Nepad short-term action plan (stap)

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3.3 Issues and Challenges

3.3.1 The review of various documents and the consultations with stakeholders in the respective river basins has reconfirmed the challenges common to most river basins. The main issues in water resources management vary only in degree from one basin to the other. The key issues may be summarized as follows:

  1. Poverty: Widespread poverty among riparian states in all the river basins. UN and World Bank studies indicate that several riparian states in the selected basins have very high levels of poverty; the majority of the population live on less than US$1 per day, and have lowest access to basic needs.

  1. Inadequate infrastructure: Access to safe water supply and sanitation, food and energy is very low primarily as a result of inadequate infrastructure, and poor operation and maintenance of facilities. Lack of access to basic needs of water, food and energy is both a cause and an effect of poverty.

  1. Weak legal and regulatory frameworks for water resources management at national level. Water laws in most states are not comprehensive enough to cater for integrated water resources management, especially transboundary water; and there are weak inter-sectoral linkages. In most of the river basins, except the Zambezi which is a part of SADC region, there is no broad policy framework to guide the development and management of water resources. National legal and regulatory frameworks need to be harmonised to permit basin-wide management of water resources.

  1. Institutional Issues: Lack of basin-wide institutional arrangements for joint development and management of transboundary water resources, particularly in the Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. Even where river basin institutions have been established, as in the river basins in West Africa, these institutions suffer from inadequate human resources capacities for water resources management, and inadequate funding from the member states comprising the respective institutions.

  1. Environmental issues common in the selected basins include environmental degradation of watersheds due to overgrazing, deforestation (due to cutting of fuel wood) and population pressure; desertification, especially in the Sahelian states in the Nile, Lake Chad, Niger, and Senegal river basins. Some of the basin states, for example, Mozambique, have suffered from frequent floods in the last decade. There is also increasing pollution of watercourses from poorly operated municipal wastewater treatment plants, industry, mining, and fertilisers; with consequent increase in problems of invasive aquatic weeds (e.g., water hyacinth) in most river basins.

  1. High variability in rainfall from place to place and within the seasons, impacts the availability of water resources. In almost all the river basins, there are tremendous variations in amounts and timing of surface water resources, as well as high variations between minimum, mean and maximum flows. Flow regulation, through construction of storage dams, is therefore vital for ensuring water security in almost all river basins.

  1. Poor water resources information base: Due to inadequate data monitoring networks, especially for water quality data; lack of effective systems for sharing data and information within transboundary basins; and lack of comprehensive data storage systems.

  1. Poor stakeholder participation, especially poor rural communities, and inadequate involvement of women in management of water resources.

  1. Increasing water demand. Projections of population and water demand indicate that by 2025 many riparian states in each of the selected basins will experience water stress, others will experience water shortage, or water quality deficiencies during the dry season.

  1. Poor financing of water resources development and management. Allocation of capital funds from national budgets has been limited in most basins, and investment funds have been provided largely by external agencies.

3.3.2 With respect to transboundary water resources management the specific issues, to varying degrees, depending on the specific circumstances in each basin, the issues commonly encountered may be summarized as follows:

  1. Lack of a common or shared vision for water resources management in the respective basins. In river basins without basin-wide organizations responsible for water resources management, development has been based on national plans and there has been no planning for joint development and management of water resources for the basin as a unit. In some of the river basins where basin organizations have been operating for a long time, joint development and management has been constrained by inadequate policy and legal frameworks, or narrow mandate of the basin organisation. Shared vision planning has only been initiated in the Nile and Niger Basins, though even this lacks a legal and institutional framework for the former. For the Zambezi Basin, there is a legal and policy framework for integrated water resources management, the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses, but that has not yet been implemented at river basin level. The Niger and Senegal are taking steps to develop shared visions in the respective basins; the Okavango lacks a common vision, and the Congo does not even have a cooperative arrangement to initiate shared vision planning.

  1. Lack of effective cooperative frameworks for transboundary water resources management in most of the basins. The Nile Basin states, through the Nile Basin Initiative is presently engaged in negotiations to establish a legal and institutional framework. Some progress has been made, but the process has been going on for the last five years. In SADC region, effective institutional arrangements are yet to be established for the Okavango and for the Zambezi basins. The Congo Basin, with its tremendous potential for water resources management for hydropower, inter-basin transfers to other water deficit basins in Africa, and for irrigation, navigation and tourism, does not yet have concrete plans to establish a cooperative framework. River basin authorities such as Niger Basin Authority and Lake Chad Basin Authority would need to continuously review their effectiveness (such as through institutional audits) and make adjustments as necessary.

