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Executive summary


The growing demand for water, the limited availability of supply in some areas, the growing concern for the health of aquatic ecosystems, and conflicts between different water using sectors emphasize the need to take actions that implement integrated water management, especially when the majority of the American countries are trying to mitigate the negative impacts of natural events, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Scientists have already suggested that if the processes related to sea-surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific continue to intensify, the probability is high that we will confront the strongest ENSO of this century in the near future.

The governments of the Western Hemisphere recognize that sustainable development depends on the availability of potable water, the prevention of pollution, the protection of aquatic ecosystems, international cooperation, the involvement and participation of users in planning and decision making, and the promotion of integrated management of this resource. To promote the sustainable development of water resources, the governments have adopted initiatives 47 to 58 related to water resources and coastal areas of the Action Plan for the Sustainable Development of the Americas, which was prepared during the Summit on Sustainable Development in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, 1996 (Table 1).

The Workshop on Integrated Water Resources Management in Mesoamerica took place in Panama City on October 20 to 22, 1997. It was sponsored and organized by the Inter-American Water Resources Network of the Organization of American States (IWRN-OAS), the National Institute for Renewable Natural Resources (INRENARE) of Panama, and the Center on Water in the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC). The agenda of the workshop is presented in Appendix 1.

Workshop participants were high-level water managers and representatives of water using sectors mainly from Central America and Mexico. They included representatives of the most important national organizations responsible for the management of water and of industry, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. Representatives of international organizations with activities in the field of water-resources management also attended (Appendix 2).

The objective of the workshop was to obtain cooperation, understanding, and agreement between policy- and decision-makers and scientists on issues related to water-resources management in Mesoamerica. The participants formed five working groups to address specific issues (Appendix 3).

This workshop report contains an evaluation of the degree to which countries have implemented each of the initiatives that were approved and adopted by the governments of the region. It lists national and international meetings on integrated water-resources management that have taken place or will be organized in the near future to discuss similar initiatives and recommends a set of future activities.

Table 1
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, December 8,1996
Water Resources and Coastal Areas



We, the elected Heads of States and governments of the Americas, convinced of the urgent need to advance toward sustainable development by strengthening social awareness, with a broad vision that promotes public participation, integration, hemispheric cooperation, equity, and social justice, with special emphasis on women, children, and vulnerable groups, commit ourselves to implement the first Plan of Action for the sustainable Development of the Americas, based in the principles of the Declaration of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, for the purpose of overcoming the most pressing problems faced by our people and assuring an adequate and decent standard of giving for present and future generations.

Taking into consideration the social, economic, and environmental value of inland, coastal, and marine water resources, the Governments will carry out the following initiatives:

1.4. Water Resources and Coastal Areas

Water Resources

Recognizing that the primary challenges to the attainment of sustainable development in this area include:

Initiative 47. Seek to establish, strengthen, and implement, where appropriate, specific programs, laws. and policies to protect public health by ensuring that drinking water is free from microorganisms, heavy metals, and chemical contaminants harmful to human health.

Assurance and improvement of the conservation, sustainable management and utilization of water resources, including the development of integrated programs and institutional capacity;

Initiative 48. Implement, in accordance with national laws and practice, integrated water resources management actions using watersheds and river basins as planning units whenever possible. These actions should include surface water and groundwater assessments and the preparation of strategic plans for water resource management, as well as the use of water utility revenues under local control, where appropriate, to fund watershed protection and the work of river basin authorities.

Prevention of the contamination of water resources and assurance that drinking water supplies are safe and adequate;

Initiative 49. Develop, strengthen, implement, and coordinate at the national or local level, as appropriate, water resources policies, laws, and regulations to ensure the protection and conservation of water resources.

Promotion of cooperation among countries at bilateral, subregional, regional, and hemispheric levels on water resources issues;

Initiative 50. Promote hemispheric cooperation at all levels, including through the use of existing transboundary agreements and initiatives, in the conservation, management, and sustainable use of water resources and biological diversity. This would include the exchange of information and experiences on issues related to inland watersheds, river basins, and sub-basins.

