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Building rapport in Euphrates-Tigris region

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Euphrates and Tigris River Basin is a region that is highly vulnerable to climate change. The riparian countries are interdependent and rely on water from the river system to maintain ecosystem services, agriculture and energy production, municipal and industrial water supply. The system is also affected by salinity, land degradation and deterioration of marshlands and ecosystems.

To varying degrees, these problems are common to the countries that share the basin: Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. As it is a transboundary river system, it is important there is effective regional collaboration to address the current and future challenges.

This was the main idea behind the Collaborative Program Euphrates and Tigris (CPET), a regional initiative funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and implemented by the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) jointly with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the American University in Beirut (AUB), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), as well as national government and research institutions.

ICBA conducted the program in Iraq, Syria and Turkey from 2013 to 2019. The three countries represent 80 percent of the basin’s total area. The program aimed to improve, among other things, dialogue and cooperation among the three countries through increased access to information and transfer of knowledge on water management in the region.

The program provided a rigorous evidence base to evaluate transboundary impacts and enable the identification of a range of water management options and a regional investment program. The thematic priority areas included hydrology and climate change, hydropower, water quality, agricultural water productivity, marshlands and socioeconomic aspects. Six task forces including national and international partners were formed to lead research on each thematic priority area.

The program also supported the countries in generating and using commonly agreed evidence-based information on regional water use and services. It succeeded in bringing together experts from Iraq, Syria and Turkey to work towards addressing the challenges in transboundary water management. It served as a neutral scientific platform supported by international experts that helped the country partners to work transparently and exchange knowledge through regular meetings, workshops and capacity-building events.

Thanks to the collaboration between national and international organizations, the program managed to facilitate a diverse range of analyses and studies in the countries, which can form the basis for future policy and other measures.

As a result of this work, seven comprehensive reports were produced on the agricultural, socioeconomic, environmental and energy aspects of water management in the basin.

To support decision-making, the program also developed eight policy briefs and a synthesis report with over 30 recommended actions.

It is hoped that the neutral scientific platform created by the program will continue to serve the countries. After all, the threat of climate change, water and food insecurity means the region needs more collaboration, not less.