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The Fifth Inter-American Dialogue on Water Management, slated to be held over six days (October 9 – 14) is presently underway at the Half Moon Conference Centre in Montego Bay under the theme “Strengthening local capacity to achieve global challenge”.
Based on the premise that many countries in the hemisphere still lack the policy, legislative and institutional framework to undertake effective water management, the conference has targeted participation from 200 to 300 persons from the countries of the Americas representing international and multi-lateral institutions, governmental and non-governmental organizations, research institutions, private sector businesses and civil society.
Expressing the strong belief that the strengthening of local capacity was critical if the Americas were to rise to the global challenge of providing access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and supplying a growing demand for water, the conference has placed great emphasis on the achievement of set goals and a more target-oriented dialogue. It is anticipated that the goals will in the end provide more practical guidelines to water management in the hemisphere.
Four thematic areas set for the conference, include, ‘water for sustainable development’, ‘water governance and integrated water resources management (IWRM)’, ‘water and sanitation for all’, and ‘risk management’.
Giving the main address at the opening ceremony on October 9 Minister of Water and Housing, Donald Buchanan said water was essential to the well being of humankind as it is a vital input to economic development and a basic requirement for the healthy functioning of the world’s ecosystems.
“The availability of and access to freshwater, have been highlighted as among the most critical natural resource we face today and the world water cycle seems unlikely to be able to adapt to the demands that will be made on it in the coming decades,” Mr. Buchanan asserted.
He added that, “complacency, ladies and gentlemen, is not an option. We stand on the brink of a global water crisis. The two major legacies of the 20th century – the population and technological explosions – have taken their toll on our water resources. More people lack access to potable drinking water today than they did two decades ago”.
The Minister continued to stress that the present response to proper water management on the part of the peoples of the world was of some concern and that although population growth would essentially stabilize, the increase in the number of persons would be a major drive for water resources management.
“The population projections by the United Nations make the future for many parts of the world bleak. One projection is that some seven billion people in 60 countries will live water scarce lives by 2050 . but while we concentrate on water management and how to reduce the scarcity of water, we have not devoted the same level of effort to the issue of sanitation.
Official statistics suggest that somewhere in the order of 2.6 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation. Of this 2.6 billion, 75 per cent live in Asia, 18 per cent live in Africa and 5 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Minister Buchanan observed.
He stressed that the outcome of the conference must be a programme of action to solve the many challenges relating to the water resources of the world.
“This programme of action must be realistic with measurable outputs that will be supported by the Ministers of each country and favourably received in Mexico by the international funding agencies to ensure that the Region of the Americas remains ahead of the rest of the world in the development and management of its water resources to ensure sustainable development that will bring about an improvement in the quality of life of our people. As technocrats and representatives of the people of the Americas, we dare not fail,” the Minister of Water and Housing told the large group of participants.
He then declared the six-day Inter American Dialogue on Water Management conference officially opened.