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Marshall Islands Holds First Ever National Summit on Water
By Online Editor
5:34 pm GMT+12, 22/03/2011, Marshall Islands
One hundred and fifty people gathered at the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) International Convention Centre in Majuro today to celebrate World Water Day and to participate in RMI’s first ever National Water Summit.

Addressing the summit, RMI’s President, Jurelang Zedkaia, said most people were aware of the serious and immediate threats facing RMI and other low lying atolls and islands of the Pacific.

“Here in the RMI, water is not just a health issue, it is also an issue with major social, economic and security dimensions,” President Zedkaia said. “This summit is thus very important – both in terms of developing a framework for moving forward in this area but also in terms of developing the case and arguments for integrated water resource management as a key tool for addressing our national water needs.”

President Zedkaia called on those present to put forward strong arguments to convince “our policy makers, and to some extent our donors, as to why an investment in water resources is an investment in our people”. The President also pointed out that there needs to be more linkages between water and climate change adaptation.

RMI’s First Lady, Hannah Zedkaia, is also the National Water Champion and has been actively involved in the summit preparations and in will continue this role in future events.

The National Water Summit is part of RMI’s World Water Day Celebrations and will take place over two days under the theme “Dren nan Mour im Ejmour” (Clean Water for  Healthy Life). The global theme is: Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Water Challenge.  

The low lying atolls of the Marshall Islands have very limited natural water storage capacity and much of its water comes from rainfall or fragile freshwater lenses. Increased migration to areas, like the atoll of Majuro and Ebeye Island, is putting increased strain on urban water resources and increasing threats to freshwater lenses.

Much of Majuro’s piped water comes from two main sources: reservoirs that collect rainwater off the atoll’s runway and from the fragile underground water supply known as the Laura Lens.

Currently most of the atoll’s residents receive only two days of piped water per week, and then only in the mornings and evenings. However frequent droughts and El Nino events often mean that this is further reduced to one day a week. A 2007 El Nino event resulted in the declaration of a National Emergency as water reserves fell to only 6 million gallons or 5 days of piped water.

Population growth, unsustainable management, contamination from household waste (including leaking septic tanks) and inappropriate land use practices threaten the long-term viability of the groundwater resource to provide potable water. Added to this are threats from increased climate variability and change.

The Summit participants included traditional leaders, community representatives, civil society, school children, and representatives from all levels of government.

Two other Micronesian countries, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia are also holding National Water Summits this World Water Day.

It is anticipated that the National Water Summits will also provide important input at the regional and international level through a solid policy platform and investment plans for water. Summit outcomes are expected to inform the regional initiative to revise the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Sustainable Water Management.

The Micronesian summits were supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SPC-SOPAC). SPC-SOPAC’s Water and Sanitation Programme provided funding and technical support through the European Union funded Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Planning Programme and also through the Global Environment Facility funded Pacific IWRM Project.

Contact:  Moriana Philips: Project Manager, GEF Laura Demonstration Project: mobile: (+692) 456 3124, morianaphilips@gmail.com
Tiy Chung: SPC Water and Sanitation Programme Communications Advisor: mobile: (+692) 456 3124 email: tiy@sopac.org


SOURCE: SOPAC/PACNEWS

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