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Climate Change And Water Governance At The Local Level: Rethinking State Policies And International Cooperation On Climate Change Adaptation

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Osvaldo Jordan (Panama City, Panama)


Keyword(s): Sub-theme 17: Climate change, impacts and adaptation,
Abstract * Introduction In the last twenty five years, most countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have undergone profound state reform centered on increased citizen participation and democratic governance. In response to these political changes, environmental legislation has also privileged citizen involvement and decentralization in policy areas such as forest conservation, protected area management, and water resources. Although this new model demands enhanced capacities and renewed responsibilities from municipal governments, climate change adaptation policies have apparently been moving in a different direction focusing instead on global initiatives such as REDD++ and the Global Adaptation Fund. This poses the important question of whether adaptation research can be "downscaled" to municipal governments, and if this level of governance can play a significant role in a post-Kyoto agenda. This paper tries to address these questions by presenting the results of four case studies of water adaptation at the local level that were conducted in four different municipalities in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, arguably two of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the new world. In these four municipalities, the current situation of water resource adaptation was assessed through a Participatory Action Resarch (PAR) approach involving academic institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), private business and municipal governments. With financial support of the Water and Climate Change program of IDRC Canada, this research initiative was led by the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) in collaboration with the environmental ministries of both countries, Universidad de San Carlos (USAC) in Guatemala, and Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC) in the Dominican Republic. This communication responds to the research area of climate change impacts and adaptation in coastal zones formulated by IDRC Canada. * Methods/Materials In collaboration with local partners, CATHALAC developed a general framework that was utilized to assess water adaptation measures in the municipalities of Santa Cruz Muluá and Quetzaltenango in the Samala river basin in Guatemala; and Tamayo and Guayabal in the Yaque del Sur river basin in the Dominican Republic. These four municipalities correspond to the lower and upper watersheds of both rivers, encompassing a variety of social, economic, climatic and hydrological conditions in each country. In order to assess the current state of water resources, water budget evaluations were also conducted for both river watershed using SWAT modeling, and a variety of climate change scenarios were analyzed through PRECIS modeling. In order to identify present and future vulnerabilities, survey interviews were conducted to assess sensitivity and adaptive capacity according to the IPCC definition of vulnerability. The water budget assessments formed the basis for the evaluation of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) in each of the four municipalities. The IWRM model proposed by CATHALAC included an evaluation of citizen commitment, human resources, financial resources and political commitment. The IWRM analysis was complemented with specific studies on the legal framework for adaptation of water resources and the financial flows of adaptation investment at the international, national, and local level. Based on these different aspects, the research team assessed the capacities, limitations and potentialities of the four study municipalities to implement effective measures for water resource adaptation. The opinions of local actors were documented through in-depth interviews as well as the participation of key stakeholders in the research process through the creation of Participatory Focal Groups (PFGs). These PFGs collaborated with municipal governments in in the formulation of local adaptation plans as a blueprint for water research adaptation in each of the municipalities. * Results and Discussion Preliminary results indicate that the four municipalities in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic will be subject to a medium to high level of water stress in a fifty year horizon that will demand increased capacities from the municipal governments under study. Although all of the municipalities lack basic resources and conditions for effective water resource adaptation at present, the level of preparedness to face these challenges also varies significantly. Whereas some municipalities like Quetzaltenango already count with important government and nongovernmental organizations dedicated to water conservation and climate change, such as the Mancomunidad Metropoli de los Altos and the Mesa Suroccidental de Cambio Climático, others like Santa Cruz Muluá are only pioneering in the discussion of water adaptation problems at the local level. Both national governments have also dedicated different levels of effort to the decentralization of environmental management. Whereas for Guatemala this has involved thorough policy reform and capacity-building sponsored by international cooperation; in the Dominican Republic most adaptation efforts are being coordinated in the national capital, and local government have not yet developed their potentialities to implement adaptation measures on their own initiative. In both Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, the role of international cooperation is highly critical, yet there is also a need for increased transfer of responsibility from the national governments to the municipal level. Although public companies have engaged themselves in innovative cooperation agreements with other water users, the private sector has operated separately without major involvement in redistributive mechanisms empowering local governance. From this preliminary assessment, it is clear that international efforts for water resource adaptation have not yet trickled down from the national level to the municipal governments currently charged with a lead role in environmental management according to the process of decentralization prevailing that has prevailed in the region. This is leaving a gap between the legal mandate that has been imposed upon local governments by policy reform, and the complexity of adaptation management under conditions of increasing water stress at the local level. This research suggests that both international cooperation and national governments need to undertake rapid and substantial efforts to increase to upgrade the capacity of local governments to partake in the adaptation agenda if future adaptation funding is truly expected to have a significant impact on reducing vulnerability and increasing the resilience of impoverished communities in Central America and the Caribbean. * Conclusion - Water stress will probably increase significantly in the two selected watersheds in Guatemala Ballesteros et al. 2005. Administración del Agua en América Latina: Situación Actual y Perspectivas. CEPAL. Berg, Sanford. 2013. Best Practices in regulating State-Owned and Municipal Water Utilities. CEPAL. 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