The Natural Resources Programme comprises three major focus areas: land, biodiversity and water related issues. ROWA is actively involved in addressing the environmental priorities in these areas at both national and regional levels. UNEP interventions in these areas aim at providing policy and technical advice as well as capacity building and technology know how on the environmental dimensions in the context of sustainable management of natural resources. By virtue of UNEP/ROWA’s strategic partnership with CAMRE/LAS and its technical teams, support has been provided to CAMRE’s Technical Team on Biodiversity and Desertification in the preparation of the Team’s Programme of Work. Under this cooperation forum, UNEP/ROWA is also co-coordinating the preparation of Abu Dhabi Initiative project proposals on land degradation, biodiversity and water related issues.
At the “Big Win for Dinaric Arc high-level event”, held during the 9th Conference of the Parties( COP9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in May 2008 in Bonn, Germany and co-organized by UNEP, representatives of the Governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia as Parties to the CBD signed a joint statement recognizing that “a joint and coordinated effort is needed in efficient delivery of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas obligations. Transboundary cooperation between the Dinaric Arc countries in the implementation of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas, with the aim to create well managed, and an ecologically representative protected area network, is the key to safeguarding the Dinaric Arc eco-region’s exceptional natural and cultural values.” and the “importance of regional cooperation to achieve transboundary sustainable management of the South-Eastern European region, including the Adriatic Sea, the Dinaric Alps and the Sava River Basin.”
Joint project with the Inter-American Development Bank to develop a Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW), resulting in the elaboration of a US$ 20 million GEF project proposal, which has just been approved by the November GEF Council. The CReW will mobilize additional funding for wastewater treatment investments at an affordable cost of capital, by using GEF resources to leverage co-financing arrangements. The support provided through CReW will help the countries of the Wider Caribbean in meeting relevant obligations of the Cartagena Convention, and contribute to global efforts to reduce pollution of the coastal and marine environment from untreated discharges of domestic wastewater.
Asia and the Pacific
The East Asian Seas Action Plan
The “New Strategic Direction of COBSEA (2008-2012): A White Paper” was finalized at the Special Intergovernmental Session of COBSEA, 5-6 September 2007, Putrajaya, Malaysia. It was adopted by member countries of COBSEA at the 19th Meeting of COBSEA on 22-23 January 2008, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Three thematic areas were identified as priority for COBSEA, namely marine and land-based pollution; coastal and marine habitat conservation; and management and response to coastal disasters. These areas will be addressed through four inter-linked strategies on information management, national capacity building, strategic and emerging issues and regional cooperation.
Green Fins Programme
The Green Fins Programme established a network of dive operators and divers that practice environmentally-friendly diving and snorkeling for the conservation of coral reefs. In 2007, this programme, which was initiated in the Phillipines and Thailand, was expanded to Indonesia and Malaysia. To ensure that the data collected by Green Fins members become useful information for synthesis, the establishment of a Green Fins Online Database was also initiated. This was further supported by the establishment of a Green Fins Web-page and Online Assessment System that will provide access to the network and provide online updating of information and also enable the dissemination of the results of the assessment through the website.
Enhancing ecosystems functioning for delivery of ecosystem services in the Philippines: Tigum Aganan catchment area
In the Philippines the biggest challenge caused by climate change is the increase in typhoons, floods, and drought which has increased in frequency and magnitude since the 1990s. This has enormous impacts on the country’s agriculture, food security worsened by the current global food crisis.
Since 2007, UNEP has supported the Iloilo Water Management Committee to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the Tigum Aganan catchment area. The support included mainstreaming rainwater into Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) for climate change adaptation, construction of rainwater harvesting facilities such as ponds, tanks and terraces as flood and drought management measures. The ponds and terraces are used to regulate flood and water, hence reducing damage to crops and property. At the same time the stored water is gradually released during the dry season and droughts for agricultural purposes.
The result of the UNEP intervention was evident in July 2008 when Typhoon Frank struck and killed 200 people, displaced thousands, caused landslides and major flooding, and washed away rice fields. It was reported that the people in the project area were less impacted by the Typhoon due to the resilience improved by the rainwater harvesting facilities. Consequently the Governor of Iloilo requested for further support from UNEP to expand coverage of the project area, enhance the implementation of the IWRM plans developed in phase I, and demonstrate the benefits of ecosystems resilience/rehabilitation. The expanded project is also intended to promote water efficiency in agricultural production through improved policies, and use of water augmentation technologies and sustainable land management practices.
Atlas of Africa’s Changing Environment
During this period UNEP prepared an Atlas of Africa’s Changing Environment which provides a graphic presentation of environmental change in each of the 53 countries in Africa using satellite images of selected sites supported by ground photos and text. The Atlas is a complementary publication to the Africa Environment Outlook. The Atlas was launched during the 12th session of AMCEN in June 2008 in South Africa. The launch of the Atlas has already catalyzed actions at national level focusing on ecosystem restoration.
Lake Faguibine: Mali
At the request of the Government of Mali, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is implementing a project to rehabilitate the Lake Faguibine System. This project follows in the footsteps of UNEP’s successful ecosystem rehabilitation of the Iraqi Marshlands, the world’s largest wetland ecosystems. The Marshland was rehabilitated through re-flooding resulting in widespread increase in vegetation cover and increased accessibility to clean, drinking water for more than 100,000 people living in or near the Marshlands.
