Tim Kasten is the Deputy Director of UNEP's Division of Environmental Policy Implementation and Coordinator of the Freshwater and Terrestrial Ecosystems Branch of UNEP and currently serves as Vice-Chair of UN-Water. We asked him to reflect upon the achievements made to address water quality challenges over the past year and his thoughts on the emerging priorities for the near future.
Finally, where we already have water quality problems and degraded ecosystems we need to restore them. Restoring water resources is costly, which is why we focus first on pollution prevention and wastewater treatment. But even when you reach the point where you need to restore an ecosystem to restore water quality, and to restore the functionality of that system to purify, regulate and provide water, it is still usually brings a positive return on investment in economic benefits alone.
We have recently done a study at UNEP where we looked at some ecosystem restoration projects. In the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa, for example, the ecosystem was restored through re-vegetation and replanting of grasslands. That project cost 4.5 million USD and another 1 million USD for maintenance, which one may think is not cheap. But the returns on that investment are monetized at 7.4 million USD per year and it provides 300 jobs. This is very much a green economy issue: through ecosystem restoration we have created jobs and an economy at a cost that was less than the investment for the restoration of that very same ecosystem.
You are currently helping to lead the production of a major report with UN Water for the upcoming Earth Summit 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Going back in Rio in 1992, in the Chapter on Freshwater1, there was a call for integrated approaches to water resources management. This has evolved into what is commonly called simply IWRM (integrated water resources management) and is a very well accepted process and means toward implementation of water resource management plans. What we would like to do after 20 years is take a look at how well we have done at integrated approaches to water resources management. Through UN Water and together with partners, UNEP will lead a new report and process that looks into what the advances have been made in water resources management over the years and will be released at Rio in 2012.
The report will certainly take into account the vast body of work that has been done on IWRM, but will also look at the broader spectrum of water resource management as it was implied in the Rio Convention in 1992. In particular, we will be working with a key UN agencies and partners such as the Global Water Partnership who, through its intersectoral activities and its network of partner organizations around the world, has been addressing IWRM for many years. We are very much looking forward to working with GWP and our other UN Water members and partners to pull this report together.. We are very much looking forward to working with GWP and our other UN Water members and partners to pull this report together.