Water resources confab closes today

Kingston, Jamaica — Experts working on international water projects across Latin America and the Caribbean, along with implementing agencies and stakeholders from the public and private sectors, will today wrap up a three-day workshop in Kingston focusing on how to more effectively manage surface water, freshwater, groundwater and marine resources.

The reality, they say, is that the Caribbean Sea — though it supports a vibrant ecosystem benefiting fishers and the tourism industry — is currently threatened as a result of overfishing, climate change and pollution from sewage, agricultural run-off and industrial effluent. Subsequently, as much as 75 per cent of coral reefs in the region are said to be “at risk”.

The discussions will include integrated ecosystem and water resource management, climate change, land-based sources of pollution and the identification of opportunities to build stronger regional partnerships for sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The workshop is the final part of phase three of the Global Environment Facility’s International Waters Learning Exchange and Resources Network (GEF IW: LEARN). It started on April 23 and is being hosted by UNEP’s Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit-Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CAR/RCU).

Project manager for GEF IW: LEARN Mish Hamid said this final workshop presents an opportunity for project managers to share lessons learnt, discuss impact monitoring and opportunities for collaboration, as well advise the GEF on better ways of securing high-level stakeholder and private sector engagement. This will be especially useful as GEF IW: LEARN enters its next phase of implementation, he indicated.

Coordinator for UNEP-CAR/RCU Nelson Andrade Colmenares noted that the meeting is timely as its objectives reflect the priorities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which is especially significant with the designation of 2014 as the International Year of SIDS.

Two current GEF IW:LEARN projects concern the rehabilitation of a watershed between border countries Haiti and the Dominican Republic; and the coordination of sustainable use of land and water resources among countries in the Amazon Basin.

The GEF is an independent financial organisation which provides grants to countries for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, land degradation, ozone layer and persistent organic pollutants. The projects benefit the global environment by addressing local, national and global environmental problems and promoting sustainable livelihoods.

The GEF IW focal area targets trans-boundary water systems such as shared river basins, lakes, groundwater and large marine ecosystems. Since the inception of GEF in 1991, the IW portfolio has invested US$1.4 billion of GEF grants on 242 projects in 149 countries. This investment has leveraged approximately US$8.4 billion in co-financing.

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