The 12th WANI coordination meeting was held in Luang Prabang, Laos from 18 to 22 October. The meeting was set to strengthen the coordination and delivery of WANI into 2012 and beyond. Global WANI coordinators and IUCN staff, along with colleagues and partners from the Mekong region discussed in particular issues surrounding hydropower development.
“Hydropower is an important part of the economic development of the Mekong region where the meeting was held”, said Mark Smith, Head of the IUCN Water Programme, “therefore an important part of this year’s WANI meeting was to create a dialogue with our team and partners that will help IUCN begin updating its strategy on dams.”
The Mekong is a lifeline for more than 100 million people who depend on the river’s resources. Originating on the Tibetan plateau, and flowing through China, Burma, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Mekong is the world’s 12th longest river and 2nd in importance for biodiversity and fish species. IUCN, together with partners and members initiated the ‘Mekong Region Water Dialogues’, a platform that provides a space to debate the management of the river by sharing solutions and ideas with all partners and stakeholders involved.
“The Mekong River flows through some of the most stunning scenery in the world, yet several dam development plans will have large impacts on the environment and livelihoods of the Mekong region. Through the ‘Mekong Dialogues’, multi-lateral negotiation and scientific expertise can be shared in an open debate to help strive for an equitable benefit sharing of the region’s water resources”, said Ganesh Pangare, Water Coordinator for the Asia region.
“Energy underpins development. The energy needs of the rapidly developing countries of Asia are indeed enormous, therefore the push for hydropower development in the region. But hydropower development comes with implications for the environment and people depending on the river system”, noted Andrea Athanas, IUCN Business and Biodiversity Senior Programme Officer. “There is an urgent need to understand and negotiate equitable benefit sharing between all stakeholders and safeguard biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods.”
Aside from finalizing an action plan for re-engaging IUCN on dams and hydropower, other items on the 12th WANI meeting agenda were WANI knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation, fundraising and policy influencing strategies. “As all WANI regions were represented, the meeting provided an excellent opportunity to further consolidate and strengthen the scaling up of WANI practices”, said James Dalton, IUCN Water Management Advisor.
Many WANI actions and achievements on climate change adaptation through integrated water resource management span across the more than 13 WANI projects in over 15 countries. “It was a huge upward learning curve to listen and learn from other WANI coordinators during the meeting”, added Milika Sobey, Water Coordinator for the Oceania Regional Office. “Being fairly new to the WANI initiative and team, learning from other regional coordinators about lessons learnt and overcoming challenges in achieving our work was greatly beneficial”.
Looking ahead, participants also reviewed the 2011-2012 calendar to plan and prioritize upcoming events. “Planning and developing strategic water policy recommendations to influence political processes is an important part of WANI’s work”, said Alejandro Iza, Head of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre. With the 2011 Bonn Water Conference, the 6th World Water Forum and Rio+20 Summit all ahead, the Water and Nature Initiative is in an strong position to leverage its decade of experience and influence the global water policy agenda.
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