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  May 1999    

UNU/INWEH continues focus on water management capacity-building projects
The United Nations University International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU/INWEH), now in its third full year of work, has projects underway or planned in Central America, Africa, and the Middle East. In line with UNU/INWEH's goal of addressing a cross section of key water issues, these initial projects reflect a deliberate balance between national and community-level engagement, global- and basin-scale issues, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and water quantity versus water quality activities.

UNU/INWEH's focus for 1999 is on continued development and implementation of capacity-building projects (including training) and consolidation of supporting institutional mechanisms, particularly its International Cooperating Offices (ICOs).

Projects in Latin America

"Wastewater Biosolids Management in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico" is UNU/INWEH's first income-generating project. The project goal is to create a comprehensive, self-sustaining system for collecting, transporting, and applying sewage biosolids as agricultural fertilizer. Phase 1 of this 3-year project was completed in 1998 with an implementation plan that factors in important social, scientific, economic, regulatory and agricultural issues. Phase 2, now underway, will elaborate a Master Plan and begin research, technology demonstration, training, and institutional capacity building.

UNU/INWEH's second project in Mexico is "A National Capacity-Building Framework for the Mexican Water Sector," which is being undertaken jointly with the Environmental Education and Training Institute of North America (EETINA). Phase 1 planning was completed in 1998, and preparation of detailed work plans and community demonstration projects began in early 1999.

"Sustainable Management of the Meso-American Caribbean Barrier Reef System" is the first UNU/INWEH engagement in marine-related research and capacity building in the Caribbean Rim. This project includes the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras and involves training, institutional capacity building, public awareness programmes, marine resource monitoring, and applied research.

"Interrelationships among Climate Variation, Climate Change and Persistent Organic Pollutant Cycling in the Americas" is a four-year proposal to the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research for creation of a collaborative research network to study the fate and impacts in tropical regions of persistent pollutants, as affected by a changing climate. UNU/INWEH would serve as network coordinator.

Under contract with the World Bank and the Colombian Government, a UNU/INWEH consortium will create a "National Certification Programme for Environmental Analytical Laboratories" based at Colombia's Hydrological, Meteorological and Environmental Studies Institute (IDEAM). And, as part of a World Bank-funded programme to improve environmental management of Bolivian mines, UNU/INWEH will work with the Pan American Health Organization's CEPIS Laboratory in Lima, Peru, to design and deliver a "train-the-trainer" programme in "Monitoring and Assessment of Mining Impacts" (including physical, chemical, and biological effects).

Projects in the Middle East

In the Middle East, the priority in 1998 was to identify and develop projects and fund-raising opportunities. Project-specific funding and operational grants are being considered by the Arab Gulf Programme for UN Development Organizations (AGFUND) in Saudi Arabia and the Zayed Charitable Foundation in Abu Dhabi.

"Groundwater Remediation in Doha, Qatar," UNU/INWEH's first Middle East project, began in early 1999.

UNU/INWEH, the UNDP, and the Islamic University of Gaza also have developed several capacity-building proposals in response to urgent water sector needs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip identified by the Palestinian Ministry of Environment and the Palestinian Water Authority.

Other regional UNU/INWEH initiatives for 1999 include:

  • three projects (on environmental database systems, pollution and seafood contamination, and quality analysis of desalinated water) in the UAE;

  • a cooperative project to assess the aquatic impacts of effluents from sewage treatment plants in Saudi Arabia;

  • participation in the organization, delivery, and certification of water-related training programmes and creation of an "Environmental Management Training Center" in Jordan; and

  • organization and delivery of workshop programmes on "Environmental Management Information Systems" throughout the region.

Projects in Africa

UNU/INWEH's strategy in Africa has been to establish an early presence through pilot projects while consulting on future programme directions.

A pilot project in West Africa, "Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Development in the African Sahel," involves installing solar-powered groundwater pumps in peri-urban areas, with community-level training on technical, water quality, health, and economic issues. Efforts in East Africa are focused on "Capacity-Building Assistance for Sustainable Environmental Management of Lake Victoria." UNU/INWEH will provide training, research, and management advice for the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme being implemented by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as help to organize an international conference in late 1999 on the "State of the Lake Ecosystem."

UNU/INWEH will also work with the Nairobi Office of Canada's International Development Research Center to plan and raise funds for the proposed Water Hyacinth Information Exchange Network to address the worsening problem of water hyacinth infestations in Africa and the Middle East.

Training and education efforts

Training continues to emphasize a "demand-side" model in which, wherever possible, the local academic community co-develops and delivers the training. Major recent and current UNU/INWEH efforts include:

  • providing academic and institutional assistance to Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda) to plan and implement a regional aquatic toxicology research and teaching programme;

  • discussions with Canada's Waterloo University to jointly fund a "UNU Chair on International Great Lakes Research";

  • creation of an "Environmental Laboratory Certification Consortium" (UNU/ELACC) with the Pan American Center for Sanitary Engineering and Environmental Sciences (CEPIS) in Peru, the National Water Research Institute of Canada, the Canadian Association for Environmental Analytical Laboratories, and several university aquatic chemistry laboratories;
  • establishment of a partnership with CEPIS in Peru;

  • discussions regarding a water monitoring training partnership with the global UNEP/WHO GEMS/WATER Programme; and

  • confirmation of informal partnerships with the Canadian Water Resources Association and with the Grand River and Hamilton Region Conservation Authorities in Canada to develop and deliver training and capacity-building services in integrated river-basin management.

Internet-based resources

As the UNU's representative on the UN ACC Subcommittee on Water Resources, UNU/INWEH will contribute to several system-wide, water-related activities in 1999. These include the World Water Development Report and the UN Water Database on the World Wide Web.

UNU/INWEH's own website ( continues to be updated and expanded. It now provides access to a global map database, various environmental information databases, and a database on Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies and applications. The site also includes a prototype demonstration of a subscription-free, Internet-based refereed journal on water, environment, and health that UNU/INWEH is considering launching.

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