Honiara, Solomon Islands - Water and sanitation is everybody’s business” from “ridge to reef” and “from community to cabinet.”
Under Secretary to the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification Daniel Rove made the statement to open the National Water and Climate Change Forum in Honiara last week.
Under the theme “Adapting towards Resilience: Gud Wata fo strongim Komiuniti lo Evritaem,” the two-day forum brought together water and climate action champions from Solomon Islands’ rural communities, provincial governments, civil society, the private sector, international organizations, development partners and the National Government.
“More communities are facing water shortages due to flooding of streams and rivers, making water supplies unfit for human consumption,” Mr. Rove said.
“Additionally, droughts make communities experience water shortages and women and children have to walk long distances to find water. At times people drink polluted water that may lead to water-borne diseases as diarrhea and dysentery.”
“For atolls and coastal areas of high islands, sea level rise adds more stress to groundwater contamination due to high salinity levels.”
“Given these circumstances, appropriate adaptation measures must be deployed to minimize these negative impacts.”
The annual event, now in its third year, showcased the Solomon Islands Water Sector Adaptation Project and its adaptation benefits, particularly brackish and ultra-water filtration units and automatic hydrometric weather stations installed in six provincial townships and rural communities.
The filtration units produce up to 4,000 liters of water a day and provide crucial potable water in vulnerable communities on lower lying atolls and islands like Taro island (Choiseul Province) and Tuwo Community in Temotu Province’s Fenualoa islands.
The first of its kind in the Solomon Islands, the automatic hydrometric weather stations measure hydrological parameters such as groundwater levels, salinity and water temperature.
The new information forms a crucial part of the national climate and early warning system to enable authorities, communities and families to prepare and act appropriately in sufficient time during dry spells and prolonged periods without rainfall to save lives and reduce harm or loss.
Representing the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNDP Solomon Islands Country Manager Azusa Kubota in her remarks said she is encouraged by the results of the Solomon Islands Water Sector Adaptation Project.
“As a result of the integrated water management and climate-informed approaches, three low lying islands — Taro, Tuwo, Santa Catalina — and Tigoa township have now achieved universal access to climate resilient, basic drinking water services,” she said.
“I remember church leaders in Taro told me how proud they were to be able to host large-scale church events and not to run out of water. A school teacher told me that in the past, the school had to be closed for weeks when they ran out of water.”
“Water brings joy and life to people, and many of you in this room must have seen and experienced it firsthand.”
Ms. Kubota also raised awareness on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 — clean water and sanitation — and called for investment in innovative, sustainable and climate-proof models.
“Sadly, the world is not on track to achieve the global SDG 6 targets by 2030 at the current rate of progress. The time to act on SDG 6 is now.”
“Sustainable management of water and sanitation underpins wider efforts to end poverty, advance sustainable development and sustain peace and stability. This means that regardless of the sectors one works for, we need to come together and work towards the SDGs.”
Efforts by government divisions, projects and organizations to address adaptation to climate change in the water sector were showcased during the National Water and Climate Change Forum.
As the event brought together key stakeholders, the Minister of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, Honourable Bradley Tovosia, took the opportunity to launch the National Water Resource and Sanitation policy (WATSAN).
The policy, developed with technical support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, will guide development of the country’s water and sanitation services.
Stakeholders who contributed lessons learnt and best practices in climate adaptation at the forum include the Water Resources Division, Climate Change Division, Rural Development Program, Solomon Water, Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Project (PEBACC) Solomon Islands, Community Resilience to Climate and Disaster Risk in Solomon Islands Project (CRISP), Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands, and climate change journalist and Pacific Environment Journalist Network member Georgina Kekea.
The 2018 National Water and Climate Change Forum took place on November 28 and 29 at the Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands Water Sector Adaptation Project (SIWSAP) is a four-year climate change adaptation project financed by the GEF-managed Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and implemented by the Solomon Islands Government and UNDP Solomon Islands. On the ground in six provinces, SIWSAP’s key objective is to improve the resilience of water resources to the impacts of climate change and improve health, sanitation and quality of life, so that livelihoods can be enhanced and sustained in the targeted vulnerable areas.
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