Projects in Argentina and Ecuador are good examples of how to use green infrastructure
In the session “Reducing Risks and Creating Resilience through Green Solutions”, which took place on Tuesday (20th), during the 8th World Water Forum, two projects that make good use of green infrastructure were presented to the public. One of them is developed in the city of Quito, capital of Ecuador, and focusses on flood control and reforestation.
Installed in the historical center of the city, the Ladeiras de Pichincha plan, as shown by Marco Antonio Cevallos Varea, manager of the Metropolitan Public Company for Drinking Water and Sanitation in Ecuador, consists of planting trees in zones on the outskirts of the city where the poorest citizens of the municipality live, to mitigate natural hazards and prevent flooding and landslides on slopes.
Through financing by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), totaling $30 million, interventions were made in areas at risk, such as the construction of dams, tanks and recreational areas, which benefited approximately 100,000 people. The local government came up with this sustainable approach to intervene to an alarming growing population and an explosive increase of the urban area into sensitive zones.
During the process, it was necessary to involve the community in resettlement cases – especially those people living on slopes. Many locations were reused for recreation purposes. “One of the lessons learned is to involve the community in all its layers, from young people and children to adults, on how to manage these areas,” said Marco Antonio, responsible for the project.
Another participant at the roundtable, Marcelo Gavino Novillo, showed how the Argentine government used a clever way of imitating nature to create a delta to filter residues in the Patagonia region, using wood and stones instead of cement to develop the sedimentation stages of the Water. The project helped eliminate flood risks as plants and rocks acted as a filter, and small tanks were used to capture sediments.
“We need to demonstrate that green infrastructure solutions are more viable, economical and sustainable. Therefore, we need to invest in training professionals with new paradigms, including changing the curricula of hydrology courses and promoting exchange between countries,” said Novillo.
The case of Itajai – lessons turned into solutions
In addition to the experiences in Ecuador and Argentina that were reported in the session “Reducing Risks and Creating Resilience through Green Solutions”, a Brazilian case was highlighted in this panel. Rafael Machado, of the National Center for Risk and Disaster Management, a federal government agency, referred to a study by Professor Beate Frank about flood prevention actions in the Itajai River Basin, located in Santa Catarina in the south of the country.
Several municipalities located on the slopes of the river have suffered from inundations and flooding since the beginning of the 20th century. A vast growth of the population and land misuse were responsible for the increased rate of disasters in the area.
In 1964, three dams were built, and river monitoring methods were implemented. Another measure to try to contain the floods was the rectification of the river Itajai Mirim. For a while the problem seemed resolved, but in 1983 water took over the city once more. International agreements to study and development a master plan in the cities of Blumenau and Gaspar helped to think of the matter in another way.
Created in 1997, the Itajai River Basin Committee started working in an integrated way, leaving aside the gray structure model and betting on an integrated and sustainable flood containment system, enabling water retention basins. “There has been a new view on the need to prioritize a preventive and passive protection management system,” Machado said. “This history shows that gray structures do not necessarily resolve flooding problems,” he added.
The right to sanitation: a matter of equality
In 2010, the UN Human Rights Council came to a consensus and recognized sanitation as a human right. Now, with the 2015 agreement on Sustainable Development – which also refers to sanitation as a right – governments are having a hard time recognizing and implementing it.
The session “Recognizing the Human Right to Sanitation” sought to analyze and discuss how human rights principles of access to information, participation, non-discrimination, accountability and sustainability can help governments make the right decisions to provide everyone with access to sanitation, focusing on the needs of the most disadvantaged individuals and communities.
Chair of the debate was Catarina de Albuquerque, of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), and included the participation of Leo Heller, UN Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation; Juliana Zancul, coordinator of Rural Sanitation of Funasa; Thobile Mthiyane, Head of the Department of Water and Sanitation of South Africa; Wilson Bezwada, of Safai Karmachari Andolan, India; Olivier Regguizzi, of the French Development Agency; and Neil Dhot, of Aquafed, International Federation of Private Sector Operators.
