Cross-border water management not only benefits regional water security, but also promotes dialogue, peace and cooperation. IUCN BRIDGE project colleagues met in Chiangrai to discuss progress on the transboundary initiative since it's inception in May 2011, and in particular to put in place plans for BRIDGE into 2013 and beyond.
Near the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong River, close to the tripoint borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Lao PDR, the annual BRIDGE or 'Building River Dialogue and Governance' meeting took place in Chiangrai, Thailand on Monday 29 October.
With rising population numbers, growing consumption of energy and food, climate change impacts and biodiversity decline, water is the most vital resource to secure the health and wellbeing of both people and the environment. With this comes the challenge to manage water equitably, particularly when the river flows between different nations.
During the BRIDGE meeting in Chiangrai, IUCN colleages from the Asia, South America, Mesoamerica, Headquarter and Environmental Law offices gathered and discussed successes of the project so far, but also challenges, such as changing political systems and linking existing institutions. In South America for example, on the Catamayo-Chira Basin (a basin shared between Ecuador and Peru), there has been significant movement towards a binational commission to manage the basin, initiated by a workshop facilitated by BRIDGE and to outline an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) Roadmap. This was followed by a remarkable Presidential Declaration by both countries calling to set up a binational commission.
In Asia, on the Sekong river, gradual steps have been taken to put in place coordination teams needed in establishing national basin secretariats. IUCN is now working with national governments, but also recently engaging with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) on a new project to promote transboundary cooperation in the lower Mekong region.
Looking ahead, "BRIDGE has already delivered some remarkable achievements. We are now planning to build upon what was learnt, communicate achievements, and leverage the enabling mechanisms that worked. The initiative in all 3 regions will also look at scaling up and promoting regional uptake, by for example twinning projects", said Mark Smith, Director IUCN Global Water Programme.
With the upcoming Hydro-diplomacy Conference taking place on Wednesday 31 October in Chiangrai, as well as the kick-off of the International Year on Water Cooperation in early 2013, the BRIDGE project learning tools, legal expertise and tecnical support (available on www.waterlawandgovernance.org), as well as publications, videos, and briefings (available on www.iucn.org/bridge), will support the promotion of hydro-diplomacy, the enabling mechanisms for transboundary cooperation, and the understanding of legal frameworks available to manage cross-border waters equitably, sustainably, and efficiently.
The BRIDGE project is financed by the Water Initiatives Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
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