Mahe, Seychelles – On 29 August 2017, the ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change of Seychelles conducted a training on negotiation, conflict management and resolution mechanisms in the context Integrated Water Resources Management. The training gathered 18 participants, among which members of Caiman and Val d’En D’Or watershed committees established by the Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EBA) project that is also implemented by the ministry.
The Government of the Seychelles recently embraced the principles of sustainability and equity that underlie the IWRM concept and moved to adopt a National Water Policy and accompanying IWRM Plan. It is currently engaged in the process of drafting of a Water Act. The Act will consolidate fragmented legislation into a single law and provide a legal basis for managing water in a way that is consistent with an IWRM approach.
One of the key areas that will be addressed by these reforms is the need to map and protect watersheds in Seychelles. Watershed protection is a means of protecting a lake, river, or water stream by managing the entire area of land that drains into it. The watershed of a river includes all the land which drains into a river, the upland and wooded areas where streams begin, as well as areas nearer the river itself. Managing this area may involve soil and water conservation, afforestation, fodder, animal husbandry, fuelwood and community development.
The EBA Project is aiming to reduce climate change impacts in Seychelles by protecting ecosystems in order to secure water provision and flood attenuation functions that watersheds and coastal areas naturally provide. The project has been creating water committees in order to promote ownership and educate local communities on the location, extent, properties of their local watershed.
Conflict or absence of clearly defined rights has historically been identified as major factor in the failure of many sustainable watershed management projects. State and customary laws are usually used to resolve conflict over water rights; however, both are problematic, as even legal means can be protracted by power imbalances between privileged and poorer actors. A third approach is ‘amicable settlement’ with provisional solutions unilaterally agreed by contesting parties.
Promoting a shared understanding of watershed functions and training local communities to alternative ways to reconcile the diverse interests and expectations of multiple stakeholders at the watershed level is key to preventing conflict and promoting sustainable watershed management.
This workshop was organised under the framework of the Atlantic & Indian Ocean Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) project, financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and jointly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and executed by the United Nations Office for Project Support (UNOPS).