Data sharing and joint thinking urged for Amazonia

Monday, 27 January 2014 10:31 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Countries in the Amazon region need better data sharing and a more holistic view of development if they are to avoid conflicts and costs relating to key resources such as water over the next 50 years, experts warn.

A report making recommendations for a new, international security agenda for the Amazon, says the region’s nations should link-up and circulate data on water, energyhealth and food security to ensure sustainable development and tackle challenges posed by changes in climate and land use.

A failure to do so, it says, could lead to far greater economic and social disruption in the mid-term and create unprecedented challenges for South America’s political leaders.

“The data exist, but are very fragmented,” says Andy Jarvis, a programme leader at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and an author of the report released by CIAT and think-tank the Global Canopy Programme last month (17 December). The report was developed with input from science experts and political leaders from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

According to Jarvis, existing data on matters crucial for the region’s future security are out of date, and there is a lack of a consistent monitoring on issues such as access to water, energy and health.

Where there are data, the links between these issues, or between data collected at a regional, national or international level, are missing, he adds.

“The Amazon needs a strong commitment from every government in the region.”

Andy Jarvis, CIAT

Jarvis also laments the disjointed approach to development in the region, with resource extraction currently dominating the development agenda, instead of efforts to deliver sustainable and holistic progress.

For example, he says, few of the plans for new public hydroelectric plants in the region consider how climate change may affect river flow and so energy generation in the mid-term.

They also ignore the fact that deforestation can cut the amount of local rainavailable for energy production, Jarvis warns.

To end such an incoherent approach and deal with the lack of data, he says the “Amazon needs a strong commitment from every government in the region”.   

Otherwise, he says, the region may see a repeat of the water security rows seen in South Asia, where Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are unwilling to share water from the Ganges river.

“If this happens in the Amazon, it will be disastrous for everyone,” he says.

The report includes two key policy recommendations to governments. One is to identify areas where water, energy, food or health security are most vulnerable in Amazonia, and to quantify the social and financial costs of that vulnerability. And the second is to establish national ‘nexus groups’ of senior experts to help inform decision-making across sectors.

“We’re talking with ministers and high authorities of the involved countries so they know and apply our recommendations,” Jarvis says.
Link to full report