  1. Inadequate capacity for water resources planning, development and management in the institutions at national, basin, and regional levels. None of the RECs, except SADC, has a dedicated institutional unit dealing with water resources management (see Table 3.3 above). If the RECs do not have focused responsibility for water resources management, it is unlikely that they would effectively be able to implement the transboundary water resources management programme. Even the SADC unit, with its well defined mandate, does not have sufficient human resources capacity to cope with the large responsibility of coordinating development in 15 river basins covering more than one third the African continent. Reference to Table 3.3 shows that a number of RECs have responsibility over one river basin; this calls for clear identification of the most appropriate institution to be targeted for capacity building.

  1. Inadequate financial base for implementing projects. Investments in all river basins have been supported mainly by external funding. There is a large funding gap even for projects already approved by the various member states. Poor economic performance of the basin states has constrained local funding. There is greater need for resource mobilization to support development in all the basins. Such funding is not only for actual investment support, but even for project preparation.

  1. Lack or weak political will for joint development and management of transboundary basins. Cooperation in transboundary water management is essentially a political process. It requires greater awareness and acceptance of benefits of cooperation, awareness of integrated water resources management issues, and practical commitment to regional development. Political will needs to be enhanced so as to translate the lofty statements of regional treaties into practical reality.

3.3.3 The main challenges in transboundary water resources management in the respective basins involve the following:

  • Meeting basic needs for water and sanitation, food security and energy security. This will entails higher demands for coordinated and integrated development of water resources. It also calls for increased investment in water infrastructure. Though projects for water supply and sanitation are mainly implemented at country level, a number of regions want to coordinate development through standardization of methods for measuring coverage, exchange of information, information sharing and adoption of common approaches.

  • Ensuring water security through joint development and management of infrastructure to store (including the construction of dams where appropriate) and regulate flows is particularly important in light of the characteristic variability of rainfall and river flows in the respective basins.

  • Establishing or enhancing cooperative frameworks for joint management and development of transboundary water resources. On a continent where most river basins are shared between two or more countries, international cooperation is vital and yields dividends of shared benefits (increased food and energy security, mitigation against extremes of floods and droughts), regional integration and reduction of tensions between riparian states. A number of interventions include policy harmonization, legislation, and establishing agreements and institutional arrangements for managing water resources.

  • Improving water wisdom through improvement and expansion of networks for gathering, processing and sharing water-related data and information, and through enhancing public awareness and participation in water resources development and management.

Strengthening human resources capacities for water resources management at all levels – national, regional and river basin. Capacity building also needs to be considered with respect to the NEPAD secretariat, the NEPAD Unit in the African Development Bank, and AMCOW secretariat. At present the NEPAD secretariat has one water resources adviser who also serves as the NEPAD Infrastructure coordinator; the NEPAD Unit at the African Bank headquarters has only one part time staff responsible for water resources; AMCOW on the other hand does not even have a permanent secretariat. Strengthening capacity at each of these organizational units needs to take into account the projected role, and should be considered with respect to human resources capacity, institutional support, and budget.

3.3.4 Poverty is an overarching issue, and combating poverty is a priority development goal. The SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, the Shared Vision of the Nile Basin states, as well as development plans of several RBOs in West Africa have an overall goal of alleviating/eradicating poverty and promoting socio-economic development and regional integration. These strategic actions reflect the unanimous recognition of the problem of poverty in the respective basins. The goals are also in line with the commitments the member states have made under the Millennium Development Goals. The importance of water resources management in combating poverty is also recognized in the proposed interventions.

3.3.5 The development and action plans developed for the respective river basins outline projects and programmes to manage water resources so as to contribute to poverty alleviation. The specified key challenges for the water sector consist of:

3.3.6 Recognising that NEPAD’s role is that of facilitation, and not necessarily financing projects, the stakeholders consulted in the course of field missions to the seven river basins indicated a number of areas where NEPAD support would be crucial. These are outlined and summarized in Table 3.4 below.

Table 3.4 Identified Areas of NEPAD Support in Transboundary Water Resources Management









Common Vision

Development of a common vision for basin-wide water resources management

Facilitate development of a common vision for cooperation at the basin level

Mobilize Political Support / Will

Political support to fast track the establishment of a permanent secretariat for OKACOM.

