Dr. Theib Oweis and Dr Mahmoud Solh (ICARDA), Dr Abdin Salih (UNSECO) and Prof. Mike Edmunds (G-WADI) highlighted the significance of the UNESCO G-WADI meeting on rainwater harvesting in particular to semi-arid and arid dry lands such as those presented by the participants during the seminar. It was pointed out that the very existence of the UNESCO G-WADI established network revealed that water resources are no longer seen to be a mere commodity but a scarce resource that requires careful management. Rainwater harvesting in particular was seen to be key in dry areas since its immediate implications are to increase yields and improve the livelihoods of dry area farmers.
The importance of the technology of the Qanat was also stressed. The restructuring and enhancement of qanat technologies in the Middle East and India in particular, sends one clear message that there is a reinvention of the wheel and a rediscovery of ancient RWH technologies. In this way it was recognised that indigenous knowledge is precious and should be integrated harmoniously with modern technologies.
Finally the dominance of climate change, its consequence of placing countries into jeopardy due to less reliable water supplies and increased uncertainties has meant that rainwater harvesting should all the more be studied and adopted as a valuable augmentation or alternative to conventional water supply sources.
In light of the above the UNESCO-G-WADI meeting aimed at capturing the importance of RWH systems as was pioneered in the old times and simultaneously allowing the dissemination of information so that the Old and New Worlds could learn from oneanother.
Main International Programmes
The International Hydrological Programme is a UNESCO initiative that started at the beginning of the water decade. It concentrated initially on Research and Development but gradually moved on to its 6th Phase which meant the identification of most crucial water related areas and identification of major pressures that threaten waters quality and quantity status.
Several groundwater initiatives were evoked such as MAR, HELP, FRIEND and WWAP, PPCP/WAP and also the highly regarded World Water Assessment Programme on the State of World’s Freshwater Resources. Such projects have now spread across the world, and in so doing tip the balance in favour of cooperation and simultaneously away from potential conflict to enhance water security. IHP 7 (2008-2013) will be looking at 4 approved themes which are:
- Global changes
- Water quality
Following UNESCO’s achievements the main GWADI activities were presented. These include several from information system networking by means of its website (http://www.gwadi.org), workshop initiatives such as the Isotopic and Chemical Tracers in Hydrology to facilitate the application of chemical tools and state-of-the art isotopic tracers in semi-arid and arid areas; international modelling workshops such as the last one held in Roorkee in early 2005 to provide modelling support and access to appropriate software tools as well as provide web-based training materials. In addition to this there is also the WMO-GWADI initiative to apply climatic research as well as the setting up of the steering committee. Plans for the future include amongst others the translation of the website into several languages.
By means of these several initiatives UNESCO has facilitated the setting up a network between diverse organisations. The valuable training role of the UNESCO-IHE Education Institute for water research at Delft was also acknowledged.
The IAH-MAR programme (www.iah.org/recharge) exists to facilitate exchange, research dissemination and to promote joint projects between hydrogeologists and others. Ian Gale presented an overview of recent activities and how IAH-MAR was interested in linkage with the G-WADI programme. The related IGRAC programme (International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (www.igrac.nl) contains some activities that are relevant including—dissemination of groundwater information to non-english speakers, arid cities security, governance in MAR, clogging of recharge structures and cost benefit analysis of MAR.
Dr. Abdullah Droubi gave an overview of the activities of ACSAD, Arab Centre for Semi-Arid Zones and Drylands, based in Damascus (www.acsad.org). ACSAD is a specialized Arab organization working within the framework of the League of Arab States with the objective of unifying the Arab efforts which aim to develop the scientific agricultural research in the arid and semi-arid areas, help in the exchange of information and experiences and make use of the scientific progress and the modern agricultural techniques in order to increase the agricultural production. Only 10% of water is renewed through recharge in arid lands. ACSAD programmes focus on aridity, droughts and shared water. More than 80% (87.3%) of water is withdrawn by the agricultural sector in all Arab countries. By 2025 a severe water deficit and a mere 40% food sufficiency is being projected.
Dr Semsar Yazdi, outlined the programme of the International Centre for Qanats and Historic Hydraulic Structures and conveyed best wishes of Dr Zargar, Iranian Deputy Minister of Energy for Water Affairs and Chairman of ICQHS; Dr Zargar had reluctantly to cancel his visit at short notice. The Centre, based in Yazd, was formally opened in 2005 with the support of UNESCO (www.qanat.info). Its main role is to preserve the engineering, cultural and social information on qanats and related structures, transfer of knowledge and to promote research and development, to sustain and to restore qanats and related structures, which have proved to provide sustainable resources for over two millennia.
The programme of ICARDA, hosts for the meeting, is directly relevant to water harvesting activities. Dr Thieb Oweis gave an overview of relevant aspects of the programme. ICARDA (www.icarda.cgiar.org) is one of 16 Centres supported by CGIAR which serve developing countries in improving agriculture, improvement of on-farm water-use efficiency for example. These activities have a direct impact on poverty alleviation through productivity improvements integrated with sustainable natural-resource management practices. ICARDA meets these challenges through research, training and dissemination of information through different levels of cooperation. ICARDA produces some excellent publications and handbooks related to water harvesting including traditional uses and water use efficiency in agriculture.