Topic: Environmental Flows - International Riversymposium | New Delhi, 12 - 14 September 2016
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Topic: Environmental Flows

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ELOHA – Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration: what have we learned?
Angela Arthington
Griffith University, Australia

Towards e-flow policies for seasonal river systems through valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity
Somnath Bandyopadhyay and Arun Dixit
Nalanda University, India

Environmental Flow Considering Water Quality and Changing Climate: An Emerging Issue in River Water Management
Shushobhit Chaudhary, C. T. Dhanya and Arun Kumar
Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India

Is there an international legal duty to restore wetlands and waterways by environmental water allocations?
Jeanette Jensen and Alex Gardner
Faculty of Law, University of Western Australia

Comparing incomparables in DRIFT EFlows assessments
Alison Joubert, Jackie King and Cate Brown
Southern Waters E R & C, South Africa

Environmental Flows: all dressed up with somewhere to go
Jacqueline King
Water Matters, South Africa

Paving the Way for Watershed Services Protection: Lessons from China and Beyond
Alvin Lopez (presenter) and Qingfeng Zhang
Asian Development Bank, Philippines

Ecohydrological status of natural springs in Akole and Sangamner blocks of Ahmednagar district and their significance to environmental flows
Renie Thomas, Geetu Thakur and Vijayasekaran Duraisamy
Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR), India

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Monday 12 September
15:30 – 17:00

Ecohydrological status of natural springs in Akole and Sangamner blocks of Ahmednagar district and their significance to environmental flows

Renie Thomas, Geetu Thakur and Vijayasekaran Duraisamy
Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR), India

In the Western Ghats, natural springs serve as a source of drinking water for many rural vulnerable communities and are an essential component in the functioning of stream channel ecosystems. A total of 63 springs from 13 villages of Akole and Sangamner blocks were examined and classified for their spring contact type, discharge output values, quality, dependent flora and fauna in an around the ‘springshed’ and their social relevance i.e., people’s dependency and their knowledge of springs.

The study shows a decrease in discharge of many springs and their numbers, external pressures from upstream land-use changes, excessive resource exploitation, downstream over extraction, and shifting rainfall regimes in lieu of climate change. Their healthy condition contributes towards feeding of base flows of many streams and rivers. They are an essential component for the functioning of our forest cover and dependent ecosystem, yet their conservation is a completely neglected affair and does not reflect in any natural resource management policies.

We highlight key management issues and a much needed paradigm shift from source exploitation to resources management. At present many of these natural sources are under the state of negligence and on the decline.

Renie-Thomas

About the author

Renie Thomas is a Researcher (Hydrogeologist) at Groundwater and Ecology studies division, Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR), Pune, India. He completed his masters in Geology from Fergusson College, University of Pune and a diploma in Natural Resource Management and Nature conservation from Ecological Society, Pune. He has five years of professional experience working with think-tanks and grass-root organisations on groundwater management. His research is focused on groundwater flow in hard rock areas, aquifer characterisation, basaltic lava flow architecture and ecosystem health.

Environmental Flows: all dressed up with somewhere to go

Jacqueline King
Water Matters, South Africa

In the last three decades, in response to concerns of development-driven river degradation, Environmental Flows (EFlows) have transformed from a fuzzy grey concept to a complex scientific discipline. Its early years were characterised by two main achievements: international recognition of the need to include EFlows in water resource planning and development; and appearance of a plethora of methods for assessing EFlows, some of which have stood the test of time. EFlows are now routinely considered in water resource plans, especially for new dams, and there is a growing body of expertise in the field. Success is, however, shadowed by the threat of failure. Licences for dam development may be issued ad hoc with no basin-wide or country-wide plan. Funders thus usually enter the development cycle at the project rather than the basin-planning level and so mitigation options, including EFlows, are limited.

• EFlows are often treated as an upfront water allocation ‘for the environment’, rather than being identified through a negotiated trade-off between resource development and resource protection.
• Links between EFlows Assessments, EIAs, SEAs and conservation planning are weak.
• Quick answers and very low EFlow allocations are often offered, without specification of what they are expected to achieve.
• Agreed EFlows are often not implemented or, where they are, remain unmonitored.

