The XVth World Water Congress of the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) will meet in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 25-29, 2015.
OOSKAnews caught up this week with Lilian Del Castillo-Laborde, a Professor of International Law at the University of Buenos Aires Law School in Argentina and Vice-President at the IWRA. She served as Director and Coordinator of the La Plata Basin office in Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina from 1984 to 2010. Since 2011, she has been a member -- and is currently Secretary-General -- of the Academy for Environmental Sciences of Argentina. She is also a member of the International Shared Aquifer Resources Management (ISARM) group, the International Law Association (ILA), the American Society of International Law (ASIL), and the European Society of International Law (ESIL), and is a board member of the International Association for Water Law (AIDA) and a full member of the Council for International Relations of Argentina (CARI).
OOSKAnews: Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you fit into the water family?
Del Castillo-Laborde: I have worked within the water family for many years, mainly as a lawyer for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Argentina. For about 15 years, I was the chair of the La Plata Basin office, so I have had to deal with the problems of a large basin with many rivers -- the Rio de la Plata River, the Uruguay River, the Panama River, and many others. … I dealt mainly with trans-boundary issues and negotiated with our neighbors, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
I was [also] involved with a group of water specialists around the world working in areas of pollution, allocation, and agriculture, which is of course of particular interest to us in South America. … I am a member of International Water Resources Association, the most valuable association in water issues. … There are many, many associations that are more specific -- they deal with aquifers, or other special aspects of water use. I think IWRA is the only one dealing with a general, global approach, and this gives it a special value.
OOSKAnews: What single issue related to water keeps you awake at night?
Del Castillo-Laborde: The mismanagement of water. In my humble view, there is a lot of mismanagement in water. It is not so much a problem of quantity, because if you manage water properly, you can get a lot out of very small quantities of it. We have seen this in many places in the world. But you must manage water soundly and properly. If we continue with indiscriminate pollution and indiscriminate use, it is going to be very difficult in the future.
OOSKAnews: The XVth World Water Congress has the theme “Global Water, a Resource for Development: Opportunities, Challenges and Constraints.” We hear a lot about the challenges and constraints around water. But it would be interesting to hear your view about opportunities that arise from these challenges.
Del Castillo-Laborde: I think, perhaps, we are trying to look for opportunities. ...For example, in South America, in Africa and in Eastern Europe, we are expanding agricultural boundaries -- turning forests into arable land for crops. This is a challenge, but also an opportunity for development in the sense that we are going to have a better possibility of nurturing our increasing world population. I think there is an important link between land use and water use, and these uses should be managed jointly. There is an opportunity to combine the use of the two resources. …We have only so much land and so much water, and no more. We have to try to combine everything and to create an opportunity out of the challenge.
OOSKAnews: The World Water Congress is being held for the 15th time, and it is coming to Scotland, which has positioned itself through legislation as being the Hydro Nation. What is your single biggest hope in terms of positive outcomes that can come from this prestigious event?
Del Castillo-Laborde: I think the Congress will bring [together] all the best thinkers in the world on these broad and important subjects. For example, valuing water is one of the most important challenges. … We are going to learn from the Scottish Government and Scottish specialists about issues such as water location, competing uses and non-conventional sources of water. This is one of the big, big issues for the future. It is going to be a close association between the Scottish Government and the IWRA, and an enriching experience for both.