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 Feature Address on National Consultation on a Strategy for the Water Resources Management Agency


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Feature Address by Senator Hon. Dr. James Fletcher


Minister for the Public Service, Information, Broadcasting,

Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology

Government of Saint Lucia

  National Consultation on a Strategy for the Water Resources Management Agency


11th January, 2012

Ministry of Infrastructure Conference Room

Union, Saint Lucia





This Consultation has very great significance for me, because it represents

my first official function as a Minister of Government. So, you have the

dubious distinction of being the very first group of people to hear me deliver

an official address as a Minister. Unfortunately for you, for the time being

anyway, the brief remarks that I am about to share with you have absolutely

no value on EBay.




The Water Resource Management Agency (WRMA), which now falls under

the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology,

was established to manage Saint Lucia’s water resources.

The functions and powers of the WRMA include:


-      Receiving and considering applications for abstraction licences and permits for use of water in water control areas and permits for discharge of waste in waste control areas and making recommendation to the Minister for the approval of such applications;


-       Establishing and maintaining a database of information necessary and relating to water resource management;


-        Promoting the sustainability of water resources;


-        Advising on the conservation and use of water resources;


-     Promoting public awareness concerning the use and management of water  resources;


-  Undertaking water resources assessment and planning, includingsurveying, monitoring, research and development;


-       Developing watershed management plans and facilitating regulation accordingly;


-        Undertaking the preparation of water master plans and allocation schemes;


-       Advising the Government on the administration of enactments thatrelate to or in any way affect the conservation or use of water resources;


-     Providing technical advice to the Commission in support of the Commission’s regulatory functions;


-        Advising the Minister in relation to water control areas and waste control areas;


-        Advising the Minister in relation to water related emergencies; and


-        Advising the Minister in relation to gathering grounds.



A few things are clear from this mandate:


1. Providing advice to Government on the management of water

resources is an important element of the WRMA’s work;


2. The Agency is expected to spend significant amounts of time

undertaking studies, conducting research and developing plans;


3. Management of strategic information is a critical component of the

work of the WRMA; and


4. Public education and awareness are vital to the success of the WRMA.


Today’s Exercise


We are here today to take part in a national stakeholder consultation for the

development of a Strategic Action Plan for the Water Resource Management

Agency. To put this task into some sort of perspective, I want to share with

you some opinions taken from an article that I read a little over a year ago,

that speak to the challenges associated with water resource management

issues in Small Island Developing States like Saint Lucia. I will not identify

the author of the quote until I get to the end, but there should be one or two

of you in this room who are familiar with the words.


“A review of the work that has previously been undertaken in Saint Lucia

and the rest of the Caribbean reveals a conceptual disconnect in how

watershed issues and solutions are perceived. Watershed management has

been considered the sole remit of Ministries of Agriculture, and primarily the

responsibility of Forestry/Lands Departments. Among the gaps identified in

this conceptual framework are the lack of policies to guide integration, and


varying degrees of inconsistency among the government departments,

donors and other agencies who manage programs and interventions within

the watershed.


There are also weaknesses in inter and intra agency collaboration, including

inadequate documentation and dissemination of watershed issues and

proposed solutions.”


In identifying the institutional arrangements that are required for the new

approach to watershed management, the authors, and I will give you a hint

and tell you that there were two of them, suggested that a new institutional

framework needs to be created and supported by multi-sectoral, inter-institutional cooperation. These two female authors, another hint to help you unravel the mystery, further recommended:


-       Policy reforms must fully recognize the multiple roles of watershed management in sustainable development and create an inter-sectoral framework for implementation;


-  Laws affecting watershed management should be updated, improved and enforced;


-    Institutional mechanisms that link watershed-level interventions to relevant national, regional and global policies should be enhanced;


-       There should be stronger incorporation of sound scientific and local knowledge in watershed policymaking;


-      Capacity building and efforts to raise awareness should be strengthened at all levels; and


-  Mechanisms for long-term financing of collaborative watershed management processes should be created.


These words were extracted from a paper entitled “Integrated Watershed

Management: A New Paradigm for Small Island States”, in a 2010 OAS

publication called “Sustainable Development in the Caribbean; Contemporary Issues, Challenges and Opportunities” and the authors

were Vasantha Chase and Luvette Louisy. I referenced them so liberally

because they are so pertinent to the task that confronts you as a group at

this national consultation today, and us as a nation in the months and years




Strategic Plan


In developing the Strategic Action Plan for the WRMA, I want you to be

seized of the need for this agency to act as the catalyst for inter-sectoral

collaboration on water resource management issues. It has to function as

the vehicle that seeks to address what Vasantha and Luvette referred to as

the “disconnect in how watershed issues and solutions are perceived”. Our

Prime Minister has already made this collaboration possible with the creation

of the Ministry of Sustainable Development. He has placed the portfolios of

forestry, water, biodiversity management, climate change adaptation and

mitigation, and energy management under one Ministerial roof. We now

need to make sure that these portfolios communicate often with each other

and with their counterparts in the other Ministries; counterparts like Social

Transformation, Education, Physical Planning, Finance, Health, and



The WRMA has to be an agency that adopts an evidence-based approach to

policy formulation and decision-making in the water sector. The 2009 UN

World Water Development Report stated that “few countries know how much

water is being used and for what purposes, the quantity and quality of water

that is available and can be withdrawn without serious environmental

consequences, and how much is being invested in water infrastructure”.

Currently, that narrative applies to Saint Lucia. Surely, this is not the way

we should treat a resource that we say equates to life itself.


Finally, the Strategic Plan that you articulate for the WRMA must recognize

the important role the agency must play in advocacy and public awareness.

There are few issues that will make climate change/climate variability mean

anything to our population as much as the effect that it will have on water

availability. As temperature rise speeds up our hydrological cycle, the higher

temperatures will also increase evaporation, which in turn will increase the

frequency of drought conditions. Translate this into impacts on the

availability of potable water, reduced water for food production, higher

operating costs for hotels that now have to find more expensive ways of

augmenting their water supplies, and increased health and sanitation

problems and you begin to understand the critical role the WRMA has to play

in ensuring that the value of this most critical resource is fully understood by




I wish you a very productive consultation. Thank you.

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