Tue | Jun 15, 2021

Earth Today | Virtual symposium on water comes to Caribbean shores

Published:Thursday | March 11, 2021 | 12:11 AM
Water, which is as important for individual well-being as for development, is the subject of an upcoming symposium.
Water, which is as important for individual well-being as for development, is the subject of an upcoming symposium.
Jamaicans are no strangers to water shortages associated with droughts.
Jamaicans are no strangers to water shortages associated with droughts.
Handwashing as an essential public health measure to prevent or slow the transmission of COVID-19 helps to make the case for prioritising water security.
Handwashing as an essential public health measure to prevent or slow the transmission of COVID-19 helps to make the case for prioritising water security.
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Water as an essential resource for not only the individual’s sense of well-being, but also for the achievement of sustainable development, is shortly to be put in the spotlight with the hosting of the first-ever virtual Caribbean Science Symposium on Water in the Caribbean.

The symposium, hosted by the Global Water Partnership – Caribbean, is being staged from March 23-25 under the theme ‘Building Resilience in the Regional Water Sector to Address Climatological and Hydrological Risks and Threats’.

It comes as the region faces the double threat of climate change and the COVID-9 pandemic – the former presenting a clear and present danger to water security, while the latter helps to make the case for its prioritisation.

Climate-change impacts, such as global warming; extreme weather events, such as droughts and rising sea levels, put the security of fresh water in jeopardy. The requirement for, for example, frequent handwashing to prevent or otherwise slow the transmission of COVID-19, which has infected more than 115 million people and claimed more than 2.4 million lives, is a poignant reminder of the need to safeguard water security.

To make that happen, however, there is need to address challenges, including the storage, treatment and distribution of available water resources.

“Ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable water and sanitation services is a critical climate change-mitigation strategy for the future. Yet the science, research and engineering communities are only just beginning to translate and understand these climate predictions, and the extent and nature of the risks these changes pose to regional economies, societies and environments,” notes the conference website.

“Given these risks and the mounting scientific evidence that suggests that most of these changes will take place over the course of this century, the convening of a Caribbean Science Symposium on Water is both timely and relevant,” it added.

The symposium, it says, aligns well with and supports several recent and ongoing regional initiatives and programmes, including the Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (GEF-IWEco Project). This is while regional academics “are actively engaged in a wide range of research initiatives contributing to the better understanding of, and solutions to, the myriad of water challenges facing the region”.

Still, “there is a noticeable gap between research outputs, and their transposition from the science to the policy domain, and their use and relevance in informing evidence-based decision-making,” conference organisers have said.

“The Caribbean Science Symposium on Water provides an opportunity to bridge the science-policy divide, by bringing the two sides together,” the conference site notes.

To that end, the symposium is to bring together representatives from the research, science, development, economic, legislative and policy communities together with practitioners from water and related sectors, young professionals, university students and others, “to share and discuss ideas on ongoing scientific studies, initiatives, innovations and best practices related to enhancing water-secure developments and integrated water resources management in the Caribbean”.

Ultimately, the goal is to afford a space to share research outputs, while providing interactive opportunities to bridge the gap between science outputs and policy formulation. This is with the intention to allow for substantive outputs from the symposium in the form of policy-perspective papers to be presented to relevant ministerial fora, including the forum of ministers with responsibility for water.

“It will also provide greater scientific and technical insight into the continuing development of the Caribbean’s regional strategic action plan for water and other related regional and subregional programmes, policies, strategies and action plans relating to water resources management,” the organisers said.

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