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Proposals of the NGO Solon for an integrated water policy PDF Print E-mail

Water Dim solon220Water policy, on the basis of progressive and participatory governance as well as of sustainable development and protection of the environment, should be integrated and compatible with European, international and national legal commitments.

Firstly, we must view water as a primary field of a public and valuable good, since water operates as a field of external effects and as a factor of interaction between all fields and domains relating the environment: from the phenomenon of climate change and the microclimate to biodiversity issues and the quality of life of local communities. Water is also associated with many thematic and sectoral policies, such as the Natura 2000 policy, given that biodiversity issues are completely tied to water and drainage basins.

At the same time, however, the concept of an integrated water policy must include issues relating to negotiations in the pricing, use, protection and distribution of water.

1. This policy will be integrated to the extent that a spatial planning framework and an integrated policy for water exist. We must note as two fundamental fields of planning for this spatial policy, firstly, those areas where bodies of water come under international agreements and, secondarily, those areas where drainage basins come under exclusive national territory. In the latter case, again, we must distinguish between policies for those areas with acute problems and for those areas where preserving the quality and sufficiency of the water is problematic.

2. For spatial planning to be sustainable and effective there must be a feedback procedure with a national integrated scientific monitoring system, comprising a sufficient number of stations and measurement procedures as well as, moreover, adequate publicity and the highlighting of any issues that may arise concerning research and scientific monitoring.

3. The integrated spatial planning policy for water is also associated with the fulfilment of the synergy and the consistent implement of policies concerning the use of water for energy, the use of water for biodiversity and the productive use of water in the agricultural and other sectors, along with a demand for an integrated productive and consumer framework of identifying responsibilities, specialised and with specific systems, such as, for example, for farmers, for urban use, and so on.

4. Spatial planning policy must be supported by a system of concentrating and utilising experiences from the international arena, as well as with the creation of pilot systems for water, which will, of course, have a different orientation. For example, in the South-East Europe, a Balkan and Mediterranean consultation on trans-boundary water management is imperative. Here we can highlight the question of water also as a political issue for international cooperation and its broadening, with the prospect of establishing environmental standards as well as the principles of peaceful development.

5. In any event, there must exist applications of new technology, research and innovation in both water use and recovery – quantitatively and qualitatively. The development of integrated crisis management models for each drainage basin is also necessary.

6. Alongside this, and within the framework of environmental studies for the management of bodies of water, based on the standards of the Natura 2000 network, issues relating to showcasing the values of water must also be considered adroitly.

7. Here, the need arises, of course, for research into and the promotion of the values of water bodies, surface and underground, as bodies of water are characterised by qualitative differences and, consequently, by uses that require a higher or lower yield for the agricultural sector, for tourism, biodiversity, irrigation and the cultural qualities of the geographically adjacent regions.
In Greece, there are many bodies of water that have not been brought out as values and which, ultimately, are degraded due to the ignorance displayed in the making of decisions both for the protection of the environment and for sustainable development.

8. An important role in the protection and utilisation of water is played by the voluntary water conservation and quality systems – systems that can be formed with many instruments of development, such as local agreements on water quality and water supply, which can link the production and consumption of water and the application of new technologies to household, agricultural, industrial and tourism use. In general, we can say that water has a crucial role in procedures for environmental quality and certification management and for this reason both the standard, recognised environmental certifications and marks should be promoted as well as other voluntary systems, which may have a local or national character and function as factors of added value in relation to water.

9. Finally, we must observe that the protection of bodies of water is also bound up with the protection of forest and other systems. In other words, a water protection policy presupposes that there be an administrative mapping of the sources and flows of bodies of water, directly connected with land uses as well as with the development of all tools for the recording of geographical data. Here, the necessity for the completion of the national cadastre must be underscored, as well as the establishment of a national forest cadastre.

10. Alongside the institutional issues relating to water management and protection, an integrated system for educating citizens, businesspeople and employees – as well as the authorities – on water must be developed. Public discussions on the subject of water are necessary, and they must be promoted through effective communications messages, aiming at awareness raising and environmental education.

11. Finally, it must be noted that water policy should be accompanied by a political dialogue on the legislated funds. This initiative must be taken at a high political level.

We must immediately map out the necessary funds and carve out dynamic policies in relation to water. For example, we must estimate what the cost is for the full recovery of quality and quantity, and of the infrastructure and protection works for bodies of water that must be done on both a national and a regional level.

Ioannis Zisis, writer

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