IUCN, with the support of AVINA, presents to COMSCARS the approach of the microwatershed-based community water planning and management model for the upper watershed of the Samalá River

 The Council for Sustainable Management of the Upper Watershed of the Samalá River (Spanish acronym COMSCARS) and leaders of Metrópoli de los Altos Associated Municipalities learn about, assess and validate the strategic plan for the microwatershed of the Chacap River as pilot site to implement IUCN’s microwatershed model for the region.

workshop in Guatemala City

Guatemala, November 2011 (IUCN) – During a workshop in Guatemala City, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) presented the microwatershed-based, community water planning and management model developed as a result of activities carried out by its Tacaná II project in the department of San Marcos in Guatemala.

COMSCARS is a multisectoral council for consensuated decision-making on activities in the upper watershed of the Samalá River that promote, negotiate and socially audit ecological, social, environmental and economic development projects that respond to the historical situation and are sustainable. It also promotes, exercises and protects common interests related to environment.

Currently the council is comprised of the Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources; the Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology; the municipalities of Concepción Chiquirichapa, Esperanza, Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán; the Metrópoli de los Altos Associated Municipalities, Universidad Rural, Asociación Forestal de Quetzaltenango, CARE, the National Forests Institute, Grupo Gestor de Quetzaltenango, the Experimental Center for Development of Small and Medium Rural Business and the Regional Program for Reduction of Risk and Environmental Degradation.

Since COMSCARS is now the coordination body for environmental activities in the watershed of the Samalá River, IUCN’s strategic plan for the microwatershed of Chacap River was presented for its analysis, review and validation. This pilot microwatershed was selected as the first site for the creation of local capacities to adapt, adopt and validate the microwatershed-based model of community water planning and management, with financial support from AVINA.
The workshop focused on the advantages of the microwatershed approach to initiate land-use planning and to promote community-level integrated water management and conservation of natural resources in these hydrographic units. It also stressed the clear cause-effect relations resulting from adequate or inadequate management of the upper parts, and how this tends to benefit or negatively affect the areas below.

In addition, this approach permits better strategies for interinstitutional and multisectoral coordination and facilitates the identification of effects from climate variability and change. The vulnerabilities of the zone can be visualized more easily, enabling more efficient linkage of the different risk management measures that need to be implemented.

A top priority is restoring, protecting, conserving and/or maintaining the different ecosystems so they can continue producing the ecosystem goods and services essential to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the communities in the region.

Yet another important advantage of the microwatershed approach pointed out in the workshop is that available resources can be used more efficiently and effectively. Working in smaller units makes it possible to carry out actions that are more targeted and matched to priorities; benefits can be magnified and results are obtained in shorter periods. The process moves in a logical and coordinated way toward higher levels, such as subwatersheds, until the entire watershed is covered. This is particularly valuable when government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, communities and the private sector are integrated in this effort and vision.

Because it was created only recently, COMSCARS does not yet have a strategic plan to guide its work and establish priority zones for initial activities. The presentation and review of the strategic plan for the Chacap microwatershed provides a first opportunity to start out with a pilot site where council members can integrate and link their efforts and visions and promote land-use planning and environmental activities to foster socio-environmental development.

This will enable COMSCARS to adopt, adapt and validate the microwatershed approach while also constructing a frame of reference for medium-term planning of macro scenarios for the entire upper watershed of the Samalá River, and thus achieve significant impacts in relation to integrated water resource management—mainly to prevent severe contamination of fluvial flows and overall deterioration of natural resources, and help improve communities’ access to water and local governance of the vital resource.

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 the Caribbean Initiative
Tel: 00502-5966-6957 and 00502-5918-0317

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