Pacific Wide Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Launched in Nadi, Fiji
Nadi, Monday 14 September, 2009: Pacific Island countries have uniquely fragile water resources due to their small size, lack of natural storage, competing land use and vulnerability to natural hazards. In many Pacific countries, even small variations in water supply can have a significant impact on health, quality of life and economic development.
In opening the first meeting of a regional initiative that seeks to sustainably manage the Pacific’s water and wastewater, Fiji’s Minister for Primary Industries, Mr Joketani Cokanasiga, made the point that climate change will put further pressure on the Pacific’s water resources.
“Water remains a valuable natural resource and is linked to the socio-economic development and environment protection of any nation,” Mr Cokanasiga said. “With enormous variability in the climate, coupled with rapidly increasing demand on water, its depletion is a serious concern to all people. It therefore should be everyone’s business to address this issue with concerted efforts.”
“This is why I am supportive of the Integrated Water Resources Management approach because it reflects the most intelligent and acceptable decision making process,” Mr Cokanasiga said. “It takes into account the range of views of stakeholders, the needs of the environment and considers these along with available information to pave the way for the best possible solution.”
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is funding a regional and nationally based project to build the capacity of Pacific Island countries to manage water resources. 14 demonstration projects will be run in 13 Pacific countries to show the practical benefits of integrated sustainable water resources and wastewater management.
The projects will executed regionally by the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC). SOPAC’s Director, Cristelle Pratt, said water management can’t be viewed or treated in isolation.
“This project is key if our countries are to live safe and worthwhile lives,” Ms Pratt said. “Water is a cross cutting development priority and should be addressed by whole-of-government approaches.”
The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Deptuy Resident Representitive, Toily Kubanov, said it is important that Pacific island countries see themselves not only as “victims” of climate change, but also as the leaders of the global effort to recognize and deal with its consequences.
“This project offers exactly such opportunity with practical on-the-ground activities on effective resource management and adaptation to climate change.” Mr Kubanov said. “It has been designed through a collaborative effort between national and regional partners, it looks at some urgent issues and concrete steps to prevent additional stress in environmental systems, and it is well-resourced.”
UNDP and the United Nations Environment Programme are implementing agencies for the project.
The GEF Pacific IWRM Project will address water management issues prioritized by each country. They are:
Watershed management projects, which will take place in the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu.
Wastewater management and sanitation projects, to be run in the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu.
Water resources assessment and protection projects in the Cook Islands, Fiji and Niue.
Water efficiency and safety projects, which will be run in the Solomon Islands and Tonga.
Tiy Chung, SOPAC Media Advisor, mobile (+679) 872 8439, email: [email protected]