Promotion of user participation in the decision-making process on water resources management;

Initiative 51. Improve access to appropriate and environmentally sound technologies, including through public-private cooperation and market mechanisms, and promote the transfer of information on policies and management strategies to accommodate the growing water resource demands resulting from rural, urban, agricultural, and industrial activities.

Conservation and utilization, in a sustainable manner, of inland, coastal, and marine water resources, including wetlands, in the region;

Initiative 52. Cooperate, in accordance with national legislation and relevant international instruments, in the development and improvement of pollution prevention and source reduction programs for agriculture, aquaculture, and industrial and urban activities, and integrate these efforts into national strategies. These should include actions to reduce risks to human health and the environment posed by pollution from chemicals and toxic substances that persist in the environment.

Promotion of the integrated management and sustainable development of the marine environment and coastal areas; and

Initiative 53. Promote public participation in the planning and decision-making process related to water resources. Public participation could be enhanced through education and awareness programs in schools and local communities. Where appropriate, establish public-private partnerships to promote programs that encourage compliance with laws and the adoption of mitigation measures to address water resources issues.

Prevention and control of environmental degradation caused by pollution and the unsustainable use of inland, coastal, and marine water resources that threaten human health and the economic viability and environmental integrity of these resources.

Coastal Areas


Initiative 54. Develop and strengthen at the national and regional levels, as appropriate, research and monitoring capabilities pertaining to the conservation of inland, coastal, and marine water resources, especially in relation to environmental health parameters, including sanitary water quality criteria and the health status of coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grass beds. In this regard, consideration should be given to the work being done in the region, which should be continued. Data collected will be incorporated into a study that will document the current state of health of the coastal and marine environment; establish benchmark indicators for assessing the effectiveness of national, regional, and international instruments and initiatives; and identify and categorize land and marine-based sources of pollution.

Initiative 55. Develop and implement environmental education and awareness programs to promote sustainable use of coastal and marine resources.

Initiative 56. Promote the development or strengthening, as appropriate, of institutional capabilities at the national level or, where specific agreements exist, at the subregional level, especially in land use planning, coastal zone management, coastal engineering, environmental impact assessment, environmental protection and natural resource management laws, hydrography, fisheries and marine affairs management. This should be supported by promoting the establishment of a marine environment center for the Caribbean and the design and development of model legislation which could serve as the basis for national legislation that would provide an integrated and sustainable approach to the management of coastal and marine resources. Such model legislation should be consistent with relevant international treaties to which states are party and enhance the effectiveness of government policies and programs.

Initiative 57. Cooperate in the development, strengthening and implementation of pollution prevention programs and regional disaster mitigation plans, including contingency and response arrangements to combat oil spills and other forms of pollution which have an impact on water resources. This should include mechanisms to reduce current levels of marine pollution and, where necessary, the development and implementation of sanitary water quality criteria and effluent standards and guidelines.

Initiative 58. Develop programs at the national and regional levels, as appropriate, to implement the Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, as well as seek to implement the relevant recommendations of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) as developed at the 1995 Tropical Americas Workshop.

Summary of the Implementation in Mesoamerica of the 12 Initiatives related to Water Resources and Coastal Areas Adopted by the Governments of the Countries of the Western Hemisphere in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, 1996

Initiative 47

Objective: To protect public health. More specifically, to keep water free of microorganisms, heavy metals, and contaminants that threaten to public health. It promotes development and refers to the implementation of programs and enforcement of laws, regulations, and specific politics.

National and regional progress: Some of the countries in the Mesoamerican region have adequate legislation and institutions to ensure that this initiative is implemented. These countries successfully and systematically protect water bodies from being polluted by contaminants and other toxic materials. Contamination is detected during activities carried out under their water resources management policies. A regional program that studies the impact of climate variability on public health, with special emphasis on water-related diseases, is the Trade Convergence Climate Complex Program or TC3, coordinated by CATHALAC.

Other countries in the region lack specific regulations. Existing regulations are frequently scattered, contradictory, and sometimes unsupported by law. In many countries, legal proposals are still under discussion by the governments or legislatures, and do not yet provide the legal foundation needed to support effective monitoring programs.

