Challenges of megacities related to water and climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean
More than 100 representatives from Latin American megacities (Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Lima and Santiago), from water and sanitation operators, and from the academia were in São Paulo (Brazil) this week to address issues and solutions related to water management in the face of climate change, as well as to discuss about the establishment of a regional chapter of the Megacities Alliance for Water and Climate (MAWAC). The Latin American Conference on Megacities, Water and Climate Change took place in the City Hall of São Paulo, at the auditorium of Matarazzo Building (Viaduto do Chá, 15 - Centro, São Paulo – SP), from 7 to 8 May, 2019.
The conference was organized by UNESCO Headquarters, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Sciences in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNESCO Office in Montevideo), and UNESCO in Brazil, in the framework of UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme (IHP). It counted on the partnership of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), Research and Local Government Association on Water (ARCEAU Ile- de-France) and the the Interdepartmental Association for Sanitation of the Paris Agglomeration (Syndicat Interdépartemental d’Assainissement de l’Aglomeration Parisienne – SIAAP). It also counted on the support of the National Water Agency (ANA, in the Portuguese acronym) of Brazil and the City Hall of São Paulo.
“We are here today to establish a cooperation platform among megacities so that they can find together the solutions for water resources management and the provision of related services, facing challenges which are exacerbated due to climate change. The idea is that the megacities produce and exchange knowledge in resolving their problems related to their water security”, explains the Specialist of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme, Alexandros Makarigakis.
The Director General of SIAAP, Joakim Giacomoni-Vincent, agrees and alerts that “all countries share similar problems when we talk about water and climate change. For 10 years we have been talking about climate change as a future problem, and now we are having to deal with it”.
On the first day of the event, the participants discussed the current and future climate change impacts on the water security of megacities in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the risks to their economic activity and social stability, and the possible solutions for these issues. Representatives of the megacities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Bogotá presented their water systems, current challenges, emerging issues, planning and managing water in the future.
For the Director of ARCEAU Île-de-France, Jean-Claude Deutsch, “beyond the specificities of each megacity, there are some macro points in common, and the preoccupation with water resources is one of them”. The representatives from the cities agreed that even though each city haves its own specificities, many solutions to guarantee water security can be shared. In São Paulo, for example, “since the city is far from the ocean, from lakes and from flowing rivers, it becomes a great laboratory of ideas to provide safety water for population”, says the Executive Secretary of International Relations of São Paulo, Luiz Álvaro.
The Director of Regulation of ANA, Oscar Cordeiro Netto, believes that “the distribution of water resources is a challenge in Brazil, because even though the country has water abundance, a great portion of the population experiences water scarcity”. He believes that this fact can generate and exacerbate conflicts, because “the demand for water may increase in 30% in the next 20 years”.
On the second day, a restricted group of specialists learned about the framework of a regional alliance of megacities and discussed the Terms of Reference for a LAC chapter of MAWAC. They agreed on this new regional alliance and the idea is that, from now on, it enhances the South-South cooperation among LAC megacities in the fields of research, technical solutions, education and information and, more generally, public policies in water management.
For the president of the Water and Sanitation Company of São Paulo (Sabesp), Benedito Braga, “the big impacts of climate change is mainly felt in the water resources sector. It happens in more frequent and intense floods, or in more extended and frequent droughts. The adaptation agenda is crucial and, in this context, an alliance to treat the themes of climate change and water is extremely important”.
“Creative and innovative solutions, that are able to agglutinate means and resources to enhance life quality in megacities must be in our discussions. The alliance of megacities will become an intelligent tool to provide solutions for water management to the scenario of climate change”, evaluates the executive secretary of the Water and Sanitation Steering Committee of São Paulo, Marco Palermo. The executive secretary of ICLEI South America, Rodrigo de Oliveira Perpétuo, complements saying that “the multilevel and multistakeholder cooperation is the way to strengthen the regional alliance for water management in megacities”.
The conference provided an excellent opportunity of dialogue among stakeholders on water and climate change issues in the LAC region, and of preparation for the 2nd International Conference on Megacities Water and Climate Change (EauMega 2020), to be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (France), next year.
From left to right: Alexandros Makarigakis, Programme Specialist, International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO; Luiz Álvaro, Executive Secretary of International Relations of São Paulo Municipality, representing Bruno Covas, Mayor of Sao Paulo; Benedito Braga, President, Water and Sanitation Company of Sao Paulo State (SABESP), representing João Doria, State Governor of Sao Paulo; Marco Palermo, Secretary Executive, Water and Sanitation Steering Committee of Sao Paulo.