The public may have the impression that river condition is being taken care of when in reality in many cases it cannot be so. We need a new commitment to: address basin-wide planning using holistic approaches; help decision makers better grasp the link between healthy ecosystems and people; promote valuation of the full spectrum of ecosystem services related to rivers, so that what could be lost is more seriously addressed; strengthen the links between ecosystem change and social impact; and help successful implementation. Examples from three continents will be given.

Jackie-King-July-2016

About the author

Jackie King is an aquatic ecologist who lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. She was a researcher and teacher at the University of Cape Town for almost four decades, but now owns and runs Water Matters, a water-resource consultancy specialising in river flow management. She has specialised in developing methods for Environmental Flows Assessments and led the early development of such methods for South Africa, which resulted in their inclusion in the country’s 1998 Water Act. She has led scientific teams working on basin-wide river flow management for the Senqu River, Lesotho; the Pungwe River, Zimbabwe, the lower Mekong River system (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam); the Pangani Basin, Tanzania; the Okavango River system (Angola, Namibia, Botswana); and the headwaters of the Indus River system (Pakistan). She is presently working on the Kafue and Luangwa Rivers in the Zambezi Basin.

Is there an international legal duty to restore wetlands and waterways by environmental water allocations?

Jeanette Jensen and Alex Gardner
Faculty of Law, University of Western Australia

Many waterways and wetlands both globally and locally require significant restoration, including by environmental water allocations to assure adequate flows of water for the functioning of ecosystems and to sustain biodiversity. The authors have examined international law to ascertain whether it contains a duty to restore waterways and wetlands by environmental water allocations.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) both contain a tentative duty to restore. They are tentative due to either the disputable status of the instrument in which it is embodied (Ramsar) or the qualifying language surrounding it (CBD).

So, are these duties legally binding and enforceable by independent judicial process? We found that while the duty of the CBD does not amount to a general obligation, the duty of the Ramsar Convention framework does. However, the Ramsar duty is practically difficult to enforce for various reasons. Firstly, the Convention does not provide a formal dispute settlement procedure. Secondly, the duty is ambiguous and subject to the exceptions of ‘physically possible’ and ‘urgent national interests’. The extent of the former is unknown and the contracting party itself determines the magnitude of the latter. Thirdly, enforcement in international environmental law is generally discouraged by the political disincentives of doing so, including prejudicing the political relations between the parties. We argue that restoration aspirations are more likely to be achieved if there are clear, binding and enforceable legal duties on contracting parties to undertake restoration. We propose how this may be done while still being adaptable to a changing climate, and how a dispute settlement provision could be adopted to alleviate the political disincentives to enforcement.

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About the author

Jeanette Jensen recently graduated with a Master of Mining and Energy Laws from University of Western Australia. She also holds LL.B. and LL.M. degrees from University of Copenhagen. She is currently working as a research assistant to Professor Alex Gardner on research project CRC for Water Sensitive Cities and she is pursuing PhD candidature in the area of water and environmental law.

Wednesday 14 September
10:30 – 12:00

Towards e-flow policies for seasonal river systems through valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity

Somnath Bandyopadhyay and Arun Dixit
Nalanda University, India

India is among the 70 odd countries that have adopted the ecosystem service approach to biodiversity conservation and is in the process of establishing standard methodologies for the same. This project was supported by the Government of India under the TEEB-India initiative.

The Little Rann of Kachchh (LRK), a seasonal, brackish wetland in the state of Gujarat, is known for its large bird population and the only abode of the Asiatic Wild Ass – Equus hemionus khur. While the unique biological diversity of the wetland is leading to a growth in tourism, traditional livelihoods in prawn fisheries and salt farming continue to thrive during the wet and dry seasons respectively.

The LRK receives over a fifth of its water from the run-off in its catchment area, where dams have reduced inflows by about 48%, corresponding to a depth reduction of about 29 cm. Increased depth of flooding has the potential to improve the nesting sites for Lesser Flamingoes, which is reported to breed only in five places on earth.

Over 76% of tourists ranked migratory birds as their primary interest for coming to LRK. Tourism currently accounts for about a fourth of the total economic value of LRK and is growing rapidly. In addition, the non-use value of biodiversity of LRK s not insignificant. Benefits accrue to traditional livelihoods as well. The best fishing grounds are areas where run-off from the catchment meet the seawater channels in the LRK.