In Mesoamerica the Alliance for Sustainable Development (ALIDES), the Coordinating Committee of Potable Water and Sanitation Institutions of Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic (CAPRE), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter-American Association of Sanitary Engineering (AIDIS), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among other organizations, are helping to develop nationally compatible law and regulation systems. Through these and other regional and international organizations a number of meetings are planned to ensure that sound legislation continues to be drafted and to learn how governmental authorities should be organized to ensure effective enforcement of these laws.

The participants also noted that most of the countries do not have adequate educational programs on the relationship between water and health and that more extensive diffusion of information is necessary to increase public awareness of these issues. Furthermore, the management of water as a resource should be approached in a more integrated manner. A need for regional water quality standards was indicated.

Future actions: Horizontal cooperation between national and regional organizations must be strengthened. Knowledge should be transferred through training courses, and advantage should be taken of human resources and appropriate technologies available in the region.

Regional organizations should be supported in their activities and meetings should be organized to draft uniform water quality standards, with participants from national, regional, and international organizations.

Initiative 48

Objective: To implement integrated measures, in accordance with national laws and practice, for water-resources management. Wherever possible, river basins should be used as the planning units. These measures should include surface water and groundwater assessments and the preparation of strategic water management plans. The use of water revenue under the control of local authorities should be used to finance the conservation of the river basins.

National and regional progress: On a regional level some progress has been made but in general the synchronization of laws and the establishment of management authorities has been hampered in almost all the Mesoamerican countries by geographical and financial limitations. Mexico, which has a federal form of government, has introduced the concept of river basins as both a planning unit and a sectoral organizing scheme, and the other countries are attempting to incorporate river basins into their national policies as administrative (as well as financial) units.

With assistance from the International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO, some of the countries in the region have prepared a national water balance and a hydrogeological map. A few are in the process of completing these basic pieces of information.

Only one workshop on the subject of river basins as administrative units has been organized, with financial and organizational support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), CAPRE, and the French National Organization for International Cooperation, ORSTOM. A regional initiative, organized and coordinated by the Central American Commission for Environmental Development (CCAD) and the Regional Commission for Hydraulic Resources (CRRH), is under way to carry out national studies. The initiative will conclude with the formulation of a Central American Water Plan. This effort receives financial support from the Danish Agency for International Cooperation (DANIDA).

Future actions: Lack of political continuity hampers the development of long-term water management programs and plans. Furthermore, financial, social, and cultural restrictions make it difficult or nearly impossible to realize good intentions. A hemispheric meeting to analyze the adequacy of water laws should be organized under the auspices of the IWRN to exchange experiences with the South American countries. A review of their experiences with water balances and hydrogeological maps (most of which have been finished in South America) would also be of importance to the Mesoamerican region.

Advisory councils and national assemblies should promote the idea of establishing an authority responsible for managing water resources in terms of river basins. The implications of charging for water use should also be considered. As a prerequisite for an adequate management of water resources the quality of hydrometeorological information must be improved. Furthermore, Decision Support Systems should be introduced as a tool in the planning of integrated river-basin-based management. Such a program is promoted by CATHALAC

Initiative 49

Objective: To develop, implement, and coordinate, at the national or local level, clear policies, laws and regulations to protect and conserve water resources.

National and regional progress: In general, efforts are being made in all the Central American countries to draft laws and regulations that encompass this objective. Financial support is being received from the IDB and other sources. Some of the countries in the region have a relatively adequate legal and institutional infrastructure, but duplication of efforts and an absence of legal clarity cause problems in the implementation of policies.

Only one regional workshop that was specifically related to efforts under this initiative was identified. It was organized by the Central American Parliament with financial support from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

The principal constraints on implementation efforts tend to be political, institutional, and economic. Specifically, they include the following:

· Lack of communication between and within institutions.

· Lack of information and skills in some government agencies that deal with water and a lack of awareness by the general public.

· Absence of a well-defined national water policy.

· Insufficient technical and executive follow-up on international agreements.

The Inter-American Water Resources Network (IWRN) of the Organization of American States is making an inventory of water-related laws in the Americas, which will be made available through the Internet.

