FROM VISION TO ACTION

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SOUTH PACIFIC APPLIED GEOSCIENCE COMMISSION (SOPAC) Suva, Fiji Islands

 

PRESS RELEASE July 22, 2002

TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT
IN THE PACIFIC

 

Sigatoka, Fiji Islands July 29 - August 3, 2002

The economic and social well being of small island countries, particularly those in the Pacific, are dependent upon the quality and quantity of their fresh water.

Water is often referred to as the "Source of Life." Sometimes we have too much and sometimes we have too little. It is clearly the responsibility of us, human beings, to ensure that our water is properly managed. We need to learn to manage it in a sustainable way so that we can guarantee that freshwater will be available for the health and future of our children and grandchildren.

In many island countries, trends such as climate variability, increasingly variable rainfall, accelerating storm water runoff, increasing demand for water, and increasing pollution of surface water, groundwater and seawater threaten our economic development and the health of our people.

For example, emergency situations were declared in some Pacific island countries after El Niño effects were felt throughout the region in 1998 and 1999. Some islands received no rainfall for months, badly affecting freshwater supplies, crop production, tourism, hydropower and, most critically, our health. Recent events, like the cyclones and resulting landslides that hit the state of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia this month, the prospect of another El Niño developing in the coming months, and continued reports of water shortages, pollution and floods throughout the region are all examples that show the vulnerability of our water resources. Our institutions need strengthening to improve resource management and achieve more efficient operations. Financing may be mobilized through improved tariffs, better financial management and tapping the resources of the private sector.

The 3rd World Water Forum will be held in Kyoto, Japan, March 16-23, 2003.

Acknowledging the vulnerability and particular needs of small island countries, the World Water Council has included the "Water in Small Islands Countries" as one of its themes. The World Water Forum is a global water conference that is convened every three years and brings together water professionals and stakeholders to address water concerns, raise awareness on critical water issues, and mobilize actions and resources.

During the 2nd World Water Forum, held in The Hague in 2000, a World Water Vision was adopted: "A World in which all people have access to safe and sufficient water resources to meet their needs, including food, in ways that maintain the integrity of freshwater ecosystems".

The time has come now to turn vision into action. The Pacific's preparation towards the 3rd World Water Forum is co-organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC). A Pacific consultation that is currently being held will catalyze action at international, regional, and national policy and project levels through: enhancing public awareness of the need for better management of water; exchanging views and experiences in managing water; and developing a shared understanding about policies, institutional frameworks and approaches to sustainable sector development.

A regional meeting will be held in Sigatoka, Fiji, July 29 – August 3, 2002. The meeting is organized by ADB and SOPAC and is made possible through valuable contributions from AusAID, the Dialogue on Water and Climate, DFID, NZAID, the Pacific Water Association and the World Bank.

It is anticipated that the meeting will be attended by about 150 participants representing delegations from most of the Pacific Island countries, as well as from the Maldives and East Timor. Additionally, representatives from international organizations, donor agencies, research institutes and global water sector "think tanks" will be in attendance.

On Thursday, August 1st a special parallel session on the Small Island Countries Dialogue on Water and Climate will be held with attendance of, and presentations by, Pacific and Caribbean water resources specialists, climate specialists, meteorologists and representatives from international organizations. In this session, coping strategies and adaptation strategies will be highlighted, views and experiences exchanged and inter-regional collaboration between small island countries of the Caribbean and the Pacific promoted.

The regional consultation meeting will be opened by the Hon. Savenaca Draunidalo, Minister for Works, Telecommunications, Energy, Road Transport & Shipping, Fiji at the Outrigger Resort, 8:30 am on Monday July 29, 2002. The outcomes of the meeting are expected to include a Regional Action Plan and a Ministerial Declaration, as well as a renewed commitment from countries, donors and implementing agencies alike to help achieve sustainable water management. Following the regional consultation meeting, preparations will be undertaken to ensure that a unified "Pacific voice" will be brought to the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto.

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Mecartney South Pacific Regional Mission Asian Development Bank P.O. Box 127 Port Vila, Vanuatu Tel: 678-2-3300 Fax: 678-2-3183 Email: smecartney@adb.org 

Rhonda Bower SOPAC Private Mail Bag GPO Suva, Fiji Tel: 679-3-381377 Fax: 679-3-370040 Email: rhonda@sopac.org 

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