Ecosystem services and biodiversity, strongly related to run-off water, boosts tourism and promotes stable production of fisheries. Valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity opens up new possibilities for deciding storage and flow in the catchment area, allocation of water from inter-basin transfers and an integrated approach to development decisions that prioritise efficiency of freshwater use.

About the author

Dr Somnath Bandyopadhyay combines policy with practice, natural sciences with social sciences and environment with development. He has used government policies and programmes, community institutions and market-based approaches to address complex issues. His current focus is on interdisciplinary research related to water including ecological services from aquatic ecosystems, water management for multiple human use and linking processes at the basin level with those at the community level. He has done pioneering work in environment policies, livelihood enhancement and social development programs for over two decades. He spent over eight years each with the Gujarat Ecology Commission and the AKF in various senior positions. He has also worked with the NGRBA and the Safe Water Network. He holds a PhD in Environmental Sciences (from JNU, New Delhi), and has been trained professionally on environmental economics and policy analysis (at Harvard, USA) and making markets work for the poor (at Springfield, UK).

Paving the Way for Watershed Services Protection: Lessons from China and Beyond

Alvin Lopez (presenter) and Qingfeng Zhang
Asian Development Bank, Philippines

This presentation will share the progress to date on the development of a national Eco-compensation Ordinance for watershed services, and highlights the ongoing institutional challenges faced by policymakers in developing an effective Ordinance. In particular, water management in China is scattered across multiple central government and regional agencies. No less than ten national ministries, for example, have some form of water management responsibilities. Furthermore, while water resources are state owned according to both the original and revised Water Law of the P.R.C. (1988, 2002), with the state responsible for allocating resources through government orders and water quotas, this system has in reality resulted in poorly defined water use rights and artificially low water prices, leading to de facto open access, conflict and inefficient distribution of resources. As such, water management in China remains fragmented, uncoordinated (both horizontally and vertically) and lacking in sufficient legal structure and foundation, with numerous overlapping and/or ambiguous regulatory mandates and rights. This, combined with a relatively weak central government enforcement capacity, has hindered effective watershed and water resource protection and management.

At the same time, a significant and growing body of national and provincial level rules and policies that either directly mention or have important bearing on eco-compensation already exist. Thus, while strengthening legal foundations will be important, the NDRC also faces the challenge of developing the national Eco-compensation Ordinance in a way that (i) complements and strengthens current institutional and regulatory frameworks governing environmental management (or at minimum does not create additional administrative and regulatory conflicts), while (ii) retaining sufficient flexibility to be able to anticipate, evolve with and if possible influence the ongoing reforms of China’s overall environmental management system, and in watershed management in particular.

About the author

Qingfeng Zhang is responsible for ADB operations on environment, natural resources and agricultural development in East Asia Region. He is concurrently serving as the chair for the ADB’s water sector group committee. Prior to joining ADB, he worked as Director at the State Environmental Protection Administration in Beijing; Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank in Washington; and Research Fellow at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. During his past more than 20 years professional career, he has had extensive experiences in China, Mongolia, East Timor, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz, and also contributed to regional cooperation for ASEAN, East and Central Asian countries on environmental and water management. Mr. Zhang is a Chinese national. He holds a Ph.D. degree in environmental engineering, and master & bachelor degrees in water resources management. He was also trained at Harvard Business School through its Executive Development Program.

ELOHA – Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration: what have we learned?

Angela Arthington
Griffith University, Australia

The framework known as ELOHA (Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration) makes a novel contribution to methods for assessment of environmental flows at regional scale (e.g. bioregion, jurisdiction, continent). The framework aims to set acceptable limits on levels of hydrologic alteration for rivers of distinctive hydrological character as determined by flow classification. It addresses the demand for transferable hydro-ecological relationships and environmental flow guidelines for river types, rather than managing for the ‘uniqueness’ of each river’s flow regime. Applications of the ELOHA framework are increasing, with significant innovation in four main features: classification of hydrological regimes, identifying ecological differences across flow classes, development of flow-ecology relationships, and understanding the ecological outcomes of particular flow regime alterations. This contribution will demonstrate developments in the four main features of the ELOHA framework, drawing upon Australian studies and selected international applications. It will conclude with some recommendations for further development and innovation around the ELOHA framework.

