Home Up Address by Hon. Ignatius Jean on the Occasion of World Food Day, October 16, 2005 WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY JUNE 5TH 2003




JUNE 5TH 2003


Good evening, my fellow Saint Lucians.

It is my pleasure to speak to you in commemoration of World Environment Day, celebrated today June 5th. The environment is the basis for our survival. Without a healthy environment, we cannot have a healthy society. Without clean air or water, we will suffer untold health problems. Our natural beauty, our forests, beaches, coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds directly support our brand of tourism, agriculture and fisheries.

As we continue to suffer from water shortages caused by an extended dry season, it is indeed appropriate that the theme for World Environment Day this year is “Water – Two Billion People are Dying For it”. This theme continues the observance of the year 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater, and more importantly illustrates that water is not only crucial to sustainable development, water is critical to life.

Despite some progress in recent years, facts about water at the global level are alarming:
•Four out of every 10 people live in river basins experiencing water scarcity;
•6000 children worldwide die every day from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene;
•1.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water; and
•2.5 billion persons do not have adequate sanitation services;

My friends, these numbers are indeed alarming, and Saint Lucia has much to be proud of in this regard. However, we cannot afford to be complacent, our Caribbean neighbours of Barbados and Haiti are listed among countries suffering from water stress, that is countries where water availability does not exceed the threshold value of 1700m3 per person annually. Caribbean islands have much less rainfall than that of similar island states in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and are therefore more likely to be impacted by water shortages and droughts.

Apart from freshwater systems, riverine and coastal systems provide food supplies, tourism opportunities, and many more benefits that are frequently overlooked or abused. Rivers and streams bring pollutants and solid waste to the coastal zone where they accumulate along beaches. Wastewater and sewage discharges continue to be one of the most significant threats to sustainable coastal development and to the health of our population. Water pollution limits our access to existing water supplies, is a direct threat to public health, reduces biodiversity, and compromises the stability of natural ecosystems.

The economic, environmental and social costs to St. Lucia from poor water resources management practices in the past continue to be very high. These costs will rise even further if water resource management does not become a more integral component of planning at all levels. More importantly, all of us as Saint Lucians must take collective responsibility for safeguarding fragile water sources by protecting our forests and using water more wisely.
Water is needed for drinking, food preparation and sanitation. It is also required for industry and manufacturing, and in agriculture for irrigation. As a government, we are challenged by the need to ensure equitable water distribution to all of these users. No sector or area in the country should have preferential treatment in the provision of water. Water, as stated in the recent conference on Sustainable Development in South Africa, is not a priveledge, it is a basic right. However, if we continue to destroy our forests and waste limited water supplies, if our demand for water continues to increase while available raw water sources decline, planning authorities will be faced with difficult decisions in the future on water allocation, distribution and the cost of supplies.

Water shortages have not been viewed in St. Lucia in the past as the major limitation to development and therefore we have been guilty of assuming that water is “free”. This perception much change. Water is not free and many agencies have embarked on sustained public awareness and education programmes to promote water conservation and the use of water efficient devices. We must now value water at it's real cost, a cost which must include the cost of collection, treatment, storage and distribution. I wish to call upon all agencies and sectors to continue to play their part in this important exercise.

Many significant efforts by Government have commenced to establish the necessary policy and legal frameworks for improved water management. The development of National Coastal Zone Management, National Water and National Land Use Policies are major efforts in this regard.

Ongoing efforts by my Ministry to promote a greater participatory and integrated approach to development planning among all stakeholders is intended to promote this integration process, and allow water resource management to play a more prominent role in environmental management and national development. The Policy, Institutional and Legislative reform for the local water sector will further assist in ensuring a safe and reliable supply of drinking water and improved sanitation services.

On this World Environment Day, I take the opportunity to reiterate our Government's commitment to the sustainable use of our environmental resources for the betterment of all. I urge everyone to examine the state of our environment and the way our attitudes, behavior and actions negatively impact on it. Above all, let us not take water for granted. If we all commit to save a little every day, it can add up to savings in water, energy and money, and to a more sustainable future for Saint Lucia.

Thank you and Good evening.

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