Brussels, 22 Jul 2005
A distinguished panel of international experts has begun a major review of completed EU research projects addressing integrated water resources management (IWRM). The review is intended to assess the approaches and results of collaborative projects, analyse lessons learned and culminate in recommendations on the future direction of EU research in IWRM.
The panel charged with this task is chaired by Professor Dipak Gyawali, member of the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, and Nepal's former Minister for Water Resources. Joining Professor Gyawali are esteemed scientists from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the UK, Mexico, Palestine, South Africa and Vietnam.
'Water is a very serious subject and will get more serious,' said Professor Gyawali. With his co-panellists, he will be asking: 'Did [the research] do what it said it was going to do?' he explained to CORDIS News.
IWRM is described by the Global Water Partnership as 'a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems'.
The EU has funded a huge number of projects addressing the issue, addressing diverse aspects of water management. For example, under the Fourth Framework Programme (FP4), projects addressed topics such as the influence of the Volga basin on the Caspian Sea, bioremediation techniques for wastewater treatment, and the interaction between migration, land and water management and resource exploitation in the oasis of the Maghreb. FP5 included projects on subjects as varied as desertification in the Aral Sea Region, water competition between agriculture and tourism, management policies for water pollutants, and barriers to the involvement of the private sector in water supply and sanitation in Latin America and Africa.
More recently, projects funded under FP6 are investigating matters such as the involvement of local government in IWRM, innovative technologies for integrated water management, drought alleviation in Western Balkan agriculture, and the control of forested river catchments in cases of extreme rainfall and snow melt.
The review will not provide recommendations on a project level, but on a more general level. The European Commission is hoping that these recommendations will provide ammunition for its discussions on the thematic research priorities of FP7 that it will have with the Parliament and Council, as well as the programme committee. 'The Commission has a perception of the real world and what we need to do, but we need to know how it really is,' Head of Unit Alfredo Aguilar Romanillos told the panellists as they started work.
The Commission's desire to communicate the results of EU funded research to different groups was also emphasised at the meeting. 'Communication is now taking centre stage, which it had not done in the past,' said Cornelia Nauen, Principal Scientific Officer within the Research DG's International Scientific Cooperation directorate.
The panellists have already drawn up a table allowing them to allocate a score out of three to individual projects, as well as to comment extensively on the research. The project review sheet assesses different aspects of the projects under six headings: have the principles of sustainability been properly addressed? Have technical solutions been adequate? Integration; communication; impact; and narrative. The team's preliminary work has shown the table to be more than adequate for its purposes.
The results of the review will be published in the form of a technical report, a policy brief and a brochure for wider public dissemination.
Asked by CORDIS News whether he has any expectations with regard to the results of the review, Professor Gyawali emphasised that the panel is approaching the review as research. 'The nice thing about research, and where it differs from consultancy where you already know the answer, is that we really don't know the answer,' he said.
Professor Gyawali is confident that the exercise is categorically worthwhile, and declared that he was 'amazed' when he got the call from the European Commission inviting him to take part. 'Large bureaucracies are not known for taking revolutionary steps and doing something so forward-looking, in such an open and participatory manner,' he said. He added that he intends to use this example to put pressure on other bureaucracies in the future to open themselves up to similar reviews.
Asked about different approaches to IWRN in Europe and his own region, Professor Gyawali noted how Europe has changed in recent years because of the strong green movement, and also praised the strong dialogue that scientists and activists have with the establishment. 'The chances of getting something wrong in Europe are very small,' he added.
The review will be carried out in tandem with an FP6 project called NeWater, the focus of which will be approaches to adaptive water management. The results of both exercises will be presented to the Fourth World Water Forum taking place in March 2006 in Mexico