- M'hamed EL FASSKAOUI - Director of the Souss Massa Basin Agency - Morocco
- Alice ANDRAL - Expert in space hydrology - CNES - France
- Saad BENAMAR - Director of the Laboratory of Environmental, Plant and Urban Sciences - University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah - Fez (Morocco)
- Iakovos GANOULIS - Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Director of Water - Greece
- Abdoulaye SENE - Executive Secretary and Co-Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the organization of the 9th World Water Forum - Dakar 2021
- Timo JOKELAINEN - Director of ELY-Center of Lapland*- Finland, President of Euro-INBO for 2019-2020
- Khatim KHERRAZ - Executive Secretary, Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS)
- Yamna DJELLOULI - Biologist, Professor Emeritus of the University of Le Mans - Researcher in the Joint Research Unit "Space and Society" of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) - France
- Lansana FOFANA - High Commissioner - Organization for the Development of the Gambia River (OMVG) - Guinea
- Alejandro ROGRIGUEZ-MARTINEZ - Water Commissioner of the Confederación Hidrográfica del Guadalquivir (CHG) - Spain
What does INBO represent for you and what are its strong points in bringing together extremely diverse actors (from different continents, different types) within the framework of exchanges?
I often participate in international meetings and it is INBO meetings that have served INBO the most for our association, for the simple and only reason that the people who are there create a real link, with an exchange of knowledge that is concrete.
When the activity of our association had ceased a little since 2014 until today when we started by relaunching our STRATEAU modelling tool and the network of young water ambassadors and water ambassadors with the ministries of some countries.
When I arrived here, I realized that I was saving a lot of time because I was able to meet African leaders who want to work with the African Union of Young Water Ambassadors, and we will be able to prepare a session at the World Forum and make a proposal to have a coherent project that builds bridges between African youth.
I also exchanged with the Palestinian Minister of Water who was not familiar with the project, which is part of an official convention with the Union for the Mediterranean, and we were able to exchange views on the subject, give each other our contact details and promise to work together again and relaunch the project. I gained at least 6 months of work just by attending this INBO meeting, with the richness of being able to meet people and share knowledge.
In water, the global problem but the solutions are local, and it is important to share knowledge. And this, INBO really emphasizes it for an integrated management of water resources and to be able to fight against climate change.
How did these meetings contribute to your analyses and reflections on water management in general? How did it help you set up projects?
The people who come to INBO meetings are very interesting because they are real water managers, and they know the problem very well. They share their experiences, hence the richness of these meetings where there are politicians, hydrologists, scientists. The people who are present are already informed and aware, they are there to share knowledge and accumulate the wealth of knowledge, to help each other and to cooperate.
What could the network do to help set up a certain number of transnational policies or to help inform certain policies or bodies to change water policies on a global scale or on a regional or continental scale?
INBO, with its publications, with its capacity to bring together politicians and technicians from countries all over the world, helps basin agencies all over the world to be able to coordinate their actions, and this is how we can help decision-makers to take the right decisions in terms of international policy.
For example, INBO has done a lot for the European Water Framework Directive and its implementation. Now it is the next step: we should start by working properly with the UN so that water can be made a real issue, and so that it can be taken into consideration for climate change, because as everyone knows, the water cycle is crucial to disasters that happen in countries around the world. It is a policy awareness that is beginning to become real thanks, among other things, to INBO.
In your opinion, how did INBO contribute to addressing the question of water and resource management in a much broader way than just the resource itself, by integrating reflections from water-related sectors such as agriculture, tourism, industrial development?
When we talk about integrated water resources management, we are talking about the whole system of social life. Can we manage water without managing industry, without managing agriculture and without taking into account the economic and social aspects? INBO was among the first to understand the importance of putting water in all fields for good water management: water is an integral part of many activities, and depends on it for both economic and social aspects.
Recently, there was a World Bank report that said that water shortages are reducing the GDP of some countries by 30%.
So it is very important to manage it well and INBO had understood this before everyone else.
Is it possible for you to describe the activities of the organization you represent?
The Embassy of Water is an association that was born from an observation: large projects had funding, but it was difficult to get small projects, such as toilets in the depths of Africa, in Burkina Faso, to be financed by decentralized cooperation in France at 5000 €.
So the Water Embassy was born with Senator Oudin, who is our honorary president, to put the application of decentralized cooperation at the service of small projects.
And when the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM) was born, my Mediterranean side woke up (I am Lebanese by origin), I said to myself "it would be nice to be able to coordinate all the small projects in the Mediterranean basins so that we can carry them out by making a set of projects and a single financial file, perhaps we will manage to finance in a more relevant way and apply decentralized cooperation".
The first projects for eleven countries were made for the UPM in 2009; they were presented at the World Water Forum in Istanbul, unfortunately the UPM Expert Commission only chose five projects, which demobilized the other countries. Our then vice-president, Pascal Bertaud, thought about a project that could bring everyone together. With our young water ambassadors, who are engineering students, we have developed a modeling tool that can be used by all university research centres. STRATEAU was chosen in 2012 at the World Water Forum in Marseille as a "global solution for water". This efficient tool has stagnated a little since 2013 because of the conflicts that have occurred in some Mediterranean countries. And we worked in slow motion. But our young water ambassadors, who have been with us since 2009, have mobilized and petitioned, each to their own state, asking: "We want to get our network back on track, and we want this tool to be operational again". So we are getting the tool back on track, and I am here to renew the network, so that the old ones can work with the new young water ambassadors. The system is simple: the country's Ministry of Water works in coordination with the university research centre, and the teacher with the students to ensure that the data implemented in the tool are well accredited by the country's officials and are credible.
These young researchers contribute to a water data information system in each country.
It is not an information system per se, it is the micro data of the amount of water available to meet current and future demand. So we can write scenarios over 50 years, and make scenarios for decision support and, above all, help in water consultation, which is very important for making decisions. STRATEAU is not an information tool, it is a decision-making tool.
This tool is a link between science, research and public policy. Was it innovative enough for the time?
It was completely innovative and we realized that until today, there is no tool that allows consultation as a STRATEGY. That's why we decided to get it back online and I hope it will be operational in a month or two.
Interview conducted during INBO's 11th World General Assembly - From 30 September to 03 October 2019 in Marrakech (Morocco) - © RIOB 2019