Concerned that current severe water challenges facing Barbados could be made worse by climate change, United Nations officials are warning local authorities to move quickly to promote better water harvesting, storage and conservation methods.
“We know that climate change is a fact and it is happening. We have been seeing the effects of that . . . We have been having some very intense rainfall in the past but now we are seeing some very severe droughts,” said National Coordinator of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) David Bynoe.
He was responding to questions from Barbados TODAY during a recent media conference at UN House to announce a knowledge fair that will be held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on June 2 and 3. It will bring together residents, entrepreneurs, developmental partners and grantees to network, share experiences and showcase best practices.
To date, Barbados has benefited from US$5 million in investment over the last three years under the UN-sponsored GEF SGP. Of that amount, 39 per cent of the funds were aligned to land degradation; 24 per cent to climate change; 18 per cent to biodiversity and conservation; eight per cent to chemicals and waste; eight per cent to capacity development; and two per cent to international waters.
Going forward, Bynoe said there was need for special focus on water harvesting as well as proper storage if the current water shortage is to be adequately addressed.
“Let’s go beyond water storage and harvesting and let’s look at conservation. That particular issue is very important to us and that is an area that we have been seeking to address through several of our projects as well,” Bynoe said, noting the project funding agency had also partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to help farmers address some of the issues they were facing.
Also commenting on a recent proposal made by some business leaders for a tax or ban to be placed on styrofoam and plastic bags, Bynoe said he would support such a move. However, he quickly pointed out that “we need to go beyond just putting a tax on it. We need to provide feasible alternatives”.
Meanwhile, UN Resident Coordinator Stephen O’Mally said like other places around the world, Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean were now coming to grips with the fact that water was “not an endless resource”.
“So with all these issues around the world, depending on where you are, may be exacerbated by climate change, the question is so how do you deal with that within a national context?” said O’Mally.
“We think that these pressures also provide us with an incentive and an impetus to experiment with different approaches because given things the way we have been doing them, won’t work any longer if the environment is changing,” he cautioned.
“We are not passing any judgment on the way the Government is dealing with it here. I think the experiences over the last couple of years and beyond that indicate the serious scope of the challenge and the way to talk about that is through good scientific data and experimenting with some of the different measures that David highlighted, whether it is better water storage [and] better water conservation,” added O’Mally.
The resident UNDP representative also said recycling of water should be on the agenda, pointing out that this method was successfully being used in other countries including Singapore, the United States and some in Europe.