BRIDGE 5 - IUCN strengthens collaboration and exchange in the Medjerda basin
On Monday 29 May 2023, the launch of the BRIDGE 5 Project on the governance of the Medjerda River Basin brought together more than 30 stakeholders, representing the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Maritime Fisheries, and the Civil society in Tunisia.
BRIDGE: "Building dialogue and governance around waterways"
Over the past decade, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its partners have implemented transboundary river governance and dialogue through BRIDGE in more than twenty river and lake basins around the world.
The fifth phase of BRIDGE (2022-2026), funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, consolidates the knowledge and expertise of previous phases to mobilise key ongoing negotiation processes where IUCN acts as a dialogue facilitator to foster multi-scale transboundary agreements and strengthen institutions.
In this new phase, the Medjerda River Basin, shared between Algeria and Tunisia, is one of 15 transboundary basins where IUCN aims to support all stakeholders, including political decision-makers, technical officials, local communities, civil society, the academic and private sectors, and the population, to manage water resources sustainably and contribute to long-term water security.
Launch of the BRIDGE 5 project in the Medjerda basin
The Medjerda watershed rises in north-east Algeria and flows into the Mediterranean Sea in the Gulf of Tunis. It covers an area of 23700 km2, 30% of which is in Algeria and 70% in Tunisia. It is one of the most important in the Maghreb in terms of freshwater supply, providing drinking water for over 40% of the Tunisian population. All the threats facing the basin put at risk not only the quality of the services it provides to society, but also the biological balance necessary for the survival of the ecosystems. Bridge 5 aims to capitalise on the programme's 10 years of experience to facilitate dialogue between the organisations and institutions concerned in order to identify the main challenges and discuss practical measures to be taken.
At the meeting to launch the project, Mrs Leila Chikhaoui Mehdaoui, Minister for the Environment, and Mr Ridha Gabouj, Secretary of State to the Minister for Agriculture, Water Resources and Maritime Fisheries, highlighted the challenges of water management in Tunisia and the importance of ensuring good governance in the Medjerda catchment area.
They also welcomed the presence of various Tunisian civil society organisations to strengthen coordination, management and the sharing of benefits linked to water resources. In addition to their participation, these organisations bring to the project their perspectives and expertise necessary for effective water governance.
Mr Maher Mahjoub, Director of the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, stressed in his speech that "IUCN fully recognises the crucial importance of water as a precious resource and as an ecosystem essential to the survival of our planet. We firmly believe that only an inclusive and participatory approach will make it possible to find sustainable and balanced solutions".
More than just a technical meeting, the meeting was an opportunity for participants to share their views, present existing initiatives and make recommendations on the challenges and needs that the BRIDGE project can help to address, including water management, adapting to climate change, protecting ecosystems and improving the livelihoods of local communities.
A visit to a number of areas within the catchment area took place on May 31st, and included visits to a number of hydraulic structures as well as to agricultural development associations and groups working on actions to conserve water and improve the livelihoods of local people.
To find out more about the BRIDGE programme: www.waterandnature.org/initiatives/bridge