Future actions: Governments should carry out the following recommendations to implement initiative 49.

· Make an inventory of the laws and regulations that are related directly or indirectly to water-resources management and identify existing overlaps, contradictions, and gaps, so that they can be harmonized and prioritized.

· Prepare a national water policy and water development plan.

· Lay the legal foundations for the peaceful solution of disputes that arise between main river basins or tributaries shared by neighboring countries or provinces.

· As a priority action, design public and user awareness programs, and formal education about water resources in all primary schools.

Initiative 50

Objective: To solve problems of transboundary water management in order to maximize the benefits of the development of the resource and ensure sustainable development. This calls for extensive cooperation among all the countries involved and includes exchanges of information and experiences.

Regional progress: Since 1996, the Forum of Central American Vice-Presidents has been running the Central American Border Development Program, which consists of 14 projects with river basins as their administrative units. Under the coordination of the CCAD, Central America identifies potential regions for cooperative activities. An example of such a project is the Electric Interconnection of Central America, which interconnects several neighboring countries in the region. Furthermore, several countries of the region are carrying out bi- or even tri-national projects.

Bilateral or trilateral programs exist or are being developed for the Rio Bravo/Grande (Mexico-USA), the Usumacinta (Mexico-Guatemala), the Hondo (Mexico-Belize), the Paz (Guatemala-El Salvador), the Lempa (Guatemala-Honduras-El Salvador), the Coco (Honduras-Nicaragua), the Gulf of Fonseca (Nicaragua-El Salvador-Honduras), the San Juan (Nicaragua-Costa Rica), the Sixaola and La Amistad National Park (Costa Rica-Panama) and finally the Darién and Los Katíos National Parks (between Panama and Colombia). Most of these projects receive financial and technical support from national and international organizations (OAS, UNDP, DANIDA, etc.).

To ensure a continuous exchange of information among the countries involved, several meetings and workshops have been organized or will take place in the near future.

Although much progress has been made at the technical level, the advance at a political level still forms a barrier for extensive cooperation in applied integrated management. The existing treaties between the countries of the region do not allow for complete integration of the administrative units or for the creation of river-basin committees

Future activities: Mesoamerican countries should make efforts to overcome the obstacles mentioned above by adopting transboundary river-basin agreements and to cooperate on a hemispheric level with the assistance of the IWRN. Constant efforts should be made to share experiences and to draw lessons from the agreements that are already in place.

Further cooperation under the Central American Border Development Program and the formation of transboundary river-basin committees are recommended. Governments should be willing to make political commitments that will improve the planning, management, and sustainable development of these regions.

Initiative 51

Objective: To improve access to appropriate and environmentally sound technologies. To reach this goal, the initiative recommends improved public-private cooperation and the use of existing market mechanisms. Attention should be given to the dissemination of information on policies and management strategies to accommodate demand resulting from rural, urban, agricultural and industrial activities.

National and regional progress: During the past five to ten years, some governments have created national authorities to take responsibility for the management of water as a natural resource (in Mexico the Secretariat for the Environment, Natural Resources, and Fisheries; in Guatemala the Secretariat for Water Resources; in Nicaragua the National Commission for Water Resources; in Panama the National Institute for Renewable Natural Resources), but, in most of the countries, the activities related to this initiative are very decentralized (water supply, agriculture, meteorology, environment, hydrology, energy, etc.) and so far little effective coordination exists. A number of laws have been passed. Administrative units have been adapted in some countries to facilitate the execution of research programs and basin-based applied studies. Various initiatives have been implemented and regulations approved to facilitate the exchange of information between national institutions and to improve educational programs.

Several regional efforts are being made to implement this initiative, including the drafting of an action plan for sustainable development of water by the CCAD. CATHALAC has compiled a data bank on applied research that will be made available through the Internet. The IWRN also has established an electronic discussion group (Dialogue-Agua-L) for exchange of information on water management.

There were no regional or national meetings devoted solely the exchange of appropriate and environmentally sound technologies, including public-private cooperation and market mechanisms. The IWRN, in coordination with CATHALAC; will organize a workshop in October 1998 to discuss the transfer of information via the Internet.

