By Rabindra Rooplall
The finite water resources are interdependent, and high irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from
agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use.
Caribbean stakeholders are working to ensure that freshwater is included in the regional plans for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), while the Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C), which recently brought regional and international stakeholders together for a conference in Trinidad, examined adaptation options in relation to water and climate change.
Underscoring that Water and Climate Change were critical national and regional concerns toward achieving a water secure Caribbean, project manager of GWP-C, Dr. Natalie Boodram said that the implementation of better water policies, strategies, programmes and water related adaptation actions, are always needed to promote human security and regional integration through better water resources management.
According to Dr. Boodram, climate change does not only cause changes in precipitation volume, timing frequency and intensity, but in turn it alters the quantity and quality of water available for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes, in addition to rising sea levels and resultant salt water intrusion into coastal aquifers.
In a recent workshop it was noted that current variability and long-term climate change impacts are most severe in a large part of the developing world, and particularly affect the poorest.
Much work has taken placed in the region to push forward a process of integration, and examples of initiatives and an evaluation of their outcomes and relative successes have been recorded. The focus is on the 15 States in the English-speaking Caribbean, the unifying effects of whose shared language, cultural and political similarities make this region a productive focus for the evaluation.
This area has some of the region’s most vulnerable states and territories in terms of fragile economies, impact of climate change, and constrained development opportunities.
The waterscape of the Caribbean is rich and diverse; it is home to some of the most water scarce nations on the planet, such as Barbados and the Bahamas. Yet in close proximity there are countries with abundant freshwater resources, such as Guyana and Belize.
According to UN data, the Caribbean population has more than doubled from 17 million in 1950 to 41 million in 2010, and population density has increased by more than 100 percent during the same period. However, as a general rule, water distribution infrastructure built in the 19th and early 20th century did not anticipate this growth. This has led to many cases of water stress and scarcity. Since a high proportion of the population in many Caribbean States and territories live in urban areas, there is a two-fold challenge to delivering potable water to densely populated communities, while addressing the storm water and wastewater challenges typical of urban environments. All English-speaking Caribbean islands and territories show a consistent trend of migration from rural to urban areas.
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