Address to the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater at UNESCO, Paris
Greetings, distinguished Ministers, water experts from UNESCO and other international agencies, and stakeholders.
Today, I wish to speak on the chronic paucity of groundwater supplies in St. Kitts & Nevis and across the entire Caribbean region – with a legacy going back years, and where more recently, the situation has intensified as a result of climate change.
St. Kitts and Nevis, in particular, faces the following three critical Climate Change Issues:
- Higher temperatures and droughts, with a decrease in annual rainfall of nearly 20% over the last 10 years alone led to critical water shortages.
- Coastal Erosion leads to the loss of beaches and damage to coastal infrastructure
- Increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes in our region.
While our new Government is determined to restore 24-hour supply of Water, certain topographical and infrastructural characteristics of small islands hamper our efforts in the replenishment of freshwater including small land masses with limited catchment basins. There is limited availability of surface water throughout the year leading to high dependence on limited amounts of groundwater, which at present require fossil fuel energy to extract. In addition, climate change factors have exacerbated the problem as Global warming has contributed to issues such as drainage problems, soil and water degradation and rising sea levels leading to saltwater intrusion in aquifers causing contamination of groundwater.
Water shortages in St. Kitts and Nevis and across the Caribbean have a constraining impact on major food producers. The limited source of water also fuels several conflicts as different areas including agriculture, hydroelectricity, and drinking water and sanitation, compete for this already scarce resource.
Distinguished Ministers and UN experts, I do not exaggerate when I state that I have probably understated the very real challenges to water security of Caribbean SIDS.
Going forward, what is desperately needed is increased expertise in the use of technological innovations, such as solar-powered (micro) irrigation systems to improve water efficiency. Expertise is also required for the management of, and access to, clean and renewable energy to increase agricultural productivity, and optimisation of water use.
Looking ahead to the UN 2023 Water Conference, we can strengthen water resource management if we adopt timely measures to pursue some identified, science-based, capacity-building activities. These would include:
- improving water use efficiency to support agriculture
- flood and drought mitigation
- reducing water contamination and pollution
- improving wastewater treatment
- strengthening water infrastructure and technology
- building a reliable basis for data collection and storage
in digitized format; and re-thinking governance and policy for future sustainable use of water
I, therefore, call upon UNESCO IHP, the FAO and other relevant UN agencies, to join us in strengthening the Caribbean SIDS scientific, technical and policy capacities to achieve the aforementioned goals.
The need is URGENT and action at the highest political levels such as at UNESCO IHP is required.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis stands ready to act as a catalyst in developing a platform to enable this dialogue to materialize.
Thank you for listening