Talk about building back better!
As spring returns in the northern hemisphere, and it looks like we are beginning to turn the corner on the pandemic in terms of new vaccinations, here is one more thing to celebrate.
On Monday in the mountains outside Lima, Peru, three national Ministers joined the leadership of Lima’s water utility and community leaders from Carampoma to “lay the first piece of earth” on a project to restore the Milloc wetlands, an important ecosystem that has been degraded in recent years by illegal peat extraction.
It’s been a long time coming. Our program in Peru began in 2010 with an Incubator for Ecosystem Services. We supported the Ministry of Environment and Peru’s national water regulator on groundbreaking law and regulatory reforms that allow water utilities to spend their funds on natural infrastructure. We developed cost-benefit curves — the first of their kind — to show Lima’s water utility how simple interventions like wetland restoration (i.e., “natural infrastructure”) could deliver water security at a fraction of the cost of major new public works like desalination plants (e.g., conventional infrastructure).
These advances laid the groundwork for a $130 million public funding mechanism in 2015 to drive investments in natural infrastructure for water security and climate resilience. In 2018, USAID and the Government of Canada made a major $27.5 million commitment to the Natural Infrastructure for Water Security project in Peru to build on these efforts, led by Forest Trends together with Condesan, SPDA. EcoDecision and Imperial College London.
It’s one thing to pass a law or award a grant to transform a country’s water sector. Believe me, it’s another thing to actually transform a country’s water sector. This is what we’ve been doing with our partners for the past three years: building coalitions, scientific evidence, technical capacity, and a portfolio of investment-ready projects.
Today Lima’s water utility already has another 7 projects on deck after Milloc (with 12 more in the oven), and we’ve built a national pipeline that could move $175M in investments in 16 watersheds across Peru in the coming years. Nature will be a crucial part of the conversation for new water infrastructure, disaster mitigation, and climate resilience investments at both the local and national level, permanently. Talk about building back better! I think the rest of the world, including the United States where I live, has much to learn from Peru’s leadership.
Changing our water culture is as much a question of changing hearts as minds. None of this works if communities are not a part of this process. To celebrate World Water Day, our team has also launched a virtual photographic exhibition on “Women and Water,” and commissioned original artwork from some of Peru’s best artists on the theme of nature and water. These works serve as a powerful reminder of why this work is so urgent. Scroll down to see them, and enjoy.