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Press Release 
Eiman Karar  
Water specialists convene to tackle freshwater governance issues

Cooperation on shared water resources is critical, especially in water-scarce regions where the upstream and downstream impacts of consumption and pollution are magnified. Shared river basin and aquifer systems continue to present opportunities for cooperation and joint water resource development within as well as between countries

To address this need and many others, the Water Research Commission (WRC), in collaboration with the Department of Water Affairs and various international and local water institutions, will host a conference to be held at the Champagne Sports Resort, Drakensberg, from 5–7 November 2012. The Conference theme will be 'Freshwater Governance for Sustainable Development'. Delegates will receive a warm South African welcome from the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, The Honourable Edna Molewa and the CEO of the WRC, Mr Dhesigen Naidoo. A world-renowned speaker of Kenyan origin, Dr Ali Mazrui, will deliver the keynote address.

The conference will cover a variety of topics within water governance. More than 200 abstract submissions from various countries have been received and the programme caters for the different aspects of freshwater governance.

Says Eiman Karar, Chairperson of the Conference Organizing Committee: “We diversified the programme to allow for scientific exchange, panel discussions, open debates, youth and young water professionals participation, not to mention the gender special session mainly pertaining to pushing the score for the Africa Gender Strategy. The private sector is now more active in water issues than ever before and is featuring in more than one session.”

Water remains a critical issue from an access point of view, as well as the universality of this access for drinking and other multiple-use purposes together with environmental and transboundary trade-offs in a changing climate. A special session on water equity is aimed to cater for these aspects.

“Our dream is that freshwater governance will witness an intellectual boost in the coming years and we aspire for organisations to come forward and express interest in hosting the sequel to this conference. In 2014, the Freshwater Governance Conference will be hosted in South Australia. The intention is to keep the momentum and allow further dialogue and sharing. We also aspire to create a unique network of communities of practice that will further engage for many years to come to enhance the learning from all the water reforms taking place around the world”, says Karar.

“Water resources governance, per se, has not had as much focus as other water resource issues; hence this conference is aimed at making a contribution to improved understanding of freshwater management as well as governance at various levels of scale including the regional, basin, national and sub-national levels as well as groundwater governance”, says Naidoo .

The world has 264 shared international river basins, accounting for nearly one-half of the Earth’s land surface, generating roughly 60% of global freshwater flow and home to approximately 40% of the world’s population. These facts make cooperation more likely than conflict and dispute. But conflicts and disputes occur and it is important that societies are vigilant and set in place domestic, and bi- and multi-lateral mechanisms through which conflicts and disputes can be mediated in peaceful and effective ways”, says Karar.

At both national and global scales, resource limitations in all sectors require a shift towards increased resource use efficiency, demand management and more sustainable consumption patterns. Without such changes, current development trajectories threaten to drive social-ecological systems at all scales towards critical thresholds. Water, energy and food security are inter-related and rely on the use of these scarce natural resources. There is potential to increase overall resource use efficiency and benefits in production and consumption though an integrated approach across sectors.

This conference on freshwater governance will look at better integrated policy- and decision-making, which accounts for external costs across sectors and which will need to complement conventional approaches aimed only at improving sectoral resource productivity.

Members of the media are invited to attend the conference by providing registration on this form.  

For further information contact Eiman Karar, Director: Water Resources Management, Water Research Commission e-mail eimank@wrc.org.za  or Tel:+2712 3309029 or Cell:0832907231

Visit  http://www.wrc.org.za/freshwater

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