Future activities: Some of the obstacles to the implementation of this initiative are a lack of coordination between the participating institutions, legal and institutional aspects, and the fact that appropriate institutions to represent the private sector and NGOs in this process have not yet been identified in many countries. To facilitate cooperation the following measures are recommended:

· The collection of hydrological data in transboundary river basins in the Mesoamerican region.

· The compilation of a data bank of Mesoamerican climatic data to facilitate exchange of information and increase accessibility.

· The strengthening of efforts to finish the Water Balances initiative that was started in 1990 by UNESCO.

· Follow-up of and participation in research on climate change.

· The organization of a regional or hemispheric meeting within the framework of the IWRN to design a Program for the Transfer of Information and Technologies in Water Resources Management in the Americas and analyze mechanisms of cooperation between the public and private sectors to facilitate the exchange of information.

Initiative 52

Objective: To reduce pollution and its sources in agriculture, aquaculture, industry, and urban activities by adopting national laws and international instruments. Governments are encouraged to initiate activities to reduce pollution-induced environmental hazards and risks to human health.

National and regional progress: The majority of the countries in the Mesoamerican region have environmental laws and regulations that cover various aspects of this initiative. There are some programs that deal with treatment of industrial wastewater. At a national level, some efforts are being made to mitigate negative effects of waste disposal in major socioeconomic sectors, but large differences between countries were identified. The absence or failure of programs is due mainly to a need for increased political support and cooperation of national institutions with diverging interests.

No meetings having to do with pollution and the reduction of its sources in agriculture, aquaculture, industry, and urban activities through national laws or international instruments were identified. In 1998, two regional workshops with this as a main topic on the agenda will be organized. This initiative is also part of an effort to conduct national studies that will form the basis for a regional water plan.

Future activities: The main problem in the insufficient treatment of wastewater and solid waste is the lack of infrastructure and adequate treatment programs. This is mainly the result of financial limitations, as most of the existing waste treatment technologies require large investments. In addition, the level of awareness in the polluting sectors is insufficient to ensure that laws and regulations will be obeyed without the continuous presence of authorities to enforce them.

It is therefore necessary:

· To increase public awareness of the implications of pollution and to provide the government institutions with appropriate mechanisms to enforce the regulations;

· To include environmental damage in the cost of production and, hence, of the product. The money that would become available should be invested to prevent pollution or to mitigate its effects;

· To charge the results and costs of environmental audits to agriculture, fisheries, industry, and the service sector throughout the entire region; and

· To train personnel and exchange experiences with environmental audits and implementation of the "polluter pays" principle.

Initiative 53

Objective: To promote more extensive participation by the public in planning and decision-making related to water resources. In order to achieve a higher level of public participation the initiative recommends educational and awareness programs in schools and communities by establishing, wherever feasible and appropriate, links between the private and public sector. These programs would improve the understanding of the use of these laws and therefore increase compliance.

National and regional progress: At the community level, some of the countries are trying to increase public awareness and to carry out educational programs on environmental protection in general and protection of water basins, specifically in relation to water supply and sanitation. Small pilot programs are being executed with the assistance of NGOs. In some countries training courses are being organized to promote the involvement of the general public in planning and decision-making in the field of water-resources management. Most of the countries in the region have one or more governmental authorities in charge of the initiation of these programs. Several examples of fruitful cooperation between governments and NGOs were cited.

Despite the many efforts, their impact has not been great, because activities have been more or less ad-hoc and not well coordinated. No integrated national plans exist in this matter, so there is no optimization of human and financial resources

Future activities: The CCAD and CRRH are including awareness building in the revision of the Regional Action Plan for Water Resources. This plan will be discussed during a meeting in Managua and donors will be invited to finance specific items.

It is recommended that:

· National workshops be organized to improve the involvement of the general public and to make more efficient use of the media (television, radio, newspapers, and Internet);

· A traveling workshop be organized for Mesoamerica to train teachers working in this area and produce teaching materials for all educational levels;

· National and regional fairs devoted to awareness building and promotion of applied technologies be organized. They should receive the support and active participation of governments, NGOs, and the education and private sectors.

