Goascorán River (El Salvador-Honduras) and Sixaola River (Costa Rica-Panama). Activities include specific trainings, sharing knowledge, demonstration sites, strengthening governance structures at different levels, demonstration and consensus-building for management and governance of shared waters, and developing networks of water champions.

In addition to Mesoamerica, BRIDGE is part of a global initiative with Swiss cooperation in shared watersheds of South America (Ecuador-Peru-Bolivia) and Asia (Vietnam-Laos PDR-Cambodia), as demonstration sites to promote water governance in those countries.
Cooperation and consensus are essential. Examples and experiences around the world show that inadequate water governance leads to degradation and over-allocation of water resources, which increases the vulnerability of those who are poorest and loss of biodiversity, with weaker and less resilient livelihoods and economic development.

BRIDGE aims to improve capability of good water governance through building consensus in multiple forums, learning, capacity-building and sharing of knowledge, support to policies and institutional reforms, demonstration of tangible benefits for local communities and support for creating trust, cooperation, dialogue and agreements among countries that share watersheds.
Using a very simple and practical methodology, IUCN has generated local capacities for the adoption, adaptation and validation of a microwatershed-based community water resources planning and management model. It begins with identifying key stakeholders in these hydrographic territories and defining the main opportunities and weaknesses communities currently face in achieving genuinely integrated water resource management.

The project also seeks to define and establish an inter-institutional and multisectoral coordination entity as forum for dialogue on shared rivers and which can formulate a comprehensive, articulated and sustainable management plan for microwatersheds. This should be an instrument to identify, define, prioritize, plan and administer water use and exploitation in comprehensive and sustainable form. The creation of microwatershed committees for good governance of water and associated resources is also promoted.

Those attending the seminar had three overall observations. First, main conclusions about water governance in the transboundary watersheds indicate an urgent need for neighboring countries to negotiate in good faith on how to achieve mutual benefits from comprehensive management of the waters they share, since the effects of climate change mean rising vulnerability to hydrometeorological events and increasing risk to the lives of inhabitants, as well as ecosystems. Secondly, technical training is also needed to gain a clear understanding of fluvial dynamics in the transboundary watersheds so that a comprehensive strategy can be defined for sound management. Finally, it is necessary to take advantage of the competitive advantages of border areas in order to promote social, economic and environmental development between neighboring countries.

For more information contact:
Carlos R. Rosal Del Cid
Regional Officer, Water Management Unit
E-mail: carlos.rosal@iucn.org
IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica and Caribbean Initiative
Phones: 00502-5966-6957 and 00502-5918-0317