UNEP-SPC Pacific Islands Freshwater Vulnerability Assessment Report
"Freshwater under Threat – Pacific Islands", written by Mr. David Duncan, Regional Environmental Engineer of the GEF Pacific IWRM Project was recently released by UNEP. The report found that the almost total reliance on rain-fed agriculture across all islands puts economies and livelihoods at risk. Nearly 10% of deaths of children under five in the region are attributable to water related causes; 90% of these deaths, according to the report, can be traced to poor sanitation treatment systems. Click below to download the report.
Download: Freshwater Under Threat – Pacific Islands (5.14MB)
Pacific Islands Face Severe Water Threats, New Report says
Suva, 24 April 2012 – The unique freshwater challenges facing many small islands in the Pacific are highlighted in a new report released today by the UN Environment Programme and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The report, “Freshwater under Threat – Pacific Islands”, written by David Duncan, Regional Environmental Engineer at SPC SOPAC’s Water and Sanitation Programme, found that the almost total reliance on rain-fed agriculture across all islands puts economies and livelihoods at risk. Nearly 10% of deaths of children under five in the region are attributable to water related causes; 90% of these deaths, according to the report, can be traced to poor sanitation treatment systems.
The delivery of water supplies and sanitation services in many Pacific countries currently falls well short of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets. According to the report, access to improved drinking water sources in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (at 40% and 47%, respectively) is about half the global average and it is anticipated that both countries will fall significantly short of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for improved drinking water access.
Ecologically, smaller islands are under greatest stress, with 85% to 90% of vegetation cleared on Majuro Atoll (Marshall Islands), Nauru, Fongafale (Tuvalu) and Upolu (Samoa), the report says. These islands also have the smallest capacity to absorb wastewater generated from urban areas, polluting critical groundwater lenses.
“The challenges facing the region in terms of freshwater resources are immense. Many of these islands have limited water resources, not to mention human, financial and management resources. It is imperative that we improve water use efficiency to meet the basic human needs and to support sustainable development,” said Dr. Park Young-Woo, Regional Director of UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
The report cited water management as one of the greatest challenges to water resource vulnerability, particularly the limited technical and governance capacity partly due to the high emigration of its skilled and educated workers. All Pacific Islands are struggling with Integrated Water Resources Management capacity, according to the report, with only Samoa and Nauru having IWRM policies.
“This brain drain hinders development in this region with many countries struggling to fill technical positions,” the report’s author David Duncan said. “Water resource management is a critical issue in this region where many islands are isolated and have limited local resources.”
These challenges—which are likely to be aggravated by climate change-- will require innovative approaches and tailoring solutions that take into account the complex geographical and socioeconomic constraints of each island. There is no one solution and would need a mix of policy intervention and preferred management measures. The report also recommends:
- Long-term strategies to address sustainable management capacity in the region. Further, this must be supported by high-level engagement to ensure political commitment to developing and implementing sustainable policies and legislation.
- Delivery of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) within a model adapted to the Pacific is critical to enable countries to maximize development opportunities associated with water resources and better meet basic human rights. This will require varying degrees of institutional and utility reform to optimize governance and management arrangements.
- Investment in infrastructure with a combination of household level and centralized infrastructure on larger islands.
- Integration of Disaster risk management into national planning and integration of water resource management needs into disaster risk management to provide PICs with resilience that reduces the costs, which are as high as 46% of GDP.
- Ensuring communities are an integral component in planning and delivery of disaster management plans
- National and regional feedback on progress towards addressing major water resource issues and development of indicator frameworks are required at national and regional levels to provide critical feedback to decision-makers on the success (or otherwise) of policy decisions and implementation.
Mr Tiy Chung, SPC Water and Sanitation Communications Advisor (in Fiji), Tel: +679 338 1377 (ext 290); Mobile: +679 998 7586; E-mail: email@example.com