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Project to manage groundwater approved

[Swaziland] Drought-hit field. IRIN
Poor rainfall in recent years has led to perennial water shortages
A project to manage groundwater and drought in southern Africa was approved by the World Bank (WB) this week. The Groundwater and Drought Management project will cost US $7.5 million, and is being funded by a $7 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with the remainder provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). GEF is a mechanism for providing new and additional grant and concessional funding to achieve agreed global environmental benefits in six focal areas: climate change, biological diversity, international waters, ozone layer depletion, land degradation, and persistent organic pollutants. The WB is one of GEF's implementing agencies. The project is to be executed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with a four-year objective of developing a regional strategic approach that supports and enhances the capacity of member states to design and implement drought-management policies, specifically in relation to the role, availability and supply potential of groundwater resources. Most SADC countries suffer from erratic rainfall. According to WB, about one-third of the people in the region live in drought-prone areas, where groundwater is the primary source of water for people, livestock and most other activities. Groundwater, which also the primary source of water for many ecosystems, is under threat from over-exploitation, pollution and the introduction of exotic species, noted WB. "These threats arise primarily because of poverty, linked to an increase in population pressure, as well as from irrigated agriculture, tourism, mining and pollution from human waste and agricultural chemicals ... At the regional level there is a need for an effective mechanism to manage the numerous transborder watersheds, including groundwater," said WB. The project will initiate the pilot testing of practical local groundwater drought-management strategies in the Limpopo river basin in South Africa, and facilitate research into groundwater-dependent ecosystems, their occurrence, vulnerability, value and protection. Besides developing groundwater drought-management tools and guidelines, a regional Groundwater Management Institute of Southern Africa will be established for long-term monitoring and the promotion of better management and awareness at national level and in the SADC region as a whole.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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