The United Nations Nairobi Convention has launched a new publication of guidelines aimed at supporting the sustainable management of freshwater sources in the western Indian Ocean region.  
Guidelines for the Assessment of Environmental Flows in the Western Indian Ocean Region aims to help communities and governments manage these water resources to sustain rivers and the ecosystems, wildlife, and the human livelihoods that depend on them.  
A communique from the convention secretariat which falls under the United Nations Environment Programme in Kenya said freshwater ecosystems like rivers and estuaries help sustain life in the Western Indian Ocean region by providing a broad range of services.  
“For many communities living in the Western Indian Ocean region, rivers are an essential resource for food, employment, and energy. Many settlements have developed around rivers, where communities use the water to drink, fish, irrigate their crops, feed their animals, wash laundry, swim, and more,” said the communique. 
The Nairobi Convention, signed by Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, and Tanzania, aims to promote a prosperous Western Indian Ocean region with healthy rivers, coasts, and oceans. 
Nannette Laure Seychelles’ focal point for the convention, told SNA that the island the nation did have some guidelines but they were not being applied in a systematic way and was being applied as and when necessary. 
“Now with the Nairobi Convention, one decision taken by the convention of parties was as a programme of work to develop the guidelines. So us now as member states we will have to adopt and adapt these in our own countries,” explained Laure.   

The Guidelines aim to help communities and governments manage these water resources.  (Constance Ephelia Resort) Photo License: CC-BY
The director-general said that the guidelines also provide for the capacity building where staff benefits from training to better implement these at the country level. 
The Guidelines were developed by the UNEP–Nairobi Convention, the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association and the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. They will be used by governments, researchers, civil society, and communities managing water resources.  
The Guidelines will be an addition to the growing toolkit of the upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) and efforts towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14.2, on protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems.  
“By using a standardized approach in environmental flow assessments, countries and communities in the Western Indian Ocean – and the globe at large – can share lessons and experiences with one another,” noted Kerstin Stendahl, Head of UNEP’s Ecosystems Integration Branch.  
“This could lead to increased opportunities for policy and governance actions to ensure equitable and sustainable access to water for humans and wildlife – while protecting the economic and environmental security of riverside communities for generations to come,” added Stendahl. 
Environmental flows assessments – or Eflows – seek to determine the quantity and quality of water and sediment flows necessary to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods and wellbeing that depend on them. 
Though governments and other stakeholders recognize the key role of sustained environmental flows to communities and the environment, there has been no standardized, region-wide approach to conducting environmental flows assessments. 
The new Guidelines for the Assessment of Environmental Flows in the Western Indian Ocean Region aims to address this gap by outlining, step-by-step, how to conduct such assessments to enable learning and harmonized approaches to Eflows across the region. Successful implementation of recommendations from Eflows assessments can have profound changes in riverside communities. 
Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – has benefitted a lot from the Nairobi Convention, not only in terms of training but with financial and technical support for environmental-related projects.
Source: Seychelles News Agency