Today the Pacific marks World Water Day, a day designated to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of fresh water resources to sustainable development.
However today, like every other day of the calendar, more than a million Pacific Islanders will wake to the task of collecting drinking water from a polluted stream or well, and to the challenge of finding a safe and private place in the bush or on the beach to go to the toilet.
According to the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, this is not just an issue of hardship and inconvenience. Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation poses a serious health risk – particularly to children – and a fundamental development constraint for Pacific nations.
“Access to potable water and safe sanitation is a basic human right that many people take for granted,” Dr Tukuitonga says.
“However, it is a right currently denied to almost two thirds of Pacific Islanders, notably in the rural areas of Melanesia, in informal settlements surviving on the fringes of the region’s growing urban areas, and on the hundreds of small atolls scattered across the Pacific.”
Dr Tukuitonga notes that all of SPC’s island members have made progress towards improving access water and sanitation. “However, in too many cases these efforts are not keeping up with population growth and urbanising populations, let alone the emerging impacts of climate change,” he said.
“Increased collaboration is needed by countries, partners and local communities in order to support the tremendous effort required to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving universal access to safe water and sanitation by 2030.”
The theme of this year’s World Water Day is “Why waste water?” and focuses on ways to reduce the wastage of water and the impact of wastewater on our environment.
Speaking at Tuvalu’s World Water Day celebrations, SPC Water Security Project Manager, Uatea Salesa, acknowledges the role that appropriate technologies, such as composting toilets, can play in conserving scarce drinking water supplies and reducing the impact of wastewater on lagoon environments.
“In many cases, locally-tested solutions already exist, such as sustainable sanitation options, sound groundwater management, and effective rainwater harvesting,” Mr Salesa says.
“Local communities are keen to replicate and upscale these solutions, and with the right support of the region’s development partners, there’s no reason why safe and sustainable water and sanitation can’t be a reality for all Pacific Islanders.”