World Water Forum: Sharing water should be the motto from now on

Decisions taken at the World Water Forum in Brasilia are bound to play a decisive role in the assessment of sustainable development goals for Agenda 2030
A river reaches the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Amapa state near Oiapoque city, Brazil(REUTERS)
A river reaches the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Amapa state near Oiapoque city, Brazil(REUTERS)
Published on Mar 06, 2018 11:02 AM IST
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ByTovar da Silva Nunes and Pedro Ivo Ferraz da Silva

The Pororoca is one of nature´s most dazzling phenomena. When translated from Brazil’s indigenous Tupi-guarani language, it means ‘big rumble’ and denotes the big clash of sea and fresh water that happens every now and then at the Amazon delta, most vigorously in March and April. This clash ultimately results in large (up to 7 metres) tidal waves — similar in shape to the Ganges bores — that are so forceful that they manage to temporarily reverse the natural flow of the river. The victory of the Atlantic waters usually comes at the expense of riverside fauna and flora, and sometimes of careless tourists. The local population has learned to respect the potent “thunder” and seldom ventures into the stream when the Pororoca makes its appearance.

Some 2,000 km down south of the Amazon, and about the same time when the tidal waves are at their highest, more than 40,000 people will be talking about the power of water. Brasilia will host the eighth edition of the World Water Forum (WWF-8), the largest international event on water-related issues, where heads of states and governments, civil society activists, scientists, private sector executives, among others, will gather to discuss the present and future of mankind’s most valuable resource.

This year’s theme is ‘Sharing Water’, and the government authorities are expected to put forth a political declaration, aimed at raising awareness about threats and opportunities associated with water resources and influencing decision-making processes in other multilateral frameworks. Deliberations and conclusions at WWF-8 are bound to play a decisive role in the periodic assessment of the sustainable development goals of Agenda 2030.

There are many reasons why Brazil was chosen as the host this year. Brazil has established a solid institutional and legal framework for water management, based on the principle of multi-stakeholder participation and inclusiveness. Today, the main Brazilian river basins are managed by committees comprised of local authorities, NGOs, citizen associations, researchers and industries.

Brazil has been conducting one of the boldest river interlinking projects in which 500 km of canals will transfer abundant waters from the São Francisco basin to small rivers and weirs in one of Brazil’s most arid areas, benefiting more than 12 million people in almost 400 municipalities.

Despite these assets, Brazil still faces challenges. Some regions in the country remain scarcely supplied by fresh water sources and pollution is a recurring problem in large cities.

India, too, has a large variety of water resources, including a complex network of rivers and a coast that stretches over 7,000 km. An institutional framework consisting of regional river boards and river-cleansing missions has also been set up, while successive central governments have made efforts to address dire needs of irrigation and mitigation of groundwater depletion. As in the case of Brazil, a lot remains to be done. Adequate treatment of industrial wastewater, the fight against contamination of riverbeds and assistance to drought-affected areas are high priority topics for both New Delhi and Brasilia. Due to these commonalities, there is ample room for bilateral cooperation. Furthermore, in multilateral and multi-stakeholder platforms, such as the WWF-8, the close interaction with different actors of the global society will be important to solve many of these problems. Water is a local, regional and global common, and as such, collaboration is key to address most of its associated threats.

As the Pororoca makes its way through the Amazonian landscape and Brasilia hosts the WWF-8, mankind is faced with two facts: water is too powerful a force to be fought over, and a too valuable resource to be lost. To harmonise these two conflicting aspects, sharing water is perhaps the only meaningful motto for the ages to come.

Tovar da Silva Nunes is ambassador of Brazil to India and Pedro Ivo Ferraz da Silva is head of the energy, environment and science, technology & innovation, embassy of Brazil, New Delhi

The views expressed are personal

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