UNEP is working with local partners to sensitise communities upstream and downstream on the need to regulate and preserve the water flow in the Niger River and in the channels. The project’s participatory management planning will reconcile upstream and downstream competition for water, for equitable human wellbeing.
Rainwater for Ecosystem Resilience: Kenya
In Kenya’s Kajiado District in the country’s Rift Valley Province, where UNEP initiated a project in 2005, the local Maasai people are now able to harvest the rainwater for domestic use, environmental protection and other productive purposes. Most of the area’s half million people have benefited from this simple technology.
The Mau Complex forms the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem of Kenya, as large as the forests of Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare combined. It is the single most important water catchment in Rift Valley and western Kenya. Through the ecological services provided by its forests, the Mau Complex is a natural asset of national importance that supports key economic sectors in Rift Valley and western Kenya, including energy, tourism, agriculture (cash crops such as tea and rice; subsistence crops; and livestock) and water supply.
Congo Basin Forest, Good will Ambassador Prof Wangari Maathai
The Congo Basin Forest stretches across Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. Some 60 million people from these countries depend on it for their sustenance. The Congo basin forest is a natural mosaic of 400 mammalian species, 280 reptile species, 900 butterfly species and 10,000 plant species. At 2 million square kilometres, it is the second largest rainforest in the world, second only to the Amazon forest in Latin America.
However, the forest is under serious threat from a combination of factors like illegal logging and settlements, shifting agriculture, population growth, oil and mining industries. The forest is losing 1.5 million hectares – half of Lesotho – every year. To stem this loss, UNEP is working with Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) to conserve 29 protected areas, and promote sustainable forestry and community-based conservation in 11 priority landscapes spanning the Congo basin.
UNEP is supporting the Goodwill Ambassador of the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai in her endeavours. Her role is to engage donors in high level lobbying on behalf of the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem. She also serves as co-chair of the Congo Basin Forest Fund. So far, the governments of Norway and the United Kingdom have contributed US$ 200 million to the fund.
The Fund is tailored to develop viable alternatives to logging, mining, and felling trees for firewood and subsistence farming. Funded activities will follow guidelines established by the Central Africa Forests Commission (COMIFAC) Convergence Plan, which is a common vision for sustainable and joint management of the sub-region’s forest resources.
Liberia: Water Policy
Liberia’s fourteen year civil war, which ended in 2003, led to a humanitarian catastrophe. It led to multiple internal displacements of hundreds of thousands of people, disrupted supply of basic social services, increased the vulnerability of women and children to extreme poverty, hunger, disease, and practically destroyed its infrastructure. Facilities such as the Mount Coffee Water Plant responsible for the supply of drinking water to 600,000 people in Monrovia and several surrounding towns were destroyed. As a result, deaths due to water borne diseases remained high. And, this situation was expected to possibly deteriorate further as populations returning to these areas were expected to increase and thereby overstretch the partly functioning or malfunctioning health and social infrastructures.
In 2005, Liberia requested UNEP’s assistance in developing a long-term and sustainable water management policy to guarantee a good quality and sufficient supply of drinking water and industrial water, and safeguarding all other water uses that serve public interest.
UNEP organized a committee comprised of representatives from relevant Government agencies, NGO´s, UN agencies, the European Union and the private sector to oversee the development of the water policy. UNICEF along with UNDP backstopped the work of this committee through the provision of financial and technical support.
To enhance Liberia’s national capacity in the development and implementation of its water policy, UNEP facilitated national and regional training workshops for country water experts and government officials. The regional workshops provided Liberia with a chance to learn from the water policy experiences of other West African nations.
As a result of UNEP’s efforts Liberia’s national water management policy is now a reality and the policy itself has been subjected to a participatory review in meeting of stakeholders at the national level.
Latin America and the Carribean
Poverty, gender and environment projects (Nicaragua and Guatemala)
The aim of this project is to train the population of the rural communities, particularly of indigenous women, in rainwater catchment techniques and implement the necessary facilities as an alternative and sustainable supply of water and as a potential source of income for these communities. The areas involved comprise Santa Rosa del Peñon, Department of Leon (Nicaragua) and the El Ingeniero community of Chiquimula (Guatemala). The expected results include: raised public awareness and education; improved quality of life for residents of the region; minimization and/or avoidance of water extraction from the phreatic layer in the area, which is contaminated by arsenic; installment of a rain water catchment facility.
Due to the wide acceptance of the project in the region, proposals have been made to replicate it in other communities across the region.
Rainwater for ecosystem resilience: Antigua and Barbuda
In Antigua and Barbuda, UNEP organized field projects to demonstrate the use of rainwater in groundwater recharge and for sustainable use in both commercial and residential areas. The information that was shared and generated in the field projects was compiled into a rainwater harvesting handbook, which is being used by water practitioners in the region. In addition, UNEP has also facilitated the production of geographic information system maps to enhance planning by government officials in the country.
Rainwater for ecosystem resilience: Nicaragua and Guatemala
In Nicaragua and Guatemala, rainwater harvesting projects have focused on capacity building for rural and indigenous women and in ensuring water supply, boosting agriculture and reducing poverty.