Micronesia leaders to tackle water supply problems. | Pacific Beat

Micronesia leaders to tackle water supply problems.

Micronesia leaders to tackle water supply problems.

Updated 15 February 2012, 12:59 AEDT

Micronesian presidents and governors have established a water and sanitation subcommittee, with the decision being made at the 14th Micronesian Chief Executives' Summit last week.

It's hoped the move will lead to improvements in the availability of safe drinking water and improved sanitation.

Water resource experts from SOPAC, the Pacific Islands Applied GeoScience Commission, were on hand at the summit to advise Micronesian leaders.

SOPAC's Regional Manager for the Integrated Water Resource Management program,Marc Wilson, was among them and he says Pacific island rural communities are suffering the most from a shortage of reliable clean water.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Marc Wilson, SOPAC Regional Manager, Integrated Water Resource Management program

WILSON: I think it's a situation that needs a lot of work. Urban communities are not doing too badly, although there are notable shortages of potable water in some of those communities, but I think the rural communities are doing it pretty tough at the moment because of the lack of resourcing.

COUTTS: Was this something that you spoke about during the summit?

WILSON; Look, it was very much about trying to raise awareness at a high political level. You would be aware that the UN have recently declared water and sanitation a human right, so we were trying to build off that to try and lift the level of awareness with political leaders.

COUTTS: And are you even a step closer to getting more reliable water resources and storage for the Pacific?

WILSON: Look, I think this is a long term, it is a long term situation requiring a consistent input of resources to actually achieve that. But I think we are making headway and that people are now a little more aware of the situation and certainly we're working hard in communities to try and increase their level of awareness for things needing to be done.

COUTTS: Well, there is a subcommittee working on this. What does that compromise of ?

WILSON: All the members of Micronesian chief executive summit which is all the governors of Micronesia and all the presidents, so every community will be represented at the committee level.

COUTTS: Well, what can be done in the immediate future then to protect the water sources for the Pacific?

WILSON: Oh, that's a good one Geraldine. I think really it requires a multi-pronged approach, and integrated approach so to speak. So we need people in communities to do basic things like handwashing and try to not pollute their water sources, we need governments to work on their existing systems, we need donors to make sure they better direct funds in the appropriate areas. It's just a huge undertaking really.

COUTTS: And is that what you will do long term as well?

WILSON: Yes. I mean we are trying to raise a regional policy as well as national policies that will help direct where the resourcing goes.

COUTTS: Illnesses as we have seen occur, typhoid and cholera is some countries, Fiji and PNG, and that's affecting the water sources as well and taking a devastating toll. What can be done about that?

WILSON: Well, I mean that's a classic example or a symptom of a cross over of poor sanitation and drinking water of course, and what needs to be done is improved sanitation and improved drinking water disinfection and that's an infrastructure issue, it's a public awareness issue, just simple things like boiling water or chlorination, handwashing and preparation of foods, as well as governments putting the resources in to actually try and maintain these systems and improve them.

COUTTS: Is this kind of action that you're talking about, the 14th Micronesian summit, coming a little late?

WILSON: Well, it's never too late I suppose. I think it's true to say that there has been a bit of neglect of water. I mean there are lots of other things out there that are really attractive, like communications and transport and energy and climate change etc. and water tends to be forgotten, because it's such an incremental thing. It doesn't spoil, unless there is a dramatic event, it doesn't spoil overnight. It's a slowly evolving problem.

COUTTS; Marc Wilson, your department at SOPAC helped Palau produce an award winning short film shown at the climate change talks in Cancun. Congratulations and what's it about?

WILSON: It's just about traditionally a boy who was gluttonous and rapacious in his demands and eventually it spoils the environment entirely and the people that are supporting him and there is a legend of course that it helps create Palau, but basically it's the lesson learnt, you can't over consume without destroying your environment, which is pretty appropriate given that we were going to a climate change meeting.

COUTTS: Well, 90 per cent resulted impacts will be water and sanitation associated?

WILSON: Yes, yes. Well, I think that is true, because if you mentioned the illnesses that come out of poor water systems. If you think about climate change impacting on the Pacific, then you're looking at salt water intrusion on aquafish, you're looking at increased storm activity and droughts, which tend to produce things like cholera and typhoid and water shortages. So you can see that climate change really will impact mostly on water.

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