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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Water Resources Management Agency: A necessary and timely response for water resources management in Saint Lucia.

By Fitzgerald John   
Water Resource Management Agency

Many people argue that the world faces an impending water crisis. This debate is fueled by the following facts:
·        Approximately 0.4 % of the total water in the world is available for humans.
·        More than 2 billion people are affected by water shortages in over 40 countries.
·        Over two million tonnes per day of human waste are deposited in water courses.
·        Half the population of the developing world are exposed to polluted sources of water that increases the incidence of diseases.
·        Increase in water demand due to the expected growth in the world’s population, from 7 billion to 9 billion people over the next 50 years.
·        The question of urbanization on the local economies.

In summary, water resources are increasingly under pressure from impacts of population growth, increasing water withdrawals, increasing economic activity, improper land use management practices, high levels of pollution, infrastructural development, and the effects of climate change.

A situation analysis of water in Saint Lucia indicates that the island is facing a water stress which will worsen and reach crisis proportion if a business as usual approach should continue. The analysis also revealed that water resources are managed in a very fragmented manner. There was no single agency responsible for the overall management of water resources in Saint Lucia. Management of water resources was shared among 12 government agencies, each operating independently of each other. This implies that the planning, development, conservation and management of such an important resource was not undertaken in an integrated and holistic manner. These shortcomings led to conflicts in use, allocation, and mismanagement of our water resources.

The situation of water management in Saint Lucia was highlighted to the government of the day, who agreed that the current situation was far from ideal and would support the adoption of an integrated approach to water resources management. It was further agreed that there was a need to rationalize the institutional arrangements within the public sector for the effective management of water resources and the adoption and implementation of a water policy. To this end a new Water and Sewage Act (No. 14 of 2005) was enacted to provide, inter alia, the enabling environment and the necessary legislative framework and institutional arrangements for the establishment of a Water Resources Management Agency (WRMA).This piece of legislation was further revisited in 2008 with the necessary amendments enshrined. The new Agency is charged responsible for the management, protection, control, allocation and use of Saint Lucia’s water resources and was under the portfolio of the minister responsible for agriculture, however with new dispensation, the WRMA will now be operating under the Ministry for Sustainable Development, Science, Energy and Technology.

Though the WRMA was established by the promulgation of the Water and Sewage Act No. 14 of 2005, it was formalized and became functional three years later towards the end of 2008. Thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture personnel who did all in their powers to enable the eventual birth of the Agency at a time when the water resources of our country needed to be managed efficiently and sustainably. The sustainable management of the country’s water resources is the primary objective and mandate of the Agency along with its many functions and this could only be achieved through an integrated approach in which all stakeholders are brought on board to participate in the activities and decision making processes of the Water Resources Management Agency. Recently the agency conducted several consultative sessions on its draft strategic action plan with the aim at receiving feedback on the way forward for the agency. To date we are in the process of consolidating these ideas so that the agency can make a formal presentation to the Permanent Secretaries and Ministers for ratification.