Dominica joins the rest of the world on Friday to observe World Water Day with authorities giving a dire outlook at the state of the island’s fresh water levels.
World Water Day has been observed since 1993 as an initiative from the United Nations to help get sanitation and drinking water to those who need it most.
Statistics by the United Nations reveal that there is an increased demand for fresh drinking water worldwide. 783 million people across the globe do not have access to clean water while 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.
Half of the hospital beds in the world are currently occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water.
Dominicans have always boasted that there are 365 rivers on the island, one for every day of the year, but according to Water Resources Minister, Reginald Austrie, this may not be the case.
“Our rivers are rapidly diminishing,” he said earlier this week at a workshop for the proper management of water. “In Dominica we take water for granted, we have no respect for it, we waste it because we are still under the notion that we have 365 rivers in Dominica. But I have been advised several times that is not the case.”
According to Austrie what remains in Dominica is what he described as ‘water lanes.’ “We may have 365 water lanes where water used to be but the water is finished, we don’t have more water in those lanes except during the hurricane season where we have this temporary waterfalls all over the west coast,” he said.
Austrie pointed out that the trends are there to show that Dominica might be importing water in the next 50 years. “If we don’t take stock, the next generation will have great difficulties in obtaining water as freely as we have it today,” he noted.
Former national disaster coordinator, Cecil Shillingford, is blaming the depletion of forests on the matter and is of the opinion that its already too late to reverse the trend of the lost of water resources in Dominica. “I think it is very difficult right now to reverse that trend,” he told DNO. “I think what we will see as the years progress is the further dwindling of the water resources.”
He is suggesting more conservation in the island’s water shed areas and the replanting of trees as means of slowing down the process. “We should move at a hundred miles per hour in terms of conservation, reforestation, and things of that nature,” Shillingford noted. “As I am saying it may be too late but I am sure if we move speedily on that we can see a sort of slowing down of what is happening right now.”
Assistance forestry officer, Ronald Charles, said he is not sure what is the cause of the drop of water resources on the island, however the forestry division has been active in managing the forests in such a way to ensure the island’s rivers continue to flow. “We are doing our best and we have that under control,” he said.
When asked if he believes that deforestation is a major cause for the drop of water resources, Charles said, “the evidence doesn’t suggest that.”
He stated that there are “small areas of concern” but in general it appears that deforestation is not the major issue. “It is not deforestation per se,” he said. “I mean 85 percent of Dominica is covered with forest, so in Dominica it is not really a deforestation issue.”
He said other factors, such as climate change, maybe involved and this is beyond the control of the forestry division.
Meanwhile PRO of DOWASCO, Ed Registe, said it is important that all Dominicans take steps to preserve the island’s fresh water resources.
“Imagine Dominica without water, what will it be like?” he said. “It is possible that we could lose our water resources. We encourage everyone to practice water conservation techniques and remove ourselves from the mindset that we have an abundance of water, yes we do, but we can lose it.”