· Special courses for different sectors (politicians, journalists, decision-makers, industrialists, farmers) be organized to discuss specific problems related to their sectors and opportunities to improve actual situations.

Initiative 54

Objective: To develop and protect, at the national and international levels, inland, coastal, and marine water resources, especially in relation to environmental health, including clean water and the health status of coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds.

National and regional progress: In general it can be said that laws, regulations, and standards do exist. However, in some countries these laws and regulations cannot be enforced because of a lack of infrastructure for waste collection, disposal, and treatment or for water treatment. Inland and coastal waters are still polluted. Most countries have protected zones and marine national parks where the protection of water resources plays an important role. The main obstacle to implementing well-organized and coordinated national programs to facilitate compliance with laws and regulations is a lack of financial resources.

Future activities: Many national and international workshops, organized by national and international organizations (e.g., CAPRE, AIDIS, PAHO, CATHALAC, OAS) have been held or are planned for the near future, related to the objectives and goals of Initiative 54. The main topics discussed during these meetings include awareness building among populations in coastal areas, sustainable management of water resources, and the adoption of regulations on such socioeconomic activities as aquaculture and tourism to protect coral reefs and govern inland water uses

Initiative 55

Objective: To implement educational and awareness programs to promote the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources.

National and regional progress: A number of initiatives are being carried out to ensure sustainable use of coastal and marine resources. Most countries in the Mesoamerican region have established national marine parks to protect ecosystems and natural resources. Some are in the process of identifying or establishing national institutions that will be in charge of the implementation of national policies in this area.

No major meetings or workshops on the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources were mentioned.

Future activities: To supplement the information on this initiative and identify in detail the obstacles to implementation, it was recommended that CCAD, in coordination with the IWRN, make a survey of pertinent organizations and institutions and report the findings to the countries and the regional and international organizations.

Initiative 56

Objective: To promote the development and/or strengthening of institutional capacity at the national or subregional level in land-use planning and management in coastal areas (coastal engineering, sensitive ecosystems, specific hydrographic and geomorphologic characteristics, etc.). The creation of a regional environmental center to encourage technological development is proposed.

National and regional progress: At the regional level an increasing interest in identifying and studying zones vulnerable to the impacts of climate change can be observed. Efforts have been made to promote capacity and institution building and in some countries universities have developed specific research programs. Scattered information is available, but thus far no efforts have been made to coordinate activities on a national or regional level. Some countries are in the process of adopting or have adopted regulations for the institutionalization of land-use management in coastal areas

During 1996 and 1997, regional meetings on climate change coordinated by CRRH produced documents that can be consulted. In addition, CATHALAC, coordinating TCCC activities, has held six workshops and three coordination meetings to determine the impact of climate change on socioeconomic activities related to water and marine resources of coastal areas. Within the framework of this program three more workshops (two in Central America, one in Florida) and three meetings of working groups (Panama, Guayaquil, and Miami) are planned for 1998.

Among the many obstacles to implementing this initiative, a major one is the need for decision-makers to become aware of concrete actions that can be implemented by the countries or at the regional level. Other problems are deficiencies in national and regional coordination that have resulted in the absence of proper legislation, national policies, or specific plans to improve the present situation.

Future activities: Most importantly, a regional meeting needs to be organized to inventory the specific issues related to legislation, to reach regional agreement, and to initiate the drafting of regional regulations.

Initiative 57

Objective: To cooperate in the development, strengthening and implementation of regional disaster mitigation plans, including contingency and response arrangements to combat major oil spills and other forms of manmade or natural pollution that affect water resources.

National and regional progress: In November 1996, the highest authorities of CAPRE created National Technical Committees for Disaster Mitigation in the field of Drinking Water and Sanitation, which began to take shape in January 1997. Regional laws, regulations, and standards exist. However, the culture of prevention and mitigation of the effects of natural events and interventions is still very weak in the Mesoamerican region. To increase awareness for the need for prevention and mitigation, PAHO has adopted a methodology of vulnerability analyses for drinking water and sanitation systems. In relation to El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), CATHALAC maintains a page on the Internet with up-to-date information on this event and its possible socioeconomic effects.

