Vital education programme launched on World Water Day
Laura Redpath, Senior Gleaner Writer
As the international community observed World Water Day on Tuesday, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) advised that ingenious approaches to safeguarding water are necessary for developing countries.
The FAO, a United Nations body, noted that the urban population across the world is growing and securing safe water for city dwellers is critical.
Over the next two decades, the FAO noted, more than half of the global population will reside in cities, and most of the expansion to urban centres is taking place in developing countries.
"Ensuring access to nutritious, affordable food for the poorer of these city dwellers is emerging as a real challenge," said Alexander Mueller, FAO assistant director general for natural resources.
Urban expansion is not new to Jamaica and according to Basil Fernandez, managing director of Jamaica's Water Resource Authority, the most pressing issue facing Jamaica is "harvesting and using water more efficiently".
Urban areas growing fast
Fernandez said Jamaica's situation is not one where the demand has surpassed the available supply, but urban areas are growing faster than the water infrastructure is being updated.
"The entire water sector needs to come together to improve and update our infrastructure," he told The Gleaner on Monday. "The infrastructure is old, having been put down many years ago."
He said one of the problems occurring due to outdated infrastructure is that pipes narrow and get blocked, resulting in low water pressure. This issue is aggravated as urban centres grow.
Two major islandwide water supply projects under way are the Kingston Metropolitan Area Water Supply, with a budget of more than US$80 million; and the Jamaica Water Supply Improvement Projects (JWSIP), with a budget of more than US$200 million. (See more on JWSIP below.)
As part of observing World Water Day on Tuesday, under the theme, 'Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge', the water education programme was launched in Jamaica.
The programme, approved by the education ministry, will assist teachers in enlightening students on areas of hydrology including pollution, and marine and fresh water.
Meanwhile, the FAO recommends good agriculture and forestry practices, watershed management, securing water catchment, and reducing flooding and runoff.