ANGELA-AT-Whitley-Award-for-Fish-Book

About the author

Angela Arthington is a research ecologist focusing on river and fish conservation, especially through the science and management of environmental flows. Her research findings underpin several globally adopted environmental flow frameworks (DRIFT, ELOHA). Environmental flows research culminated in “”Environmental Flows: Saving Rivers in the Third Millennium” (2012, University of California Press). Angela received the honorary “Making a Difference Award” (2015) from the US Instream Flow Council. Angela has edited three Special Issues on biodiversity conservation and environmental flows, and produced over 220 papers and book chapters, and numerous research and consultancy reports. Her work has made a real world difference in the protection and restoration of flows for fragile river and floodplain ecosystems and conservation of endangered species.

Environmental Flow Considering Water Quality and Changing Climate: An Emerging Issue in River Water Management

Shushobhit Chaudhary, C. T. Dhanya and Arun Kumar
Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India

Environmental flows (E-flows) are critical to sustaining the health of river ecosystems. However, the water quality component is given little importance while determining E-flow. E-flow is often limited by increasing anthropogenic influences like damming, diversion, pollution and climate change. This study proposes an improved water quality-based framework for estimating E-flow of a river under different pollution and climate change scenarios. The framework deploys a water quality model (QUAL2K) to simulate water quality indicators such as Dissolved Oxygen and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), within the river stretch. Climate change in the form of hypothetical air temperature changes (which directly affects the water temperature) is incorporated in the framework. River water pollution scenarios (mainly in terms of treatment scenarios) by altering the water quality of the joining drains and the headwater of the river stretch are also integrated into the framework. E-flow requirements under all the possible scenarios are graphically represented in the form of E-flow charts. The quantitative availability of E-flows is examined considering past and future (RCP4.5) scenarios through hydrologic modelling (SWAT) of the watershed draining water at the headwater of the selected river stretch, under virgin conditions. The proposed framework is applied on Bhadravati segment of Bhadra River, India. The inability of existing flow conditions to maintain the permissible water quality standards is evident from the outcomes. It is observed that hypothetical temperature change scenarios significantly alter the existing river water quality conditions. Treatment of BOD in drains emerged as a very good alternative to reduce the E-flow requirements. Further, minimum E-flow requirement is found to be 77 m3/sec for the selected river stretch. Future projections of streamflow under RCP4.5 show a reduction in streamflow magnitude which adds to the vulnerability of present situation. This study would aid the policy makers to estimate E-flows of any river effectively.

About the author

Shushobhit Chaudhary received the B.Tech. degree in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, India in 2013 and the M.Tech. degree in Water Resources from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, India, in 2015. He is currently working toward the Ph.D. degree under the guidance of Dr. Dhanya C.T. in the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT, Delhi, India. His current research interests include Environmental Flow, Water Quality Modelling, Remote Sensing, Flood Forecasting, Regionalization, Hydrological Modelling, Climate Change, Self-Organizing Maps.

Comparing incomparables in DRIFT EFlows assessments

Alison Joubert, Jackie King and Cate Brown
Southern Waters E R & C, South Africa

The DRIFT (Downstream Response to Imposed Flow Transformation) approach to EFlows assessments has been applied in a number of studies, primarily in Africa and Asia. DRIFT integrates assessments from a range of experts describing, via response curves, the effects of changes in flow on a wide range of indicators. The indicators are grouped within any number and type of discipline, such as geomorphological, vegetation, fish, as well as environmental goods and services and other social or socio-economic factors. These assessments are integrated or aggregated in DRIFT to allow for accessible summaries of the overall impacts of flow changes, and to allow for the comparison of the relative impacts across indicators or disciplines or sites. This means that, at a summary level, the relative effects of flow changes on, for example, fish, can be compared with the effects on, for example, environmental goods and services. This also allows for a type of a trade-off analysis to be undertaken between, for example, economic gains or power generated, and environmental and social impacts. On theoretical (multi-criteria) grounds aggregation is valid if a number of assumptions are met relating to, for example, the numeric scales and weights used, as well as the independence between criteria or indicators. We examine, through examples from case studies, the progression from individual indicator results, to discipline and site level results, and how the approaches followed allows for comparisons across a range of fields.

King-Jackie
Brown-Cate
Joubert-Alison (1)

About the author

Alison Joubert has been working in multi-criteria analysis and environmental decision analysis in various fields including environmental flows since 1990. She is author / co-author of 20 publications in the international scientific literature, has contributed to several book chapters, and to more than 30 contract reports.