Access to clean, safe and resilient water to be boosted for Pacific communities

Suva

Access to clean and safe drinking water for 12,5000 people in Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu will be boosted after the launch of a new USD 5.2million water security project today.

The Managing Coastal Aquifers Project (MCAP) will work to increase awareness, development, and management of groundwater as a water source by working with communities at grassroot levels including women and children. In the Pacific, access to safe, clean and resilient water can be challenging but this project will help find water sources that can be used and managed by communities in a sustainable manner to alleviate these challenges for more than 12,500 pacific people.

The project will be implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It brings together world class science and technology with traditional knowledge and engagement to improve the health and livelihoods of these communities whilst protecting them from future climate disasters such as drought.

Palau Ambassador to Fiji, Dr Jay D. Lincoln said “our 2016 drought is still fresh in our minds. At the time our outer island communities faced the brunt of the drought with access to water being a real challenge, so this project will actually help these communities get access to groundwater, which is safe, clean and relatively climate smart. I am proud to be here launching this project with UNDP and SPC”.

Republic of the Marshall Island’s Ambassador to Fiji, H.E. Tregar Albon Ishoda echoed these sentiments and said the transition to groundwater will strongly benefit communities. “79 percent of the Marshall Islands relies on rainwater for our drinking supply but as climate change and climate variability continues finding safe, secure and resilient water supply is critical for our people. This project is a step towards this”.

“In Tuvalu, the threat of drought is one we face regularly. Our communities are spread across our nine atolls and vast ocean space so ensuring outer island communities are able to access, manage and sustainably use clean and safe drinking water protects our communities and future generations and I am thankful this project will help do just that”, Tuvalu High Commissioner to Fiji, H.E. Mr Temate Melitiana.

Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji said, “The decision by Palau, RMI and Tuvalu to commit to a regional project indicates a collective effort to ensuring its people have access to safe water and sanitation. This is a fundamental human right and key to achieving a sustainable future for all and particularly in atoll settings. UNDP is honoured to extend its support to these three countries to achieve the attainment of SDG 6, and ensure no one is left behind.”

“I acknowledge the commitment from our regional counterpart, the Pacific Community (SPC) to ensure access to safe water and sanitation for women, men, youth, children and people living with disability,” Bouadze added.

SPC’s Director of the Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Division, Dr Andrew Jones officially launched the project with our Members and UNDP. He said “nothing is more previous to life than water. It is still a shocking statistic that 45% of Pacific people still lack access to basic drinking water. This project understands the environment and reality for many of the island communities across the three countries of Palau, RMI and Tuvalu and it will use traditional knowledge combined with years of scientific understanding and expertise to address one of the most critical human rights for these communities: access to clean, safe and resilient drinking water”.

Groundwater is a natural resource which can exist as a thin freshwater lens “floating” on top of the denser seawater. By working closely with island communities and local governments in Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu, MCAP is able to incorporate traditional knowledge to enhance the understanding of groundwater resources, and build capacity to manage these aquifers, to enhance water security and resilience against droughts.

The four-year project will commence in the coming month. The project is recruiting dedicated project staff in each country to work alongside the country agencies and the selected communities to start the implementation of specific activities. The project is funded by GEF and executed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). SPC will be the main implementing partner completing the work alongside our Member countries.

Additional Information
SIDS rely on small coastal aquifers for their water supply needs. These coastal aquifers are fragile thin freshwater lenses that float on the underlying denser seawater and are reliant on rainfall for recharge.

These coastal aquifers are at higher risk of impact to water quality deterioration from threats including saltwater contamination from sea level rise, over abstraction, wave overtopping, loss of aquifer area through coastal erosion, and other impacts on water quality from inappropriate land-use activities. Climate change exacerbates these long-running threats to coastal aquifers through increased climate variability and climate extremes.

The fragility of coastal fresh groundwater systems necessitates careful management and protection to ensure their long-term integrity and their role in climate change adaptation strategies and improved water security. The project aims at improving the understanding, use, management and protection of coastal aquifers towards enhanced water security, including in the context of a changing climate. More specifically it aims at 1) identifying the extent, threats and the development potential of groundwater resources, 2) increasing awareness of groundwater as a water security supply source, 3) providing options for improved access to groundwater and 4) and improving aquifer protection and management, within Pacific Small Island Developing States.

Palau Statistics
In 2016 Palau declared a state of emergency due to the severe drought conditions affecting the country. Water rationing was introduced with residents only able to use taps for six hours a day (Drought Report, Republic of Palau, 2016)

Republic of the Marshall Islands Statistics
Climate and rainfall variability are direct threats to the population of the Republic of the Marshall Islands which relies mainly on rainwater harvesting for their potable and secondary needs. In the Marshall Islands, drinking water supply is covered by rainwater for 79% of all households while groundwater (reticulated or not) is only used by 9% of all households.

Tuvalu Statistics
Climate and rainfall variability are direct threats to the population of Tuvalu which relies mainly on rainwater harvesting for their potable and secondary needs. In 2011, the Government of Tuvalu declared a state of emergency due to drought. This followed the declaration of national crises on two atolls (the capital Funafuti and the southern island of Nukulaelae) requiring emergency measures to provide enough safe water for the populations living on these two islands.

Media contact(s):
Lisa Kingsberry Team Leader GEM Communications and Knowledge Management +6799252849 | E: [email protected]  
For media (not in Fiji) you can access the broadcast link of the event here from 10am FJD time.
Photos can be downloaded from here.

About UNDP:
UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. The UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji serves 15 countries and territories in the Pacific, as part of the 177-country office UNDP network, and offers global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. www.pacific.undp.org

About SPC:
The Pacific Community has been supporting sustainable development in the Pacific, through science, knowledge and innovation since 1947. It is the principal intergovernmental organization in the region, owned and governed by its 26 member countries and territories.

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