2020/12/07 Dresden, Germany
By Raghid Shehayeb
Prof. Mariele Evers of the University of Bonn, Dr Zita Sebesvari and Dr Yvonne Walz of UNU-EHS presented the CLIMAFRI project which was implemented within an international consortium in the lower Mono River catchment of Togo and Benin, in addition to the common ground for educational and research within a joint Master’s programme. The session took place virtually on 11 November 2020 with over 60 participants.
The International Water Colloquium, organised by UNU-FLORES, the University of Bonn, and TU Dresden, addresses the topic “Cooperation in Water Management – Tackling a Global Challenge”. UN institutions, alongside their local partners, share their experiences about collaborative water-related projects and activities, highlighting the need for cooperation within the water management. The series running from 4 November to 16 December 2020 aims to foster collective knowledge development and further possibilities for cooperation.
Prof. Evers set the scene with an overview of the global water challenges and stressed that the risks do not only arise from climatic extremes but also from changes in long-term patterns in addition to increased water contamination. Prof. Evers added that water challenges are interconnected with almost every field of life and addressing these challenges should be done within an inclusive approach.
The CLIMAFRI project tackles the climate, water, and environmental nexus of risks focusing on West Africa. Dr Walz introduced the project, the consortium of which includes partners from Germany and West African Universities, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Ministries, and regional organisations. With frequent floods threatening the livelihood of local communities, there was a high demand to reduce flood risks by co-designing and implementing a river basin information system with climate-sensitive adaptation strategies.
As the UNESCO Chair for Human-Water Systems, Prof. Evers mentioned that one of the Chair’s goals is to provide decision makers tailored information to enable sustainable management of this complex system. Prof. Evers’ research team (and within the CLIMAFRI project) studied the effect of climate change on flood frequency and intensity using a collaborative approach in data collection, design, and implementation to provide effective and sustainable solutions.
Dr Sebesvari was handed over the lead to give an overview on the UNU Water Network, UNU-EHS water research areas, and to showcase the academic cooperation through the joint Master’s programme “Geography of Environmental Risks and Human Security” between UNU-EHS and the University of Bonn. One of the presented projects was the VALE project, which is a solid collaboration between UNU-EHS and local partners from Ecuador to develop indicators for flood hazard assessment and to validate the local monitoring products.
During the interactive Q&A part of the session, a participant raised a question regarding the participation of the local communities and stakeholders within the projects discussed. The panellists explained that in some cases, local partner institutions were demanding such projects when climate, water, and environmental hazards were threatening the livelihoods of their communities. The long-lasting cooperation and trust between partners in the planning and implementation of the projects are prerequisites for their success.
Concluding the session, the panellists stated the challenges, opportunities, and experiences of cooperation work in the field of water. Prof. Evers stressed on the significance of developing a technique of online collaborative modelling, especially under current circumstances. Dr Sebesvari mentioned that in some cases such as the joint Master’s programme, the different rules and regulations which apply can be a major challenge but were overcome with efforts from both sides. Data challenges and opportunities were highlighted by Dr Walz from the CLIMAFRI perspective, where data acquisition was considered a major challenge. However, given the limitations COVID-19 poses on travel, the funds that would have otherwise gone to financing travel has been reallocated to local partners for the purpose of acquiring their own data, moving this process forward.