At the national level, a variety of organizations and institutions are working to protect the socioeconomic sectors during natural or manmade disasters. Various national and international meetings have been organized or will take place to exchange information on mitigation of natural disasters and early warning systems.

The main problem in disaster mitigation is the sporadic character of disasters and thus, the difficulty of anticipating them and planning accordingly. Financial support is also insufficient. Specific policies and plans for disaster prevention and mitigation are needed in the region.

Future activities: An important step in implementing this initiative would be to strengthen the National Technical Committees for Disaster Mitigation of CAPRE. International and national meetings should be organized and supported by international organizations (OAS, CATHALAC, CRRH, CAPRE, AIDIS) to exchange information and to inform scientists, professionals, and the public of the dangers of natural and manmade disasters.

The governments should evaluate existing communication strategies and design new ones to inform the general public on how to act in case of emergencies, and improve disaster awareness, especially through education at all levels.

Initiative 58

Objective: To implement the Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities and the recommendations of the International Initiative on Coral Reefs, adopted at the 1995 Tropical Americas Workshop.

National and regional progress: Some of the countries of the Mesoamerican region have paid considerable attention to activities related to this initiative. In Mexico, Belize, and Honduras, activities and initiatives have been designed and initiated to protect coastal areas, improve coastal zone management, maintain coral reefs, establish marine parks, and establish cooperative links at an international level.

One of the main obstacles in the implementation of this initiative is that information on the Program of Global Action and the Tropical America Workshop has been poorly disseminated, and little is known about their results and recommendations. Furthermore, the institutions responsible for the implementation of national policies are only vaguely aware of the recommendations of this initiative of the Action Plan of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Future activities: The first step in fulfilling the commitments implicit in this initiative must be an improvement of communications within and between the institutions in charge of the pertinent activities through national, regional, and international meetings. National institutions that should play leading roles in this exchange of information are, among others:


Secretariat of Environment, Natural Resources, and Fisheries


Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Division of Coastal Management


Secretariat of Hydraulic Resources, National Commission on the Environment

El Salvador:

Ministry of Environment


Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment, Under-secretariat of Environment

Costa Rica:

Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Department of Marine Transport; Ministry of Environment and Energy, National System for Conservation Areas; Ministry of Agriculture; Office of Fisheries


National Institute for Natural Renewable Resources, Port Authority, Department of Marine Resources


Many of the initiatives that were adopted during the 1996 Summit in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, have been implemented up to a point. Although the extent of implementation differs, there is general acceptance of the importance of integrated management of the available water resources to ensure that they are developed sustainably.

Major obstacles identified were a lack of financial resources to implement protective measures and the absence of an infrastructure for the collection, disposal, and treatment of solid and liquid wastes. There is a regional consensus on the need for greater compliance with environmental laws and regulations. Most of the countries in the Mesoamerican region lack institutional capacity for enforcement. However, much attention has been given to standardizing the laws on environmental protection of coral reefs, coastal areas, and recharge zones during the last five years. In many countries of the region, natural marine parks have been established to protect aquatic ecosystems vulnerable to manmade and natural pollution.

The concept of river basins as management units is accepted but has not been fully implemented. The main obstacle identified is that its benefits are realized over the long term while governments, whose terms of office are relatively short, are more interested in benefits that can be achieved in the short term. Therefore, governments concentrate more on short-term measures to improve water management practices. Although international cooperation for the development of transboundary basins is widespread in the region, most of the initiatives are simply technical. More decisive political support is a prerequisite to overcoming obstacles and taking the next step toward integrated management of water basins that are shared by countries.

Finally, attention was called to the need to increase and facilitate the exchange of information, not only to transfer knowledge among scientists and policy- and decision-makers, but also to increase the involvement and awareness of the general public and the private sector. Many initiatives have been taken by national and international institutions to organize meetings and workshops. They should receive the continuing support of governments and financing organizations. In the implementation of these initiatives, an important role was assigned to the Inter-American Water Resources Network (IWRN) to continue organizing regional and hemispheric meetings to coordinate progress and exchanges of information and new technologies in the field of integrated management of water resources.

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