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Dear KM4Dev Members,
Here is the first Case Study for Week 1. This case is provided by CONDESAN, which was founded in 1993 and has since consolidated its position as an important platform for issues related to natural resource management and sustainable development in the Andean region, particularly in water and watershed management. CONDESAN generates and shares information and knowledge about natural resource management in Andean rural societies to promote policy dialogues with local actors, national governments and regional organisms. The organization seeks to strengthen Andean human and institutional capital in order to promote new leaders for sustainable development in the Andes.
Thank you in advance for your comments.
The basin is located in the Inter-Andean region of southern Ecuador, in the provinces of Azuay and Cañar, with a total surface area of 235 km2. It is a sub-basin of the Paute River which pertains to the Santiago hydrographic system on the Atlantic slope, and is considered one of the country’s most important, since it is the location of two hydroelectric power plants and provides water for the city of Cuenca. In addition, 77% of the total surface of the basin pertains to the Machangara–Tomebamba Protected Forest. According to the Ministry of Environment, this space collects approximately 305 cubic hectares of rainwater every year, as a result of having 1118.40 mm/year average annual precipitation (IHHA, 2006).
The Machángara River basin is highly representative of Andean basins because it is a basin with multiple uses on which hundreds of thousands of users depend. This dependence results in increasing pressure on ecosystems, which has caused constant degradation, fueled by population growth, increased extractive activities and the intensification of natural disasters associated with climate change.
Prior to the formation of the Machángara River Basin Council in 1998, the basin was a space for the exploitation of resources, where a sectorized perspective and use of water prevailed. The electricity sector, the public potable water and sewer service sector and the irrigation sector used the water destined for the different uses as they saw fit, with little coordination among them, which turned into a competition and a source of conflict.
Thirty-two conflicts have been recorded, with access to water as the main cause of conflicts and tension among the different users. Other causes are pollution of water sources by the mining industry, inadequate management of solid waste and wastewater, and private appropriation of land in the upper part of the basin, especially the moors.
Water management in the basin was markedly sectorial. There are 11 public entities with water management authority in the province, with overlapping roles and functions, and there were no clear coordination mechanisms or joint actions.
Soil use was disorderly, with a weak system for control over aspects associated with the location of public works, mining operations, aggregate extraction, fish farming, agriculture, urbanization and industrial operations.
The basin had vulnerable areas due to geological conditions, as well as improper use of natural resources, including an increase in deforestation and crops on high slopes, which caused water pollution and the accumulation of sediments in water regulating works used as sources to supply electrical and potable water systems.
In the upper basin, extensive pasturing of cattle and horses prevailed, which added to soil degradation and water pollution. In addition, there was the seasonal burning of vegetation from grasslands to obtain straw used as cattle feed.
An on-going threat was the logging of native trees and the collection of brush to be used as fuel by families living in the basin or to generate income from selling it.
Analysis of the problem determined that the impact on the rural population was significant, as their productive capacity and basic means of subsistence were endangered as a consequence of the degradation of soils and the vegetation cover, establishing the need for conservation activities in this part of the basin. In addition, it revealed the need to implement negotiation processes and to reach agreements among the different users in order to improve the efficiency of water use and guarantee its supply in a context of population growth and climate change.
In this context, the Basin Council established the objective of achieving effective coordination among the participating institutions and users in the basin to make its sustainable development possible, with emphasis on water management as part of natural resource management.
For this purpose, the need to foster and implement integral management of water resources in the jurisdiction of the Machángara basin was identified, using the policies established by the SENAGUA as a basis. In addition, a formal basis for future interinstitutional relations was created in order to unify initiatives and avoid duplication of efforts in the technical, administrative, economic and logistical areas related to the project, as well as to take advantage of the resources available to institutions in their field of competence in order to facilitate technical cooperation.
For the purpose of dealing with the aforementioned problems, on July 28, 1998 an interinstitutional agreement was signed on the formation of the Basin Council for integral management of the Machángara River basin, which is composed of the National Secretariat for Water – SENAGUA, National Irrigation Institute – INAR, ELECAUSTRO, ETAPA, Universidad de Cuenca, the Ministry of Environment, JGUSRM and the Provincial Government of AZUAY. This council has a board of directors, a technical committee and a technical secretariat in charge of supervising and coordinating the council’s actions with its members and other organizations that are not participants in the council.
In the year 2001, a strategic plan titled “Development Plan Guidelines” was formulated, establishing a vision of forming a leading hydrographic basin network with clear environmental sensitivity, generating a water culture among the inhabitants of the region. For this purpose, a process was implemented to coordinate and articulate the capacities and resources of member organizations and institutions for management of the basin. They facilitate consensus on the exploitation of water and other natural resources from a sustainable perspective and oversee compliance; manage resources and applicable legislation based on participatory proposals in local, national and international contexts; plan sustainable development of the basin and stimulate actions and initiatives of actors that contribute to conservation of the basin.
In this process, some important milestones have been identified: In 2003, the main organizations that exchange experiences, information, technology and financial and legal mechanisms implemented as part of the management of the basin were integrated. In 2005, actions were established in the framework of the territorial planning and management plan and, in 2007, a plan was implemented for the exploitation of natural resources, particularly follow-up, evaluation, monitoring and oversight regarding water.
