Meeting Stakeholders in the Four Corners of the Mediterranean
With climate change projections indicating that droughts and floods may increasingly occur in the Mediterranean region, new ideas and strategies are needed to create robust management plans for water resources. The BeWater project promotes dialogue between scientists and society about the issues involved in water management in four Mediterranean River Basins.
Across the four Case Study River Basins in Spain, Slovenia, Tunisia and Cyprus, the first round of meetings with local stakeholders took place between May and July 2014, initiating the series of planned exchanges and debate between citizens and scientists. BeWater partners Prospex worked with Case Study partners in each river basin to co-ordinate the meetings.
Project Coordinator Anabel Sánchez (CREAF) describes the key aspects of these workshops.
"Scientists will present the foreseen impacts of global change on water availability to citizens in each of the water basins, in order to generate joint proposals to reduce the vulnerability of the basin and its citizens."
The meetings kicked off in La Tordera, Catalonia, Spain. Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) hosted the one-day event, introducing the project to local stakeholders and hearing their perspectives on the state of the river basin.
Studies indicate that in La Tordera river basin, a reduction in groundwater and river flows could cause significant socio-economic losses and relevant environmental impacts. The attendees at this first workshop, ranging from NGOs to farmers and educators, had been selected to provide various perspectives on water management. Some important trade-offs between water and land uses were identified, allowing for better understanding of the current situation in this basin. This will provide important basis for the development of the Adaption Plan for this region.
In Ajdovščina, Slovenia, the Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia (IZVRS) gathered stakeholders from different sectors with a common interest in the Vipava river basin. The workshop included presentations and group work, where the attendees actively participated in setting out the problems, needs and constraints of the basin, a key step towards defining the desired state and water management options.
The attendees highlighted the importance of stakeholder involvement in the future planning of water management. They also discussed common starting points for the future to reduce or prevent droughts in the upper part of the river basin and to prevent flood events in the lower part of the basin. Dialogue and collaboration between catchment inhabitants and the local, regional and national policymakers was identified as an important factor for successfully resolving problems and building adaption plans for water management.
In the Rmel river basin, the National Research Institute for Rural Engineering Water and Forestry (INRGREF) hosted the strategically timed meeting, which coincided with the emergence of democratic rules within the water resource community in the region. This river basin is vulnerable to the effects of global change with recent studies suggesting that Tunisia is facing a reduction in rainfall and reduced runoff.
The participants represented a wide spectrum of local people and associations from the region. For the first time in Tunisia, these stakeholders had the chance to voice their opinions and ideas regarding water resource management. This generated a great deal of insight into the various concerns of stakeholders regarding water management.
The first round of meetings came to a close with the workshop in the Pedieos river basin. The Cyprus Institute engaged with stakeholders from the region to identify the key challenges for water management. Predictions of more drought years, more extreme rainfall events and more days with high temperatures in Cyprus mean that developing a sustainable adaption plan is critical.
“With climate change looming, getting water management right is becoming even more important for Cyprus and the water scarce countries in the Mediterranean region” Adriana Bruggeman, Research Scientist at The Cyprus Institute explained “this is the reason why the BeWater Project aims to do things differently”.
Mr Kourtellaris, an agricultural producer, explained that for him "water means existence and a source of income".
All four meetings generated important feedback and suggestions and saw a high level of involvement and commitment from those who attended. Following these first discussions, a range of proposals will be developed for each river basin. Next year a second round of workshops will be organised to evaluate the quality and suitability of these proposals according to scientific, technical, political and social considerations.
BeWater is an EU FP7-Collaborative Project that will promote dialogue and collaboration between science and society in sustainable water management and adaptation to the impacts of global change in the Mediterranean. BeWater is financed through the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission is under the Science in Society initiative
Photos: Sarah Adams, Christos Zoumides, Sihem Jebari, Sabina Blumauer, Nataša Smolar-Žvanut, Marjan Maes
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