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Agriculture, water, and ecosystems: avoiding the costs of going too far


integrated land and water management, ecosystem approaches, integrated coastal zone management, and integrated natural resources management. eir general aim is often the same. ey actively seek to address integration of all the benefits and costs associated with land-use and water decisions, including effects on ecosystem services, food production, and social equity, in a transparent manner; to involve key stakeholders and cross-institu- tional levels; and to cross relevant biophysical scales, addressing interconnectedness across subbasin, river basin, and landscape scales (photo 6.5).

While integrated approaches for environmental management are seen as an impor- tant effort and have long been promoted, there are few successful examples. e gover- nance systems required to support the appropriate institutional and managerial arrange- ments, particularly for the allocation of resources and planning authority concomitant with responsibility at a local level, seem difficult to achieve (see, for example, chapter 16 on river basins). One complaint is that most of these approaches are based on a technocratic view of decisionmaking, whereas real life is far messier, with power struggles, lack of trust between and within stakeholder groups, and complex and evolutionary behavior of eco- systems that make it difficult to assess total benefits and impacts. Folke and others (2005) see a need for more emphasis on building, managing, and maintaining collaborative social relationships for river basin governance, which is in line with current thinking about eco- system management.

Where river basin organizations have succeeded, that has often been because of their ability to deliver on the common aims of jurisdictions (such as coordinated water man- agement to supply irrigation). e situation is more complex when dealing with inter- national transboundary rivers, such as the Nile and the Mekong. An alternative to river basin processes may be to explore more regional guidance for common policies, as is being developed in Southern Africa (box 6.10).

  • e complexity of the social policy and institutional links that govern ecosystem

management and influence necessary tradeoffs is shown for wetlands in figure 6.3. Differ- ences in local contexts may affect the manner in which relationships between individuals

While integrated approaches for environmental management have long been promoted, there are few successful examples

box 6.10

National and regional policy initiatives on water and ecosystems

The South African National Water Act of 1998 protects the water requirements for ecosystems and supports them through an ongoing scientic effort. This is in line with the principles contained in the Southern African Development Commission (SADC) regional water policy of May 2004, which recognizes the environment as a legitimate user of water and calls on SADC members to adopt all necessary strategies and actions to sustain the environment. At the national level water reforms in South Africa and Zimbabwe have successfully mainstreamed environmental water requirements in water resources policy and legislation. Namibia is similarly considering policy that stresses sectoral coordination, integrated planning and management, and resource management aimed at coping with

ecological and associated environmental risks.

Mexico’s 1992 Law of National Waters is another example of national water reforms that consider ecosystem needs. It empowers the federal government to declare as disaster areas watersheds or hydrological regions that represent or may represent irreversible risks to an ecosystem.


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