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The MELIA project: spreading the word about water

Getting the results of water management research projects to the people who need them is the goal of the EU-funded MELIA (Mediterranean Dialogue on Integrated Water Management) project.

'Water management, especially in the Mediterranean, has been the subject of hundreds of projects,' said the project's coordinator, Professor Rafael Rodriguez of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). 'We don't have a lack of information!'

The problem is that all too often, the products of these projects are not transformed into practical solutions to improve the efficiency of water use. Furthermore, experts who design technical solutions to problems do not always take into account the social, economic or political implications of their idea.

To change this situation, the MELIA partners are facilitating a dialogue among the key stakeholders affected by water use and management issues, such as scientists, water providers, educators, farmers, and other stakeholders and water users. The project is well placed to carry out this task as its partners include experts from the scientific, technical and socio-economic sectors, as well as basin management organisations, water suppliers, industrial groups, agricultural organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The project aims in particular to raise awareness among policy makers and governments of water management practices which have been successfully applied in other countries.

Their links with this target audience were given a boost recently when one of the project partners, Professor Muhammad Shatanawi of the University of Jordan, was appointed water and irrigation minister of his country. He is eminently qualified for the post, having over 25 years of experience in water resources management, irrigation systems design, the hydrology of arid areas and the environmental impact assessment of water and irrigation projects.

He is no stranger to the world of politics, having been a member of the Working Group on Water Resources of the Middle East Peace Process Multilateral Negotiations, and part of the Jordanian delegation to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Professor Rodriguez confesses to having mixed feelings about his colleague's new job. 'I'm really happy for Jordan but not so happy for my project,' he told CORDIS News, explaining that Professor Shatanawi was one of the most active partners in the project.

Jordan undoubtedly has great need of its new minister's vast experience of water management issues. In a paper written for the MELIA project, Professor Shatanawi described it as 'a country of absolute water scarcity', where competition for water resources has led to conflicts between the different users and the illegal drilling of wells.

The project also has plans for reaching out to the wider public with water saving messages. Initially this will involve dissemination activities in schools and universities, but Professor Rodriguez also plans to use the medium of television to get his message across.

In addition to traditional documentaries, the project partners would like to see story lines involving water efficiency woven into television dramas such as soap operas.

'In water management there are many dramatic topics to get into scripts,' explained Professor Rodriguez. 'We know this is a way to reach the public.' Professor Rodriguez is now keen to get together with a coalition of television producers from around the Mediterranean region with a view to developing this idea further.

MELIA is funded under the International Cooperation programme of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). It is due to run until 2010.

Virginia Mercouri | alfa
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