Micronesians Rise up to Water Challenge

Honolulu, Hawai'i (SOPAC): July 23, 2009 - Throughout the Pacific the availability of fresh water is vital to health and development. However, increased demand and limited supply is putting pressure on water resources.

Micronesia has critical water and sanitation issues that are exacerbated by climate variability. Over the last two weeks representatives from the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), met in Honolulu, Hawaii to develop a roadmap to improve water planning and management.

Water systems are both fragile and complex. They connect, intersect and interact with different eco-systems, communities, economic interests and government and non-government agencies. A broad range of key stakeholders involved were invited to the workshop and include information specialists, NGOs, public utility managers, environment protection officials, national planners and senior civil servants.

"We are looking at ways to manage water in a more integrated way, involve more people and to build bridges between stakeholders at the national level and relationships between our island countries," said Jorelik Tibon, Deputy Chief Secretary, Republic of Marshall Islands Government.

The meeting was run by the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission's (SOPAC) Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) project in partnership with the East West Centre.

According to Rhonda Robinson, IWRM adviser at SOPAC, IWRM will help Pacific Island Countries develop and strengthen policy, processes and structures, which enhance the intersectoral involvement and coordination of regional, national and local stakeholder groups in water resources management.

"An Integrated Water Resources Management approach enables coordinated management and planning to achieve sustainable solutions for water and sanitation issues over the long term," Ms Robinson said. "It provides the process for action and results."

Ms Portia K. Franz, Executive Officer of the Palau Environmental Quality Protection Board said that while there are many different sectors in Palau with policies related to water they are currently not connected.

"We will look at the ways IWRM can help us weave these sectors, and policies together," she said. "It will be important to involve communities in the process so that we have a much stronger, workable, achievable and comprehensive national water policy."

Wendolin Roseo Marquez, Terrestrial Program Manager with Conservation Society of Pohnpei, said that by looking at the issue of water management holistically and involving different stakeholders the program has a good chance of succeeding.

"Through this approach we can give communities and other NGO's a sense of empowerment and ownership on water issues," he said.

Demonstration projects, funded by the Global Environment Facility, will show communities the tangible benefits IWRM can provide.

The meeting covered effective communication, leadership and consensus building, negotiation, and creative strategies to develop an inclusive and wide ranging IWRM programme for each country.

The Pacific IWRM national planning programme is funded by the European Union.

For more information, contact Tiy Chung, Communications Adviser IWRM/HYCOS SOPAC: Phone (+61) 409 604 010, tiy@sopac.org.