• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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A call for UN Convention on conserving river deltas

A call for UN Convention on conserving river deltas

Leaders and water stakeholders from across the globe will gather in New York from March 22-24, 2023 for the first major UN Water Conference in almost 50 years.

The growing impact of climate change on water resources will continue to top global discussion – as the main driver and cause of most water-related challenges across the globe leading to human migration (especially among young people) to poverty, hunger, and communal conflicts as well as to new disease outbreaks.

This has serious implications for the future of peaceful coexistence of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), South Asian and South-East Asian countries with shared trans-boundary water resources. Sadly, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) especially women, young people, and the elderly – remain the most vulnerable and mostly affected by these impacts.

Therefore, we must not miss this unique opportunity to secure greater cooperation on shared waters concerns – which accounts for about 60 percent of global freshwater flow – which are also a prerequisite for addressing the growing impacts of climate change and water crisis, globally.

While UN conventions for climate change, desertification, wetlands and oceans are operational, a new UN convention on ocean facing river deltas is a concrete policy action outcome of this collaborative effort.

The experts and panel discussants include stakeholders from the Nigerian Niger Delta, Indus, Mekong River, Colorado, Nile and St. Lawrence transboundary river basins, each of which has various differential vulnerabilities due to accelerating sea level rise and saltwater intrusion from the oceans, and rapidly melting glaciers, increasing dams and shifting rainfall patterns in the highlands.

Conservation of inland and ocean facing deltas is critical to offset the deadly impacts of worsening climate crises and save lives of millions of vulnerable people facing these crises. Displacement of ~ 33 million people in Indus and ~ 1 million people in the Niger Delta region as well as livelihood losses is a preview of what is to come without these immediate actions to build climate resilience at the global scale.”

The side event will importantly help individual and regional governments and the United Nations (UN) to better understand the concerns of the highlands to lowlands watercourses (corridors) and river deltas’ communities worldwide, to steer their interest on the need to scale-up climate ambitions, with a foreseeable UN recognition of the World’s river deltas and other low-lying coastal areas through a convention or some sort of special recognition to be called “Deltas UNITE.”

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The African Centre for Climate Actions and Rural Development Initiative (ACCARD) in collaboration with the Nigeria’s Bayelsa State Government, the Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security at the University of Vermont, the Consortium for Capacity Building at the University of Colorado, Transboundary Water In-Cooperation Network (TWIN), Water Environment Forum, Pakistan, Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) Bennington College; Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vietnam and Center for Environment and Sustainable Livelihood Projects (CESLP), among others are hosting a side event at the UN Water conference titled “Integrative Highland to Ocean (H2O) Action for Disappearing Deltas: Towards a UN Convention on Conserving River Deltas.”

For example, in Africa and Asia (as well as many other countries) still lack access to clean, safe potable water due to poor infrastructure and a lack of investment in the sector, groundwater degradation, pollution, salinisation and negative fisheries subsidies as well as flooding.

Indigenous peoples and local communities are not only affected but are among the most vulnerable to the growing, adverse consequences of climate change on water resources.

Substantial financial and human resources are therefore required to clean up the present damages as well as to prepare for and respond to the likelihood of similar occurrences in future decades.

Industrialised countries are neither immune from the adverse impacts of a variable and changing climate. For example, the estimated $1.5 billion to fix damaged railways and networks in Germany alone surpasses the total (fiscal and recurrent) annual national budget of many developing countries.

The situation will worsen in developing countries in the future due to the poor social infrastructure and ineffective disaster response management currently in place. Panelists will discuss the increasing role and participation of indigenous people and rural communities particularly regarding local stakeholders and leaders from the region, engaging in a global discussion, negotiations, and policy development.

Scientific data gathering is desperately needed to accelerate the integrated development of the water sector at all levels, consistent with United Nations Katowice recommendations which provides for a bottom-up approach to climate change governance and grassroot participation in governance.

The event slogan “we don’t need fireworks to celebrate the future – we need water,” demands the need for timely action for convening a convention. The expert speakers and panelists include Senator Nisar Memon from Pakistan, Prof. Michael Glantz, Prof. Asim Zia from United States, Dr. Aboje Andrews from Nigeria, Susan Sgorbati from Center for Advancement of Public Action, Bennington College, Governor Duoye Diri of Nigeria’s Bayelsa State, Prof. Tan Sinh and Chief Bill Knight representing Akassa Development Foundation, among others.

Oluowo is the founder and centre coordinator, African Centre for Climate Actions and Rural Development Initiative (ACCARD)