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Pacific community marks World Water Day

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20 March 2015, Suva - On 22 March each year, Pacific Island countries and territories pause to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of their fresh water resources to sustainable development.

 



However, with World Water Day on Sunday falling a little over a week since the region experienced a severe tropical cyclone, the thoughts of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and people across the Pacific are with those affected by cyclone Pam.

The cyclone has left thousands with limited or no access to safe drinking water and sanitation, dramatically demonstrating the region’s vulnerability to the water-related impacts of climate variability and climate change.

The extent of the drinking water and sanitation needs for those affected by the cyclone – in particular in Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – is being determined by their respective governments who are leading the response.

The World Health Organisation and UNICEF recently estimated that around half the population of the Pacific has access to improved water supplies, while only one-third has access to improved sanitation.

 

This means that, across the region, more than 6.6 million people continue to live without access to safe sanitation and more than 4.5 million people endure potentially unsafe drinking water.  Most of these people live in rural areas or remote outer islands, and in growing informal urban settlements.

According to SPC Director General, Colin Tukuitonga, addressing this serious development issue is a challenge that requires a fundamental shift in efforts by countries and partners.

“World Water Day is a time for us in the Pacific to acknowledge that water is everybody’s business, and that increased efforts are required at all levels to help secure safe water and sanitation for all, in all conditions,” Dr Tukuitonga said.

Speaking at Fiji’s national World Water Day celebrations in Nadi today (Friday), SPC Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer Iva Koroisamanunu acknowledged the challenge ahead for families seeking to restore access to safe drinking water and sanitation following cyclone Pam.

“For many Pacific communities, maintaining daily access to safe drinking water and sanitation is already a significant challenge,” Ms Koroisamanunu said.  “In the Pacific, the serious impacts of climate variability and natural hazards can make this challenge even more difficult,” she said.

Media contacts:

Rhonda Robinson, Deputy Director, SPC Water and Sanitation Programme, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or +679 9934770
Dave Hebblethwaite, Water Governance Coordinator, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or +679 9983059

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has a Water and Sanitation Programme that works across the region to assist Pacific island countries and territories demonstrate the benefits of improved water and sanitation management on the ground. This work is made possible with the support of many partners, among them the New Zealand Aid Programme and the European Union.

The theme of World Water Day 2015 is Water and Sustainable Development. More information on World Water Day can be found at www.unwater.org/worldwaterday.

More information on water management in the Pacific can be found at www.pacificwater.org.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2015 10:42  

Newsflash

Quarrying for sand gravel in Kiribati’s most populated atoll island South Tarawa will soon be replaced by a safer and a more sustainable alternative – lagoon dredging.

The Kiribati Government, through its European Union-funded Environmentally Safe Aggregates for Tarawa (ESAT) project, implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s SOPAC Division, hopes to phase out beach aggregate mining on South Tarawa. The mining has caused severe coastal erosion problems on the already vulnerable atoll island.

Beach aggregate is a combination of sand, gravel, pebbles and stones primarily used in making concrete, road maintenance, the building industry and most general construction.

Through its Oceans and Islands Programme, SOPAC has undertaken technical work on coastal vulnerability on South Tarawa for many years. During this time, a continuing stress highlighted since the 1980s has been the damaging impact of beach mining on shoreline systems, caused by intense and unsustainable extraction of aggregates.

The ESAT project, which was established to explore alternative sources of beach aggregates, has identified Tarawa’s lagoon.