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Catchment's management and mining impacts in arid and semi-arid South America

Final Report Summary - CAMINAR (Catchment's management and mining impacts in arid and semi-arid South America)

Latin America is extensively covered by arid and semi-arid lands. Unsustainable human activities on these areas have an important environmental impact, since they increase erosion and salinisation and rapidly degrade ecosystems. One of the major activities with harmful environmental consequences is mining, which is though a significant source of income for the involved countries and cannot be radically reduced. Thus, the challenge is to develop innovative managerial approaches to a river basin scale, in order to combine profitable activities and sustainable water resources management practices.

The CAMINAR project examined three mining-impacted river basins in Peru, Bolivia and Chile, so as to:
1. establish dialogue on the impacts of mining on water management in the areas of interest at a regional level;
2. evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulatory strategies;
3. recommend guidelines for integrated water resources management with particular emphasis on mining impacts;
4. create decision support systems (DSS) to facilitate participatory water management planning in the examined case studies;
5. derive a set of principles for future policy development and implementation to protect fragile arid and semi-arid ecosystems and dependent human communities.

The project integrated applied research, in the demonstration catchments, with a multidisciplinary approach in order to meet the needs of end users. CAMINAR was organised in nine interrelated work packages, which undertook research, dissemination and management activities.

Working groups (WGs) were established in regional, national and international levels involving stakeholders and, in some cases, local communities. Existing data of the catchments of interest were collected with the support of geographic information systems (GIS) and analyses of their characteristics, pressures and issues were performed. The guidelines for water management were subsequently finalised based on international experience review as well as on traditional sustainable practices of the local population. GIS databases were built and validated, while vulnerability and risk appraisals were performed. Four DSS were developed, evaluated and promoted to appropriate institutions after the project completion. The DSS addressed the issues of surface and groundwater flow models, water rights analysis models and data processing and analysis. Policy options were finalised within the regional and national WGs and disseminated accordingly. Moreover, knowledge communication was facilitated by the preparation and distribution of relevant documents, along with scientific publications, participation in conferences and construction and continuous update of the project websites.

The project had a direct impact on arid and semi-arid zones management, in catchment, national and regional level. The developed guidelines were published in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) technical series of the international hydrological program. Finally, additional research projects were based on CAMINAR findings.