Support for expediting the on-going negotiations for establishing ZAMCOM, a basin-wide institution for the whole Zambezi Basin

Political support to the on-going initiative to develop a cooperative framework for water resources management in the basin

LCBC is arranging to undertake feasibility studies of the inter-basin water transfer from River Ubangui to Lake Chad. NEPAD could lend support during bottlenecks in the process of implementation.

Promote the establishment of a cooperative arrangement in transboundary water resources management in the Congo

With the assistance of the World Bank, NBA is currently implementing shared vision programmes. NEPAD could support this initiative through mobilization of political commitment and facilitating the sharing of experiences with other basins mobilizing resources.

Facilitate Resource Mobilisation

Facilitate project funding for network improvement in the basin particularly in Angola.

Facilitation of resource mobilisation to enable implementation of the regional investment projects which have already been approved in the RSAP.

Facilitating resource mobilisation, not only for the SVP projects but also for the SAP.

NEPAD to support LCBC in resource mobilization to finance the prioritized action plans of the master plan.

The LCBC is currently implementing the GEF/World Bank/UNDP Project: Reversal of land & water degradation trends in the Lake Chad basin ecosystem. The major outputs of the project comprise of transboundary diagnostic analysis followed by preparation of strategic action plans. NEPAD could lend support in the mobilization of resources for the implementation of the action plans.

Support OMVS in the preparation of transboundary diagnostic analysis and resultant sustainable action plans, to support mobilization of resources for the implementation of the action plans.

Provide support for the documentation and information dissemination of the data and information collected by the Environmental Observatory Unit, of OMVS.

Specific Funding Request

The negotiating process for the cooperative framework started in December 2003.and is in need of funding to continue the basin-wide negotiations.

Communication, knowledge sharing, networking

Support the strengthening of the African Network of Basin Organizations, which could serve as a knowledge and information center on matters dealing with transboundary water resources.

Support the work of African Network for Basin Organizations such that experience sharing of river basin cooperative management could be enhanced.

NEPAD facilitate the preparation of good practice guidelines to assist countries in cooperating with riparians in the management of transboundary water resources management.

Though the involvement of civil society and grass roots organizations are recommended to participate in the management of river basins, communication to such organizations is not well developed. NEPAD could intervene in promoting national programmes for promoting river basin management

Capacity Building of existing institutions

Capacity building in water resources management at all levels, from decision makers to leaders at community levels.

Strengthen capacities for water resources management not only in RBOs in the SADC region but also in national agencies as well as the SADC Secretariat. An objective basis for capacity building needs to be developed as basis for future support.

NEPAD support capacity building at all levels including national, international (basin level) and regional levels.

Assist in the capacity building of the national water sector organization through institutional strengthening, manpower training, development studies and updating master

NEPAD could foster the focused role of ECOWAS in river basin management and developing working relationships with the NBA.

Strengthen knowledge and skills in international law, integrated water resources management tools and water balance modeling to assist in monitoring and decision-making.

The e capacity of RECs to coordinate transboundary water resources management would need to be enhanced.

Establish new institutions for river basin management

Support the establishment of a permanent secretariat for OKACOM.

Monitor and support the initiative of RECS, namely CEMAC and ECCAS in ensuring that their initiatives to set up water sector units is effected. This would need to be supplemented with capacity building through exchange of best practices with other basins.

RECs coordination

As the Lake Chad Basin straddles across CEMAC, ECCAS CENSAD and ECOWAS boundaries, LCBC has not been getting the support of RECs. It was recommended that some form of coordination mechanism be in place to resolve this issue.

Mauritania is a member of Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) whereas the other countries are members of ECOWAS. In order to strengthen the role of RECs, NEPAD could assist in introducing mechanisms for inter REC coordination.

Donor coordination

Establish close cooperation and coordination among donors supporting diverse activities in the basin.

Support donor coordination and collaboration.

NEPAD could assist in the creation of synergies of the various water sector initiatives and donor programmes.

Facilitate project implementation (clear political obstacles)

Facilitate the start-up of the GEF financed project for Okavango (unblock obstacles currently in the way of commencement of project implementation).

Support to joint programmes /projects

Establishment of joint hydro-metrological network in the Angolan portion of the basin where there is very poor water resources database due to security problems over the last two decades.

Promote the development of water quality standards and their management in each of the member countries followed by their harmonization at the basin level.

Support to Central Africa’s Sub-regional Plan of Action for the realization of MDG and WSSD targets through AMCOW (sub-region)

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