Environmental flows in South East Asia

Population growth, industrial and farmland expansion in Asia are stretching the limits of water allocation for nature’s needs. Environmental Flows, or ensuring sufficient water for both people and nature, was the theme of a recent training workshop in Khao Lak, Thailand.

Khao Lak, Thailand

Expansion at the expense of traditional paddy fields and naturally draining watersheds and floodplains, can lead to the failure to allocate enough water for the environment. This causes ecosystems –already under stress– to seriously affect the health, well-being, and security of local livelihoods in many Asian regions.

During the training workshop, participants from South-East Asia were able to gain a more common understanding of Environmental Flows (Eflows) and learn how to integrate Eflows in their work on water resources management.

Investing in natural infrastructure, such as restoring floodplains, wetlands and rivers, means complementing engineered infrastructure, to help reduce the impact of flood events such as experienced in the recent Thailand flooding in November 2011.

"It is time to re-engage with existing and new knowledge on environmental flows and to strengthen networking amongst key stakeholders in the region” said Ganesh Pangare, Head of IUCN Water Programme for Asia. He welcomed over 40 participants from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Sri-Lanka to the training workshop in Khao Lak, in southwest Thailand, from 3-4 November 2011.

Many of the workshop attendees shared their perspectives and experiences to promote and build a deeper understanding on complex water issues through the Mekong Water Dialogues (MWD). The MWD, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, were initiated to support water governance, by facilitating transparent and inclusive decision-making to improve livelihood security, human and ecosystem health.

Spreading the Environmental Flows concept requires developing or linking up to new regional nodes” said Stefano Barchiesi, Project Officer IUCN Global Water Programme. “These nodes are instrumental to communicating the importance of implementing environmental flows on a local, national and regional scale.”

Identifying the most relevant experiences on Environmental Flows and disseminating them to the regional level, increases sharing of context-specific information and comparison of lessons learned.

A key to engaging with senior decision makers and stakeholders is being able to communicate effectively, and being able to present technical information on Environmental Flows in such a way that will convey the key message and inspire action, such as using river health score cards“ commented Fiona Chandler, Program Manager at the International WaterCentre (IWC) in Australia.

This workshop followed a similar training held in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 5-6 August 2011. An Asian environmental flows network is emerging and will link with the global network to open wider access to knowledge and networking.

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