World Environment Day 2024: land restoration, desertification and drought resilience


Caribbean small island developing states face a unique vulnerability to the effects of climate change, namely high temperatures, droughts, rising sea levels, flooding, and more intense and frequent storms. These effects cause detrimental challenges for crucial industries, infrastructure, the region’s ecosystems, and unique biodiversity and communities. Highly dependent industries such as tourism and agriculture are already seeing worrying trends associated with climate change such as food insecurity and loss or deterioration of ecosystems and natural attractions[1]. Coupled with the impact of climate change, non-climatic or human activities further propel the prevalence of land degradation, water stress and threaten sustainable land management efforts.

Despite the ecological, economic, social, and health benefits of forested areas, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate. Land degradation and desertification, caused by a depletion in the soil quality and land utility, negatively impact food production and livelihoods. These events are compounded by prolonged instances of deforestation, poor agricultural practices, and pollution due to poor solid waste disposal; adversely impacting human and environmental health. In developing countries, droughts are the single most common cause of severe food shortages[2], crippling food production and security in the Region.  As droughts or extreme heat are becoming more prevalent in the Caribbean, low water availability especially in rural or remote areas exacerbate existing water stresses, resulting in severe socio-economic and public health implications.

On World Environment Day, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) joins the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners’ call for global action on land restoration, halting desertification and building drought resilience. CARPHA aims to promote sustainable solutions to address the Region’s environmental challenges and needs through the development of tailored initiatives and interventions.

The Global Environmental Fund Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystem Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (GEF-IWEco) Project, co-implemented by CARPHA and the UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme in collaboration with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, seeks to build upon and guide the sustainable management of local environments and the preservation of valuable ecosystems.  The participating countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Sustainable land management interventions are one of the key project outcomes; in efforts to safeguard the interconnected nature of the Region’s ecosystems. In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the IWEco national project focused on reforestation and forest management, and soil and streambank stabilization in the Georgetown watershed, aiming to improve cross-sectoral cooperation in eco-tourism and integrated landscape management in the watershed.   Similarly in Trinidad, the project focused on the reduction and reversal of land degradation associated with quarry operations at selected sites in the north-east area. Thereby, restoring natural vegetation, reducing sedimentation and flood risk and reinstating ecological function at select project demonstration sites.

The implementation of resilient strategies to assist in combating drought is particularly vital to CARPHA Member States, to mitigate potential economic, environmental, and social threats. The water and sewerage authorities may be burdened with additional cost of trucking water, purchasing new equipment and supplies, developing/improving infrastructure and executing water rationing schemes.   Access to safe water is critical to reduce the incidence of illness associated with exposure to pathogens, toxins or other contaminants.  In addition to water quality, loss of life and property due to bush fires and poor air quality are of key health concerns.

Water safety planning, a proactive approach in analysing and managing risks to ensure potable water from catchment to consumer, is an essential tool for all Caribbean States. In recent years, CARPHA has strengthened water system safety and resilience in Members States through the development of climate-resilient water safety plans. Through the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience Project, CARPHA supported the implementation of rainwater harvesting (RWH) and advanced strategies to implement RWH policies and incentives in three Member States as one of the mechanisms to increase resilience to drought.

World Environment Day observed annually on June 5th, calls for the protection and revival of ecosystems worldwide for current and future generations.

The theme for 2024 “Land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience,” brings awareness to the ongoing balance among human activity, economic development and nature in the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability.

or more information on World Environment Day 2024, check us out on

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