The relationship between sanitation and other fundamental rights was one of the central points. The discussion focused on the fact that, without access to sanitation, some groups get more vulnerable, such as the Dalits caste in India. They are forced to clean sanitary cesspits, which annually causes about 1 million deaths; or women who don’t have access to education because of the lack of restrooms in certain locations. “Gender equality in access to sanitation is highly emphasized,” said Leo Heller of the UN.
The need to invest more in rural sanitation to restore a historical debt was also among the panel discussions. “Policies were focusing on urban areas. We need to enforce non-discrimination and equality within rural communities,” said Juliana, of Funasa.
Challenges, such as funding and consensus on what sanitation means, have been discussed as obstacles to the implementation of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) related to the theme. Technological replacement and charging the very poor for sanitary services were cited by Wilson Bezwada as one of the aspects that affects the most disadvantaged populations. “How come that ministers and rich people don’t pay to use a restroom and poor people do? Companies have to understand that they can make money in other areas, not in sanitation,” said the Indian.
The Renova Foundation recognizes the importance of sanitation for the preservation of waters and human dignity. Therefore, through the Sewage Collection and Treatment program it will fund the elaboration of basic sanitation plans and sanitary sewage system projects, the implementation of sewage collection and treatment works, the eradication of dumps and the implementation of landfills as a measure to repair damages and compensate for the collapse of the Fundao dam.
Water as a human right: tools and strategies for sustainable financing
The session “Water as a Human Right” explored the institutional changes needed to establish human rights to water and to sanitation worldwide. Representatives from Nepal, Brazil, Sweden and Arab countries discussed their experiences and challenges they are facing in their work fronts.
Johanna Sjodin, of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), shared examples with the audience that show the need to cut the costs of corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy and to establish an inclusive and respectful dialogue, as a good practice to break vicious cycles and improve the disposition to pay for services.
Another challenge that one of the speakers brought up is that the concept of water as a human right is not being explored enough. “I do not think it’s clear to everyone what it means. We need to define it: does it mean that there shouldn’t be any subsidies? To many people who are responsible for water supply the definition of universal coverage is unclear,” said the representative of the Arab Council.
In an open-question session with the public, a Tunisian participant stressed the need for and the importance of this universal right to water to be part of the constitutions of the countries, which he believes are the top national frameworks.
The monitoring experience of the Renova Foundation at the 8th World Water Forum
Management and restoration of ecosystems related to water services require a relationship with the population that is to receive the water and residents living nearby or within the ecosystems. Sharing information with transparency in an inclusive setting, able to unite and consider all involved, even if conflicting, are ways to make important decisions.
This was the main theme that guided the session “Sharing Information with Transparency for Better and More Efficient Decisions Related to Aquatic Ecosystem Management and Restoration”, in which the participants discussed monitoring experiences and discussion settings for effective decision making, in order to preserve biodiversity and ecosystems for water services.
One of the greatest challenges mentioned for collecting and sharing information were the high implementation and maintenance costs for such systems, as well as the difficulty of transforming data into information and then into more strategic decisions.
Brigida Maioli, the environmental engineer and expert in the Social and Environmental Program of the Renova Foundation, shared her experience regarding the Quali-Quantitative Monitoring Program (PMQQS), which began in July 2017 under guidance and supervision of the Technical Board for Water Security and Quality – an entity composed of representatives of the National Water Agency, the Doce River Basin Committee, Ibama, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), the Ministry of Health and other environmental, administrative and water management agencies linked to federal, state and municipal governments.
It has 56 points for monthly sample collection for laboratorial analyses to monitor the water and sediment along the Doce River. Whereas 22 of them also have automatic monitoring stations that hourly generate data in real time. In the coastal zone, there are another 36 points, totaling 92 monitoring points. The total investment in the monitoring program is 17.6 million reais.
Learn more about the participation of the Renova Foundation in this session through the video below:
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