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Access to a safe, sustainable water supply is a growing concern in every region of the world. In many communities, groundwater is being pumped by diesel fueled systems, which are both expensive and can be difficult to maintain. In communities where electricity is scarce, solar can be a part of the solution.
The highest demand for solar pumps is among rural off-grid areas, currently underserved, or served by costly fuel-driven pumps. Solar pumping is most competitive in regions with high solar insolation, which include most of Africa, South America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia; but the technology can operate successfully in almost any region of the world.
Last year, I attended the African Great Lakes Conference in Entebbe, Uganda, joining over 300 specialists who presented on a wide range of water issues. The highlight of the conference, for me, was visiting the Integrated Community Environmental Conservation project in Arul village, Kigungu, in Entebbe.
The project aims to reduce bio-diversity loss, pollution of international waters of Lake Victoria, land degradation, and address some effects of climate change. The fact that the project was managed by a women’s empowerment network made the prospects of the visit more interesting. Mainstreaming gender in environmental and conservation work is an issue that needs to be addressed.
How can we think in new ways about expanding farmer-led irrigation in support of global food security and poverty reduction? This was the question at the heart of the 2017 Water for Food International Forum. The theme, “Water for Food Security: From Local Lessons to Global Impacts,” was based on the premise that global breakthroughs are so often driven by local action.
Organized by the World Bank and the Daugherty Water for Food Institute (DWFI) at the University of Nebraska, and supported by several partners, the event showcased voices from farmer representatives, the private sector, national and regional policymakers, and major international financing institutions – galvanizing a coalition of support to legitimize farmer-led irrigation as a major development agenda, particularly for Africa.
Even before the protractive conflict, implementing development projects in some of the most remote and disadvantaged districts in a number of Yemeni governorates faced significant challenges. To address these challenges, and overcome some of the problems related to access to these remote areas, Yemen’s Social Fund for Development (SFD) devised a program in 2004 to attract youth interested in volunteering to promote development. In its first phase, this program — known as “Rural Advocates Working for Development (RAWFD)” — targeted a number of male and female students from these remote areas and provided them with a development-related program while they are attending universities in major cities. After graduation, these young graduates made a big difference in facilitating SFD operations and activities of other national and international organizations in their home areas.
In 2014, the island was listed as one of the least urbanized countries in the World Urbanization Prospects (WUP), with less than 20 percent of the population in urban areas. By 2050, WUP projected that number would rise to only 30 percent.
Does this mean we still have to worry about the country’s urbanization? The short answer is yes.
This is, after all, an island nation with one of the highest population densities, complex and evolving social systems and intricate ecosystems.
Meanwhile, urbanization, even at relatively slower pace, is still changing migration patterns, altering the way urban populations consume resources, and impacting the affordability of land and other assets.
These, in turn, are increasing the demand for resources. Growing inequality can be seen as a result of the displacement of less affluent communities, while the loss of important ecosystems has negatively affected resilience and sustainability.
Imagine that you must flee home at once. You may be fleeing violence, social tensions, poor environmental conditions, or even persecution. You and your loved ones may walk for several days to find safety, and may even go for periods without food.
What would you need to survive?
The answer is clean water. Finding drinkable water is one of the first steps in your journey to a new home. If you instead consume contaminated water, you risk exposure to several diseases. Drinking water unfit for consumption may not only harm your health in the short run -- drinking unclean water may cause life-long health problems. And of course, these problems multiply if entire communities, or even cities, face these health problems.
At the end of this leg of the journey, you may end up in a densely populated refugee camp. Many refugee camps quickly become quasi cities that suffer from poor planning, poor water supplies, and poor sanitation. Keeping these makeshift cities clean and safe is a herculean task. For many refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these water scarce cities, it is difficult to access water supply and sanitation facilities.
The situation is even more dire for refugees or IDPs in the water-scarce Mashreq subregion*. The demographic shock of mass migration compounds already complex challenges in the region -- from climate shocks to crumbling infrastructure. According to the World Bank report Turbulent Waters: Pursuing Water Security in Fragile Contexts, water security is more difficult to achieve in fragile contexts because of a range of factors, including weak institutions and information systems, strained human and financial resources, and degraded infrastructure.
Kanwar Jheel is the largest in a series of 18 wetlands spread across the Ganges flood plains in India’s north Bihar. For generations, these wetlands have been the mainstay for this densely populated region, enabling families to farm the fertile soil and fish in nutrient-rich waters.
During the monsoon, when the River Burhi Gandak - a Ganges tributary - overflows its banks, the wetlands absorb the runoff, protecting this extremely flood-prone region. When the rains are over, the water shrinks to one tenth the size, exposing marshes and grasslands that create a mosaic of habitats for a wide variety of flora and fauna.
In winter, over 60 species of duck and waterfowl visit these wetlands on their annual migration routes along the Central Asian Flyway.
Sri Lanka and Maldives share much more than the tag of tourism hot spots, beautiful beaches, and similar cultural traits. Both island nations have a range of unique environments that are rich in biodiversity and serve a myriad of ecosystems functions.
Both countries are home to rich wetlands with a variety of fauna and flora that benefit the ecosystem, including flood protection, water purification, and natural air conditioning and provide food and support to local communities.
Sri Lanka has actively been working to ensure these essential ecosystems are protected. The Maldives has too commenced such great work. This work has produced a wealth of knowledge and innovations on how to manage and conserve wetlands.
Managing wetlands in Sri Lanka and Maldives
The wetland management and land use planning effort undertaken in Colombo under the World Bank-financed Metro Colombo Urban Development (MCUDP) project showcases resilience in urban land use planning and highlights how a city can become more livable by intermingling green spaces to its urban fabric. All this, while protecting wetlands and reaping the benefits of their natural ecosystem functions.
The MCUDP used robust strategies and sustainable economic models, such as wetland parks, to help save urban wetlands from threats such as encroachment and clearing. Through the Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP), funded by the European Union and the Government of Australia, Maldives has also taken steps to manage threats to its largest wetlands.
While the approaches to wetland management in both countries have been different there are many key lessons that can be shared.