Small Islands Voice Global Forum
From planting trees to seeding clouds – saving precious water
From planting trees to seeding clouds, water supply is a concern for everyone living in small islands.
Vikash Tatayah writes: I come from Mauritius (Indian Ocean), where we have lots of rain annually, except for the drought months of September to November. This is when we are urged to conserve water, but never at other times, except a few years ago when we had a very prolonged drought which sent our water resources institutions into panic mode. I was washing the dishes the other day, trying to use as little water as possible. I saw very amused looks from my guests. I think that it is important to conserve water both during times of drought and abundance. I also liked the bathroom note in a 5-star hotel in South Africa (‘Water is Africa's most precious resource. Use it sparingly’). We should also do the same in Mauritius and elsewhere. It shows the value of water, and the fact that tourists should conserve water as much as locals do.
Focusing on the importance of the media in water conservation, Arnaldo Coro Antich from Cuba (Caribbean) says: During the past five years the eastern part of the island of Cuba has gone through a severe drought that has caused great problems to the people living there, as the water reservoirs have gone dry in many places, and the underground water resources become saline. The Cuban National Institute of Water Resources, which is in charge of water supply and conservation, is now involved in a very comprehensive effort to help those people in need of water due to the drought, using many different approaches... For example the city of Holguin, with about 300,000 people, is now receiving a ‘supply train’ of water tankers from a remote water source... and the city of Las Tunas is getting water through a new 50 km pipeline, a very expensive solution for the Cuban economy. One of the aspects that I believe is very important is our water conservation media campaign that is using all resources including radio, TV, the print mass media and the distribution of leaflets and pamphlets to encourage rational use and conservation of water. The drought is so bad that plans are being made to use, once again, an aircraft overflying the cumulus clouds to seed them with sodium iodide crystals or frozen carbon dioxide in order to enhance their chances of becoming rain clouds. Last but not least, a national programme for the reforestation of the eight most important river basins is in progress, with the hope that when these newly planted trees grow up, they will help bring in more clouds and consequently more water.
Elizabeth Taylor from the island of San Andres (Caribbean) provides news about a new water supply programme, which combines traditional methods and new technology: Despite an annual average rainfall of 1800 mm the San Andres islanders suffer from severe water shortages. Traditionally rainwater was the main source of water, but over the years ‘modernization’ has meant that traditional water supply methods were pushed to one side in favour of groundwater. The regional environmental management agency, CORALINA, monitors groundwater quality and has found that 70% of groundwater is polluted. Saline intrusion from over-extraction and rising sea-levels pose serious threats that need further study. CORALINA is starting a pilot project with village households to improve rainwater harvesting and maximize benefits from rainwater. Clusters of homes will share rainwater collection and distribution systems. It is hoped that low-cost, appropriate rainwater harvesting technology can be used across San Andres to provide more good quality water.
And finally Solomoni Biumaiono from Fiji (Pacific) writes: Good news for everyone! The United Nation had just opened a new Water Virtual Learning Centre in Fiji (May 19, 2005) and it is an honour to be finally able to announce this news. For all small islanders out there and who are directly involved in any water resource related activity, this is something that can contribute positively to our water management. The centre will be based at the University of the South Pacific and will target scientists, policy makers, working professionals and managers with courses on the management of water resources. This is one positive step towards having sustainable water supplies and I think we should at least try and benefit from it, for while the guy from Niue and the guy from Cyprus may be a world apart, they still have a common ground on which to talk.
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