The following are among the main strategies implemented:
· When a company adopts the basin approach to resource management, it is recognized as another development actor and is capable of approaching other actors in its context and even leading dialogue and consensus building for sustainable resource management, reducing the level of social conflict, improving the availability and quality of the resource it uses and increasing its profitability.
· The Basin Council as a management platform makes it possible to optimize the technical, economic and human resources of the entities or organizations involved, due to which the investments required to manage a basin are shared. In addition, duplicating functions is avoided and organizational strengthening and exchange between participating organizations are promoted.
· An established national and/or local legal framework is not necessarily required in order to form a basin council. In its absence, the formation of a basin council could provide the inputs for the construction of effective legal and interinstitutional frameworks.
· The formation of a basin council through the implementation of its different tools not only contributes to integral resource management; it also generates sources of employment and higher income for the local population.
· The generation of reliable local information and access to it, communicated through adequate systems, enables the actors in the basin to understand the socioenvironmental processes in which they are involved, facilitating dialogue and better decision making.
Key success factors
· Work at the managerial and technical level in order to achieve institutional participation in the process, with strategies such as lobbying among managers and mid-level employees, as well as individual and shared convictions
· As institutions forming the Basin Council have financing capacity and are users of the basin, coordinated actions are taken based on common interests and objectives.
· Signing of interinstitutional coordination agreements on conservation with local governments, communities and other actors according to the competences of each institution. They recognize and share the benefits of coordinated efforts, which motivates them to continue contributing.
· Concrete actions in the field, some of which articulate conservation with productive projects in order to gain credibility and trust among members of the council and the population of the basin
· It is a basin that is regulated by the Chanlud dam (17 hectometers) and the El Labrado dam (6 hectometers), which permits planning use of the resource.
· There is a large amount of information on the basin, drawn up by institutions.
· There is a strategy for communication on problems related to the basin, actions taken and results achieved, which makes use of monthly publications, posters, and direct communication, among other means of communication.
· Committed promoters with real authority granted by the Ministry of Environment and certification from Universidad de Cuenca
· Effective control system composed of forest rangers and communal promoters as guards, and CCRM with the capacity to exert pressure and facilitate the Ministry of Environment’s efforts to enforce legal sanctions
· The Machángara River basin is representative of the Andes, where the main water users are cities, agriculture and hydroelectric power plants.
· The experience of the Machángara River Basin Council has been obtained based on its will to coordinate and agree upon the best way to manage water and other natural resources, despite not having legal recognition of the Basin Council as such, demonstrating that efficient water management is achieved based on the actors willingness to engage in dialogue based on reliable information.
· The legislation on water management in several countries in the region has recently incorporated the basin approach. All of them consider the formation of basin councils, due to which methodologies and tools are being established for their formation. This experience could be the basis for promoting and consolidating these platforms.
· In the region there are several basins with conflicts among users of water for irrigation and hydroelectricity generation companies. The causes vary, but all of them have to do with access to water, adequate management of flows and the impacts of the construction of storage dams. Machángara has developed different negotiation mechanisms that have made it possible to reach agreements on harmonious use of water in the basin.
· The Machángara experience has developed and implemented several mechanisms for sharing the benefits of the basin’s water, among which the following stand out: the water fund, green guardian programs, and the program for community management of natural resources, among others. This demonstrates that mechanisms for sharing benefits are an important tool for managing the basin.
 General Secretariat of the Andean Community of Nations – SGCAN, 2009. “Ecosistemas de los Andes del Norte y Centro” (Ecosystems of the Northern and Central Andes)
 General Secretariat of the Andean Community of Nations – SGCAN, 2010. Estrategia Andina para la gestión integrada de los recursos hídricos. (Andean strategy for integral management of water resources) Document presented at the subregional workshop EA-GIRH, April 8 and 9. Lima.
 ENDE. 1987. Inventario de potencial hidroenergético de Bolivia. (Inventory of Bolivia’s hydroelectric potential) La Paz: ENDE.
 CONELEC. 2009. Plan maestro de electrificación (Master plan for electrification). Quito, Ecuador.
 GTZ & LIS. (1979). Evaluación del potencial hidroeléctrico nacional (Evaluation of the national hydroelectric potential). Lima: MEM.
 IUCN, 2002. High Andean wetlands. Tech. rep. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
 Buytaert, W., Célleri, R., De Bièvre, B., Cisneros, F., Wyseure, G., Deckers, J. & Hofstede, R. (2006) Human impact on the hydrology of the Andean páramos. Earth-Sci. Rev. 79, 53–72.
 Dourojeanni, A. 2010. Gestión integral de cuencas y recursos hídricos y cambio climático (Integral management of iver basins, water resources and climate change). Presentation by Foro Perú – Netherlands: La gestión del agua y el cambio climático (Water management and climate change), Lima, October 21 and 22.
 Dourojeanni, A. 2011. Capacidades institucionales para la gestión del agua frente al desafío del cambio climático en AL (Institutional capacities for water management in the face of the challenge of climate change in LA). Santiago, Chile.