MONTREAL, Que.– Following the second session of Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers (IFGR)), held from April 18 to 20 at the headquarters of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA), Erik Orsenna, economist, writer, member of the Académie Française, expert in sustainable development, the environment, agriculture and emerging economies, and President of this multidisciplinary international observatory created by Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR), presented work summaries that showed the plurality of uses of a river and their necessary acceptability in a controlled risk culture, and in a context where new energy models are emerging around rivers. The study on the Port of Montreal within the St. Lawrence / Great Lakes system was the focal point of the exchanges, said a release.
“Through this international gathering of great importance, we are pleased to have been able to help bring a multidisciplinary perspective on the St. Lawrence River, which connects the Port of Montreal to all the continents and more than 140 countries,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the MPA. “The themes that the MPA proposed to IFGR members were brilliantly dealt with. The expertise and informed view of members will guide us to take better actions to safeguard the sustainability of the river that we depend on so much.”
While the river is one of the resources most affected by climate change, it is also a tremendous lever for action by being a reservoir of fresh water, a source for the production of renewable energy, an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective means of transportation, and a vector in territorial development. For this, it is necessary to get river managers to dialogue among each other, share good practices for sound management of this resource and define the river of tomorrow. This is the role of IFGR, which met for its second session in Montreal.
Nine rivers were represented, as well as institutional representatives (from Voies Navigables de France representing France’s waterways, Hidrovia representing a South American seaway, and the Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du fleuve Sénégal representing development of the Senegal River) and experts (economists, historians, archaeologists, governance experts, virologists, etc.) worked initially on the practical case study of the St. Lawrence focussing on two issues:
What collective strategy for the river of tomorrow (adaptive management of the resource)?
How to facilitate acceptance by all stakeholders of a port’s expansion on its territory?
In addition, two workshops were held, one on a population’s capacity to adapt to changes in the river (social resilience and risk culture), and the other, on new energy models around the river. These workshops cover the four areas of study that guide IFGR’s ongoing work: pedagogy on risk and memory (flooding and high water), social acceptability of projects around the river, a frame of reference for good governance of rivers (dialogue between the upstream and the downstream), and new energy models and their integration in the field.
IFGR wanted to share the findings of its second session with stakeholders of the Port of Montreal and the St. Lawrence Valley. Several elected officials, municipal representatives, environmental and marine organizations, and representatives of educational institutions attended this summary and took cognizance of the elements of reflection in the debates. The definitive findings will be available in the coming weeks on the IFGR website, the release said.