Climate change Environment

East African community need to enhance sustainable water resource planning, IIASA report

The East African Community governments need to step-up measures to strengthen sustainable water resource planning in the region. The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis researchers collaborated with the relevant stakeholders from the region to explore and co-develop regional water scenarios to understand the upstream and downstream water sector interaction in the Lake Victoria Basin. This is much needed to facilitate rational water resource planning.

East Africa is among the world’s fastest-growing regions with an estimated growth of 5% in the last decade. In 2015, the Heads of States of the East African Community launched the East Africa Vision 2050 as the region’s blueprint towards sustainable economic growth. The blueprint has partly contributed to the region’s fastest growth. It is expected that the benefits of rapid development in the region; if sustainably done will impact the entire African continent.

The region’s rapid economic growth, high rate of population growth, and rapid urbanization will lead to increased water demand and exerting more pressure on water quality. Water is an important component for development and therefore, understanding the upstream and downstream linkages in hydrological processes and human water use is critical for sustainable water resource planning in the region’s water basin.

The IIASA researchers undertook a quantitative modeling analysis for the tributary headwaters of the Nile, the extended Lake Victoria Basin, which incorporates parts of seven countries and the basins of all inflows into L. Victoria, basins of the Victoria and Albert Niles. Guided by the principle of integrated water resource management, the researchers with relevant stakeholders explored and co-developed regional water scenarios that can be used to explore possible development pathways up to 2050. Their study also combined the modeling of socio-economic and biophysical aspects-climate change, land-use change, and environmental constraints.

As a result of population growth, rapid economic development, and a significant increase in agricultural irrigation; the study scenario assessment predicts that water use and withdrawal will relatively increase. Climate change will also be an influencing factor in the seasonal shift in rainfall and more dry and wet periods. Therefore, governments in the region will need to significantly invest in water infrastructure to ensure the availability of freshwater in water sources throughout to support ecosystem services. To achieve the objective advanced technologies will be required to ensure efficient water use.

The researchers urged the ongoing regional integration need to harmonize water policy for the development of water infrastructure; that makes interconnected analyses over time and guided by co-developed scenarios for planning sustainable water development. The analyses of water systems must bridge the gap from the local to the regional and global scales. To achieve this, cooperation and co-development of strategies and approaches will be paramount. Also, significant resources, expertise, and stakeholder participation will be critical.

Hilda Luoga, Project Development Officer concluded, “Water is a pivotal sector for sustainable development and requires smart investment strategies. Similarly, important is that we foster co-development initiatives and analyses that respect both upstream and downstream interactions. This requires institutions whose mandate covers entire watersheds like L. Victoria Basin Commission who worked closely on this assessment. Strengthening those institutions is critical for water security enabled by effective implementation of sustainable development pathways.”

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