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african-continentA Water Action Day was one of the highlights of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Agreement on Climate Change (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, earlier this month.

The day was true to its name as it was dedicated to all water-related concerns throughout Africa. The day included many events including the high level panel on climate change in the United Nations blue zone.

The panel included the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) director for water supply and sanitation, Mohamed El Azizi, Moroccan junior minister for water, Charafat Afilal, water ministers Barmou Salifou, Niouga Ambroise Ouédraogo and Sidick Abdelkerim Haggar from Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, respectively, as well as the director of the Moroccan Office of Electricity and Potable Water (ONEE), Ali Fassi El Fihri.

Water’s central role

Water makes up approximately 71% of the earth’s surface. Water is also central to many climate change challenges as a slight increase in the earth’s temperature will have serious consequences for all types of life on earth.

Climate variability is increasing and its impacts are increasing. Extreme climate events such as floods and droughts lead to increased water pollution, higher levels of malnutrition, more migration and greater significant losses, particularly in infrastructure and agricultural production.

More than 85% of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) presented by countries participating in the Paris Agreement said water was a key “adaptation issue”. This was noted by the UNFCCC during COP22.

Africa’s water challenges highlighted at COP22

The panellists addressed the entire range of water-related issues and challenges that affected African countries. These included access to potable water and sanitation services, irrigation, agriculture and food security, health issues, lack of water infrastructure, and medium and long term perspectives on climate change.

“Water insecurity leads to heightened conflicts, tension among populations, and causes migrations that threaten global stability,” Afilal said.

“Africa is the continent that is most vulnerable to climate change,” AfDB’s El Azizi said. He added that it was about “providing justice, in the context of climate financing, to this continent, which has suffered the consequences of climate change without having been responsible for it. African countries are concerned with the complex and difficult access to climate financing, particularly for fragile countries.”

Morocco’s large water adaptation projects

Large projects for climate change adaptation have already been established in Morocco.

Among these are the water transfer project between the Rabat and Casablanca watersheds that impact the daily lives of 5 million people, the Marrakech region water supply project, benefitting 2 million people, and the Tétouan region potable water supply security project via the transfer of water from the Tangier Med port facilities to the Moulay El Hassan Bel Mehdi dam. These projects have been funded by the AfDB.

ONEE director Ali Fassi Fihri said the projects “ensured service continuity for potable water in the area, because without supplementary service prior to the end of 2016, the entire Tétouan area would be confronted with a catastrophic water shortage.”

On Water Action Day, Morocco used the opportunity to officially launch a new initiative, “Water for Africa”. This initiative began prior to COP22, in July 2016 in Rabat, during the international conference on water and climate.

The goal of this project is to mobilise the international community to develop an emergency action plan on water to confront climate change in Africa and thereby mobilise the necessary financial resources.

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