Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management / Water Research Commission / We Effect / Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management / Water Research Commission / We Effect

Ecosystem degradation and livelihoods: Public-private- civil society solutions

Tuesday 30 August | 14.00-15.30 | Room: NL 357
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel

This session aims to explore cross-sectoral solutions to preserve and restore ecosystems and the crucial services they provide. The private sector, who has traditionally been criticised for sacrificing the environment, is now becoming recognized as an essential part of the solution. The same can be said for farmers, who, in particular in arid and semi-arid regions, consume large amounts of water, often at the expense of ecosystem integrity, but are now increasingly being involved in restoration measures . We will explore innovative, and potentially highly effective solutions involving the private and public sectors, and civil society.

During the seminar posters will be presented. Please find them online under the resources tab.


Ecosystem Degradation and Livelihood: Public-private- civil society solutions

14:00     Introduction 
              Dr. Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and       Technology

14:05     Keynote: Mainstreaming ecosystems for water security - 
              response to the SDGs
              Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, Chair, GWP

14:15     Poster Pitches

14:15    Poster Pitch:  Impact of Wetland Conservation on the 
             Livelihoods: A Case Study 
             Prof. Venkatachalam Lingappan, Madras Institute
             of Development Studies

14:18    Poster Pitch: Phototctalytic Degradation of Phenol in Industrial 
            Wastewater using Modified TiO2 in Visible Light
            Faezeh Pazoki, University Of Tehran

14:21   Poster Pitch:  Ecosystem services supplied by water in 
           Argentina: Socio  assesment and Law
            Prof. Clara Minaverry, University of Buenos Aires

14:24   Poster Pitch: Perspectives from Europe: Ecosystem Services 
           valuation for  innovation promotion
            Ronjon Chakrabarti, Adelphi 

14:28     Lightning talk: Accounting for Ecosystem services of water
              interventions – approach, assessments and recommendations
              Ulrike Sapiro, The Coca-Cola Company

14:34     Lightning talk: Ecosystem restoration and sustainable
              agriculture: What's in it for farmers?
              Dr. Eduardo Mansur, FAO

14:40     Lightning Talk: Communities as stewards of environment:
              bringing people into the cycle
              Prof. Steven Loiselle, Earthwatch Institute

14:46     Interactive Session
             Moderator: Dr. Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and

15:20     Conclusions 
              Dr. Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

15:25     Conclusions for entire seminar
              Dr. Jakob Lundberg, We Effect


Human well-being and economic growth depend on the health and integrity of ecosystems and the crucial services they provide. This session discussed the conundrum of economic growth and sustainable management of water for healthy ecosystems to provide conditions for mitigating poverty and achieving the new SDG targets. 

Session 1 explored those ecosystems, in particular groundwater and mountainous and coastal areas, that are frequently overlooked and yet offer a range of ecosystem services, while supporting, directly or indirectly some of the most populous regions of the globe. These ecosystems are undergoing new and rapid climatic, physical and demographic changes often without the support of political, institutional or economical frameworks. These challenges call for new forms of holistic and integrated approaches that take the whole continuum from source to sea into consideration.

Before diving into case studies, Session 2 opened with a call to rethink our growth model so it incorporates ecosystem degradation into the global economic equation. At the individual/household level, initiatives such as aquaponics, offer real opportunities to reduce poverty and minimize impacts on ecosystems in ways that are scalable, cost-efficient and directly respond to the needs of the population involved. Importantly, communities that are reliant on ecosystems for livelihood need to be provided with the correct incentives to extract benefits sustainably argues. Farmers in particular, who are often seen both as responsible and as victims of water scarcity, need an umbrella of incentives to overcome short term needs and to support transitions to long term sustainable activities. Public policies to improve farm productivity can be combined with those that reward conservation practices. Results can be maximized by partnering with green business strategies (e.g. ecological value-added markets).

The role of the private sector was discussed further in Session 3 with the involvement of a number of large corporations that are increasingly recognizing ecosystems as Natural Capital that needs to be valued and quantified. Coca-Cola has developed an ecosystem accounting methodology to value natural capital and integrate these values into its decision making process- in particular the impacts of their activities and the benefits of restoration projects. Exactly how our ecosystems should be valued, measured and quantified is still uncertain and far from being globally accepted. However it demonstrates a growing interest from the private sector to incorporate ecosystems as part of the global financial equation and decision making process.

At the civil society level, the growth of information and technology offers a real opportunity to 'scale up', especially through citizen science programmes such as FreshwaterWatch and the generation of large global data sets by civil society to be used by researchers and policy makers while engaging citizens. Partnering and working with major international companies, while producing scientific results that are directly contributing to public policy, is a demonstration of a new kind of model currently on the rise.

Although contributions from the private sector, academic research, and civil society all have a role to play, the public sector needs to ensure the incentives, revenue mechanisms and institutional structures are in place to support these changes. Unfortunately, this is far from being a general rule. In Vietnam for instance, the state has been unable to exercise its core regulatory duties as a result of extreme institutional fragmentation which has weakened the state leaving space for the private sector to operate without adequate control.

In conclusion, different contexts call for different types of approaches involving the public, private sectors as well as smaller-scale bottom up innovations. Regardless of the approaches used, good governance structures and holistic approaches that consider water management from source to sea are essential elements to support those solutions.