DR. ARUN KASHYAP: Construction of Water Harvesting Infrastructure

Nov 6, 2013

  • Honourable Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change
  • Councillor Scean (Si-an) Barnswell - His Worship the Mayor
  • Honourable Mr William Shagoury - Custos Rotulorum
  • Mrs Alison McFarlane, Environmental Foundation of Jamaica
  • UN Colleagues; Ladies & Gentlemen - A very good morning to all of you.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you all to this exemplary event. Thank you very much for joining to recognize and celebrate the efforts of the Clarendon Parish Development Committee Benevolent Society & Pleasant Valley Community.  They have provided us a delightful example of how community efforts can leverage catalytic funding and mobilize its constituents to meet basic needs and in a manner that strengthens their resilience and enhances capacities that empower them to adapt to climate change.  In addition to improving water supply to the community of Pleasant Valley and reducing their vulnerability, the project activities increase appreciation of the vital need for demand side management of this precious resource.

These are necessary activities for all communities and especially so for a small island developing state like Jamaica that is extremely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.  A recently concluded study by University of Hawaii on global climatic tipping points highlights that tropical countries will be among the first to feel impacts of unprecedented elevated temperatures – and perhaps as soon as in the next seven years.  Notably, among the cities highlighted, as being the first to reach this point is Kingston, Jamaica. 

The successful completion of the activities also epitomizes Honorable Minister Pickersgill’s astute message – that I really like – “with climate change, we must change.”  The community efforts demonstrate their ability to walk the talk and provide us with a model worthy of emulation.  I would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to the Clarendon Parish Development Committee Benevolent Society & Pleasant Valley Community for achieving the objectives of this excellent Project.

The recent IPCC assessment report (AR5) validates the experience from ongoing climate change adaptation and mitigation activities in various parts of the world that citizen preparedness at the local levels, community levels and parish levels provides a critical link between the ground level activities and national policies and strategies backstopped by the evidence based work of the research institutions.  These are an integral component of collective efforts to meet the challenges of observed and projected trends in exposure, vulnerability and climate extremes.

Rehabilitation of the 100,000-liter water catchment tank and completing the construction of an earth pond system is the first vital step to improve the agricultural productivity and output from the community and I am confident that it will contribute to improving the quality of life of the households in this Parish.  By putting in place a battery powered solar pumping system the community has creatively minimized the operating costs of accessing water and it is the first in the Parish to have established a solar power based community tank.  I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank our partner - the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica for partnering with the Small Grants Programme to support this initiative.

It is serendipitous that the handing over ceremony is taking place in the year designated as the “International Year of Water Co-operation” by the United Nations.  It also substantiates the integral message of the year that the government’s commitment to improving potable water supply and sanitation services to its citizens cannot be fully accomplished without ownership of and partnerships with the communities and the clients of the needed services. 

This is also the learning from the ongoing climate change interventions nationally, regionally and globally.  It is vital that the efforts to combat climate change are undertaken in an integrated and an inclusive manner.  This would ensure that every Jamaican - especially those that are most vulnerable have access to basic services including potable water and robust sanitation services, sustainable energy services, health services, food security, durable shelter, etc. to improve their quality of life and build greater resilience in line with the Post 2015 development agenda.

Water, sanitation and food security are intimately linked.  For instance, drought and inadequate access to clean water and sanitation are among the major problems affecting the parish of Clarendon. Lack of these services adversely impact agricultural productivity, health of the communities, and access to education by both boys and girls, especially the girls who do not like to attend a school with bad sanitation provisions.  And ultimately, this deprivation negatively influences the quality of life and livelihoods of all inhabitants of the Parish. 

The project is timely! The Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change states that nearly twenty two percent (22%) of rural households receive water from rainwater tanks making rainwater harvesting a viable mode of water supply for residents in several areas of rural Jamaica.  It is equally creditable that the Project has adopted an integrated approach that addresses the issue of an insufficient supply of water during the dry months, aims to reduce hygiene related illnesses and introduce healthier domestic practices while improving livelihoods through improved agricultural activities. 

Nearly 1,500 persons are benefiting from the project through provision of irrigation pumps and installation of water tanks for supply and storage.  It is heartening to see that designated community members backstopped by technical expertise from the Clarendon Parish Council will manage the operation and maintenance of these facilities.  The effort of the Project to bring rural women on board in the management of water resource is commendable.  Learning from community based water and sanitation initiatives worldwide are unequivocal on the important role played by the women to ensure sustainability of such programs.

We are hopeful that the new infrastructure would provide greater access to irrigation thereby stimulating the local agricultural industry by boosting productivity and generating additional jobs.  Readily available water supply would also lead to greater access to sanitation services and contribute to improved health and living standards of the neighborhoods.  And, the ability to store water with minimal losses would reduce the community’s vulnerability to climate variability and change while providing greater autonomy and flexibility to the farmers and other users. 

Engagement of the consumers of these services as important partners in ensuring the sustainability of the Project is important.  The community’s efforts in ensuring this partnership are laudable and already a committee has been structured to supervise the Project.  The Clarendon Parish Council by taking on the responsibility for the chlorination and maintenance of the tank is setting an excellent example of shared ownership of this initiative.  Training of the community members to efficiently maintain the tank and solar technology would also strengthen cost-effective management and eventual sustainability of the water resource.

It is reassuring to hear that there are plans to expand the project and possibly replicate them in other neighboring communities while also attempting to take some of them to scale.   It would be equally important to design an effective management plan for water harvesting and its sustainable use that is participatory, fee-based and managed by the respective community.  It is the ability of the residents to actively participate in improving their own welfare – as is reflected by the enthusiastic organization of this initiative that would be critical to the success of such initiatives.

The United Nations and its agencies in Jamaica are committed to supporting the Government of Jamaica in its integrated efforts toward effective adaptation to climate change and building a climate resilient society.  UNDP’s new Strategic Plan 2014-2017 highlights an integrated and issues based approach to achieve the simultaneous eradication of poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion through sustainable development pathways and resilience building that actively engages the beneficiaries whom we serve in contributing to the change they want to see.  We look forward to revitalizing such initiatives for services delivery in an inclusive development framework that balances the need for robust economic growth, job creation, and poverty eradication with the equally important need to preserve and protect the environment to address climate change challenges and strengthen greater climate resilience of the communities.

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