MINISTER OF PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT, ENVIRONMENT AND HOUSING
ON THE OCCASION OF
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
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
•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
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
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
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.