Nairobi, 10 November 2010 - To support improved water security in Sudan at a time of heightened concern over the potential consequences of prolonged drought, a high-level Sudanese delegation visited South Africa last week to study water management facilities.
The visit, arranged by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in conjunction with the South African Water Research Commission, gave senior Sudanese officials concrete examples of how to tackle the sustainable development, allocation and monitoring of water resources.
The study tour is part of UNEP's efforts to introduce new thinking into water resource management in Sudan, initially in Darfur, and achieve a long-term, integrated approach in conjunction with the government, civil society and other stakeholders.
The Darfur region has a high variability in water resources and 80 percent of Darfurians are dependent on rainfall and other environmental resources for their livelihoods.
The provision of water is a challenge across much of northern Sudan, but in Darfur, the displacement of over two million people has put unique stress on aquifers and compounded the region's chronic vulnerability to drought.
A serious drought in the current context could have devastating consequences and cause considerable social upheaval, despite the diligent efforts of public water corporations and international actors who have been building dams and installing wells and deep boreholes to supply water where it is scarce in Darfur.
Against this backdrop, the study tour for Sudanese officials included presentations on such topics as sustainable water supply; coordination mechanisms between government departments; the effects of climate change; discussions on water laws and policies in South Africa; inspections of modern ranches and citrus farms to view irrigation facilities and meetings with farmers and irrigators.
The delegation included the Speaker of the Legislation Council of West Darfur, Mr Mustafa Mohamed Ishag; the Under-Secretary of Sudan's Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, Mr Adam Abbakar Bashir Mohammed; the Minister of Agriculture for South Darfur State, Dr Ibrahim Adam Ahmed El- Dukheri; the Minister of Urban Planning and Public Utilities, Mr Elfatih Abdelaziz Abdelnabi Adam; the Minister of Water Resources and Environment for South Darfur, Mr Hassan Mohamed Kaskous Bilal; the Minister of Agriculture for North Darfur, Ms Hawa Suliman Husain Easa; and the Minister of Urban Planning and Public Utilities for West Darfur, Mr Mohammed Musa Ahmed Abdalla.
In a joint statement issued via UNEP in Cape Town, the speaker and five ministers recognized the similarities between Sudan and South Africa and said the visit would be a good base for future interaction and collaboration.
"The drought management steps and efforts taken by South Africa will provide clear guidelines and a roadmap to be followed by the Sudanese team as drought has been the norm and not the exception in Sudan," the ministers said.
"The issues related to water management, including policies and legislation, are critical to Sudan as there are lessons to be learned and good practices to be followed," their statement said.
This is the second learning exchange of its kind facilitated by UNEP. In May this year, UNEP arranged for water engineers from the Darfur states and national departments to visit South Africa to review drought management strategies in the Eastern and Southern Cape.
The tour yielded valuable lessons and potential areas for collaboration and prompted the development of a shared vision across the Darfuri water sector. It also created major political support for integrated water resource management and was considered so valuable that UNEP was asked to plan a follow-up visit for high-level stakeholders to improve their understanding of water-security issues and potential solutions.
"The South African Government has made great strides with water management, and this tour has brought good connections and enabled the Sudanese officials to see what South Africa has been able to achieve," UNEP's Sudan Programme Manager, Robin Bovey, said.
"This exchange was about bringing many of the key Sudanese decision-makers together to observe, learn and take away recommendations for overcoming the major challenges associated with the sustainable development and management of water resources in Darfur in particular," Mr Bovey said.
The five-day exchange, which concluded on Friday, was funded by the Italian Government.
The need to examine the sustainable use of water resources in Sudan was plainly stated in UNEP's Post Conflict Environmental Assessment in 2007.
Supported by the UK Department for International Development, UNEP has since developed an Integrated Water Resource Management initiative, focused on the Darfur region, which includes a programme of dams and capacity building to support water resource management and drought contingency planning in camps, rural areas and cities.
The efforts of government departments, UNEP, UNICEF, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and others involved in promoting improved water supply security is reaping rewards. For example, there is increased investment in urban water supplies. The National Public Water Corporation has worked with a range of partners to draft the first joint water management plans for each state for 2010 and the Golo Dam rehabilitation is another contribution to the drought resilience of Darfuri settlements.
UNEP has a country presence in Sudan and works with government institutions at all levels, civil society and the international community to influence long-term change in environmental practices. These efforts are part of UNEP's Disasters and Conflicts priority area, through which the organization seeks to help countries minimize the threats to human well-being from the environmental causes and consequences of disasters and conflicts.
Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)
Integrated water resources management is a systematic process for the sustainable development, allocation and monitoring of water resource use in the context of social, economic and environmental objectives.
Having reviewed hydrological data and consulted widely within the water sector in Sudan for several years, UNEP's leadership on an integrated water resource management includes capacity building for water resource managers and decision makers.
UNEP in Sudan: www.unep.org/conflictsanddisasters/UNEPintheRegions/CurrentActivities/Sudan/tabid/294/Default.aspx
The Case for Drought Preparedness:
UNEP's Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of Sudan: www.unep.org/sudan