Public participation in Environmental Conservation- “Ecol’Eau Sebou”

The pilot project “Ecol’Eau Sébou” launched in September 2009 in Morocco is an action undertaken jointly by the WWF MedPO Mediterranean program and the Agence du Bassin Hydraulique de Sébou (ABHS). Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and managed by Wetlands International, it aims to develop tools for the evaluation and monitoring of the ecological quality of the surface waters of the Sébou catchment area.

This pilot project is part of the wider regional project “Engage civil society in the integrated management of water in the South and Eastern Mediterranean”, which takes place in the catchment area of the Sébou, Morocco’s principal watershed, that gathers 20% of the country’s population. Lessons, in terms of process and outcome, could be used for other catchment areas in Morocco, as well as in other countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean.

The Ecol’Eau Sébou’s objective is to strengthen the capacity of the ABHS and of the civil society to evaluate and monitor the surface waters of the basin. Thus, it will:
– enable them to integrate the environmental component in the management of water resources through the establishment of a protocol for the evaluation and monitoring of the ecological status (based on the Water Framework Directive, which has been adapted to the Moroccan context);
– make NGOs and academics join the project and thus benefit from their skills by the creation of a Green Platform;
– create a space for dialogue between civil society and the ABHS.

Creating a space of common dialogue
The Green Platform was launched at a national workshop on July 1st, 2010. It comprises, at present, various representatives of civil society (17 national and local environmental NGOs, University researchers and an association of water users).

In addition to the main objective, which is to reinforce the capacity of civil society to carry out ecological monitoring of surface waters, the establishment of this Green Platform aims to:
(i) create a coherent network of stakeholders at the regional level, that collects information, shares, communicates and develops concrete actions to monitor the ecological state of the basin;
(ii) make the representatives of civil society join the project and benefit from their expertise;
(iii) strengthen the communication between civil society and the administration.

Project progress and applicability
Currently halfway to its completion, the “Ecol’Eau Sébou” project is led by a Steering Committee (SC) made up of 20 people representing various organizations and State and non-State institutions working in the field of water in Morocco.

A protocol of “Monitoring-Evaluation” was drafted with the participation of the Steering Committee and the Green Platform. The development of this Protocol was based on a study for the identification of waterbodies of reference for each type of waterbody, as well as a selection of sites for sampling and of indicators for the monitoring of the ecological status of surface waters.

The working group faced various difficulties in trying to shape the protocol and choose the indicators. Concerning the selection of indicators, many cannot currently be developed in Morocco (for example the indicator “fish”, because of the absence of a specific diversity in the waters of the Sébou). Others are not adapted to the Moroccan context due to lack of studies and means; therefore, it would be interesting to adapt one of these indicators to Morocco (the Standard Global Biological indictor, for example). Finally, concerning other indicators, much more time is required to study them (between two and five years), in order to develop them; this, for instance, is the case for macrophytes.

The project exit strategy
At the national level, there is already a growing interest for this project and its outcome, with an active and effective participation of representatives of civil society and State administrations in the various meetings and workshops.
At the end of the project, a guide to ecological monitoring of surface waters must be prepared and validated by the Steering Committee and the project team. This guide is intended to be used by NGOs and all water administrations concerned with monitoring and assessment of the ecological state of water, notably the other water agencies of Morocco. Lessons learned from the process and results, once disseminated to stakeholders in water management in the region, could be useful for other catchment areas in Morocco as well as in the South Mediterranean.

Source: Wetlands International