BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and Global Water Partnership (GWP), have launched a joint Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP), to improve monitoring and prevention of one of the world’s greatest natural hazards - drought.
It was launched on March 13, 2013 at the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP) in Geneva, Switzerland, where decision-makers and scientists from around the world met to discuss proactive, forward-looking national drought policies to replace the current piecemeal, reactive approach.
Commenting on the importance of the IDMP, GWP Executive Secretary, Dr. Ania Grobicki said; “Whether because of climate variability or climate change, droughts have a severe impact on water availability and quality, agricultural and energy production, and ecosystem health.”
“There is an urgent need to develop better drought monitoring and risk management systems, and for countries to have frameworks in place to manage drought risks through an integrated approach. This programme aims to support countries in this endeavour, within their regional contexts,” Dr. Grobicki added.
For his part, WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud, stated that “Without coordinated national drought policies, nations will continue to respond to drought in a reactive way.”
“What we need are monitoring and early warning systems to deliver timely information to decision makers, effective impact assessment procedures, pro-active risk management measures, preparedness plans to increase coping capacities, and effective emergency response programmes to reduce the impacts of droughts. The Integrated Drought Management Programme is therefore an important initiative,” he stressed.
Adding his voice to the importance of the programme, Alex Simalabwi, GWP’s global climate change focal point opined that “The increase in catastrophic events such as droughts and floods will impact lives, livelihoods, land values, and investment incentives, especially in vulnerable areas inhabited by poorer populations.”
According to Sabina Bokal, project manager for the new GWP Central and Eastern Europe drought programme located in Bratislava, Slovakia, “In co-operation with national hydro-meteorological institutions, river basin authorities, ministries, research institutions and the Southern and Eastern Europe Drought Monitoring Centre (DMC), the project will implement drought monitoring and risk assessments.”
The new programme capitalises on the ten years of success with the Associated Programme on Flood Management, a joint project of WMO, the Global Water Partnership, Japan, Switzerland and many other partners and will focus especially on sharing scientific information, knowledge and best practices to advise policies and management approaches.
A growing concern worldwide is that droughts are increasing in frequency and severity, due to climate change, which was discussed at the Geneva meeting where a GWP delegation from several regions and the Global Secretariat participated.
At global level, it is expected that the IDMP will contribute to best practices related to drought risk management through: better scientific understanding of, and inputs for, drought management; improved knowledge base, with better access to information and products; drought risk assessment, monitoring, prediction, and early warning; policy and planning for drought preparedness and mitigation across sectors; and drought risk reduction and response.
Better drought management is also one of the priorities of the Global Framework for Climate Services, the GFCS. This framework is now being implemented by governments with support from several partners from the United Nations System.
It is widely held that climate services can be a powerful tool to increase drought resilience, by improving climate information and services, especially for the most vulnerable, and that they will build on fast improving climate prediction capabilities.
GWP is responding to the climate change challenge through a portfolio of programmes and projects aimed at building climate resilience through better water management. Initial implementation of the regional drought programmes will however, focus on Central and Eastern Europe, the Sahel (GWP West Africa) and the Horn of Africa (through GWP Eastern Africa).
According to the Global Water Partnership, these regional programmes will contribute to the global integrated drought management programme located within WMO´s Water and Climate Department.