Suva, 22 March 2013: The Pacific joins the rest of the world today in celebrating World Water Day 2013 in a spirit of cooperation and partnership. This occasion provides a moment to reflect on our precious water resources and on our role in their management and protection.
World Water Day is celebrated on 22 March each year to help focus the world’s attention on water and sanitation. This year is also the International Year of Water Cooperation –the global theme for World Water Day this year. This theme has enormous significance for the Pacific, a region where water management is a critical development issue with profound implications for economic growth, human rights, public health and the environment. To put the scale of the issue in context, it has been estimated by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) that little more than half the population of our region has access to improved drinking water and sanitation.
The Pacific theme for World Water Day is Building Water Partnerships for the Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Water issues and concerns, such as the inequitable distribution and unsustainable use of water resources, cross many boundaries, communities and levels of governance. Furthermore, resource management in the Pacific also needs to account for traditional and cultural approaches often tied closely to land and nearshore coastal area management. These approaches also extend to the management of water and sanitation. Navigating through all this can be challenging and achieving any lasting success requires effective cooperation between multiple actors across many levels.
Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), said that cooperation is crucial not only to ensure the sustainable and equitable distribution of water but also to foster and maintain peaceful relations within and among communities. He further reinforced the need to strengthen water partnerships already in place across the region to help secure safe water and sanitation for all.
Although there are clearly major challenges ahead, SPC joins its member countries and territories in celebrating the real progress being achieved through building water partnerships.
In Fiji, the collaborative work of the Nadi Basin Catchment Committee is enabling practical solutions to reduce the human impacts of flooding. This pioneering work demonstrates what can be achieved when communities, agencies and the private sector come together to face a problem that is not solvable through the efforts of individuals.
Innovative technologies continue to be developed and shared across the region. Tuvalu has been particularly active in sharing the knowledge behind its tremendous success in using composting toilets to reduce both use of fresh water and pollution of groundwater lenses and coastal lagoons.
In Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands, government sectors are joining forces at a subregional level to raise awareness of water and sanitation issues and find solutions to common problems. Our Melanesian members too have begun collaboration to better respond to the development issue of access to safe drinking water and sanitation. With SPC’s support, the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat will shortly appoint a Water and Sanitation Access Facilitator to help develop policy and practical solutions in MSG countries.
At a regional level, the Pacific WASH Coalition convened by SPC continues to foster partnership with national, regional and global partners in developing effective water and sanitation improvement programmes. Forums such as the 2012 meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management are bringing disaster, water management and climate change communities together to seek an integrated approach to dealing with water-related disasters and climate change.
According to Rhonda Robinson, Deputy Director of the Water and Sanitation Programme at SPC, the Pacific WASH Coalition is a clear demonstration of water cooperation as it involves various stakeholders working in the field of water supply, sanitation and hygiene coming together to share lessons learnt, challenges and success stories from their activities in the Pacific region.
There are many more examples of progress being made in the Pacific through the building of water partnerships ‘from ridge to reef’ and from ‘community to cabinet’. However, the challenges are great, and much more needs to be done to ensure that efforts to secure safe water and sanitation keep up with population growth and the impacts of climate change and other issues for development.
Today many countries in the region are celebrating this event nationally and we are encouraged by the creative use of partnerships and cooperation to carry out this effort along with all the continuing hard work to secure access to a safe water supply and sanitation for all Pacific people. A summary of the national World Water Day activities and country contact details is attached.