Water - a precious resource and linked to survival - is being threatened from human activities. Change in climate system has posed additional threat to water resources. People face and will continue to face socio-economic challenges from water scarcity. People living in the dryland would further experience remarkable impacts of water scarcity, while island people may consider it a 'risk' with threatened existence from sea level rise.
Understanding the emerging threats of water scarcity, lack of access to a safe drinking water and basic sanitation services, lack of capacity to ensure integrated water resources management (IWRM), increased water- and climate-induced disasters and pollution, international community has realized the urgency for addressing water issue individually and/or and jointly.
On the initiative of the Republic of Tajikistan, the UN General Assembly on 21 December 2016 adopted a resolution to observe 'International Decade (2018-2028) for Action - Water for Sustainable Development (WSD)', an enhanced commitment after a 2005-2015 decade for action on 'water for life'. This WSD was started on World Water Day (WWD, 22 March 2018) and will end on 22 March 2028 by observing WWD. This decade is expected to promote efficient use of water at all levels.
Water Decade focuses, inter alia, on sustainable development and IWRM to achieve socio-economic and environmental objectives by promoting cooperation and strengthening multi-stakeholder partnership at all levels to achieve SDGs. This Decade will engage countries to further realize the urgency of conserving and sustainably utilizing water resources, and to enhance cooperation and effective participation of multi-stakeholder actors, generate and disseminate knowledge and learning to achieve water-related SDG targets, and promote sustainable use of water.
On 29 December 2020, UN General Assembly adopted the provisional agenda for UN Water Conference to support to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SD). This Conference will assess the progress of implementation of the decadal objectives, identify possible challenges & obstacles and opportunities & innovative ways to accelerate progress, exchange views and develop actions, and share experiences good practices. The Conference report would include the summaries of the interactive dialogues such as of side-events, seminars, workshops and panel discussion to advance the implementation of the decadal actions.
Water communities underscore the importance of water to adapt to climate change impacts and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions by generating and utilizing clean energy, replace use of fossil fuels and contribute to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. They have committed to advance water-related actions to achieve the 2030 Agenda for SD, implement actions of the Water Action Decade (2018-2028), and other initiatives that address water crisis.
The UN Water Conference to be held at New York from 22 to 24 March 2023 is expected to agree on Water Action Agenda (WAA). The UN Member States and multi-stakeholders may include actions as a part of the Action Agenda and implement them voluntarily during the remaining period of the Water Decade and the 2030 Agenda for SD. The Agenda is expected to include voluntary commitments for water actions, ensure their implementation through multi-stakeholders participation with provisions for sustaining and scaling-up actions, and follow-up annual review.
Nepal will participate in the UN Water Conference and will organise a side-event on 24 March 2023at the UN Headquarters on 'achieving water security in Nepal in a changing climate' to share challenges and lessons learned for achieving water security in the context of climate change. This side-event is expected to focus on growing water insecurity, opportunities and difficulties of implementing local solutions to water insecurity, understanding connections amongst water, energy, food and ecosystem, and possible contribution of Water Tracker tool to support increase water security and resilience. Outcomes of the side-event may contribute to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation in water resources stream and also contribute to move towards water security by building adaptation capacity of the climate vulnerable and water-dependent communities in Nepal.
Nepal's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), 2020 targets to: (i) expand clean energy generation to 15,000 MW by 2030; and (ii) ensure supply of 15% of the total energy demand from clean energy sources. Clean energy will likely increase the usage of e-vehicles, and e-cooking, which will reduce GHGs emissions by replacing fossil fuels. The NDC Implementation Plan, 2022 has identified activities, inter alia, to develop hydropower plants, policies and legislations for deregulation in the energy market, strengthen early warning system for risk reduction, increase involvement of local government and local communities in developing, managing and maintenance of renewable energy plants, launch electricity distribution system audit and safety audit mechanism, promote electricity use in residential, commercial, industrial, transportation and agriculture sectors to reduce GHGs emissions.
Nepal has prepared the National Adaptation Plan (NAP, 2021-2050) to reduce climate vulnerability of water resources sector as well. NAP has prioritized eight adaptation programs on energy and water resources and their effective implementation is expected to lower the risk of Glacier Lake Outburst Floods, improve water availability, promote clean energy mix and build national capacity to promote climate resilient water resource management and hydropower generation.
Nepal will chair the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Coordination Bureau as agreed at Doha in March 2023. The 5th UN Conference of LDCs at Doha has adopted the Program of Action (PoA) for LDCS. On water sector, Doha PoA includes actions, inter alia, to provide safe drinking water and sanitation, accelerate access to climate-resilient water and sanitation services, increase access to technology, and develop and implement IWRM interventions. The DPoA underlines multiple pressures in the water resources and their sensitivity to climate change impacts such as the drying-up of sources, disruption in rainfall patterns and increased frequency of extreme and slow-onset events. It realizes the urgency of, inter alia, localizing climate actions, including support for local governments, build resilience of communities, support for climate resilient water infrastructure, and urge for capacity building and finance for adaptation to climate change to reduce climate vulnerability.
Keeping in view the actions specified in NDC, NAP, DPoA, barriers prioritized (policy implementation, institutional coordination, and data & capacity building) under the Global Water Leadership Program and outcomes of the application of Water Tracker tool in 14 climate change and water resources policies and plans that informs to make water policies and plans 'climate-resilient' and climate policies and plans 'water-smart', Nepal may wish to prioritize actions for Water Action Agenda and commit for their voluntary implementation to promote climate-resilient water resources management and expedite replacing fossil fuels by clean energy sources.
Water must be considered a 'resource' than simply understanding it a 'sector' and a pronounced 'risk' for climate- and water-induced disasters, and should accept its contribution to reduce GHGs emissions and achieve adaptation goals.
Nepal may wish to use this UN Water Conference an opportunity to inform the global community on our initiatives, knowledge and learning and urgency for making water resources climate-resilient for its sustained use. Nepal may also wish to inform its voluntary actions under Water Action Agenda to advance IWRM, further realize the role of water resources in mitigating climate change impacts and initiate actions in partnership with the multi-stakeholders. This Conference may be an opportunity to inform national and sub-national challenges, and urge international communities to expedite channelling of additional support from bilateral and multilateral sources and climate finance to implement national targets and commitments to effectively implement the Water Action Agenda, and contribute to the Paris Agreement on climate change.