Two Siblings travelling via the river. [Photograph] Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users

Every year on World Water Day, March 22, people are made aware of the global water crisis.This day is an opportunity to learn about water related issues, be inspired to tell others, and share information on how to act.

The theme of World Water Day in 2021 is "Valuing Water."

Water is an essential building block of life. Water is of tremendous value; it is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health. Water is vital for job creation and supporting economic, social, and human development and shapes the integrity of our natural environment. Without a comprehensive understanding of the true, multidimensional value of water, we will not be able to protect this vital resource.

In the second cycle of the Global Climate Change Suriname Adaptation Project (GCCA Project Phase 2), sub-projects in terms of the water component, will be supported and deployed, resulting in improved national governance in the field of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). This component aims to ensure that water resources and coastal ecosystems in Suriname are managed with good governance for sustainable development and resilience to climate change.

The three results aimed for the water component of the GCCA Phase 2 project are:

  1. Strengthen regulatory framework for IWRM.
  2. Strengthening institutional capacity and coordination for IWRM in Suriname.
  3. Improving the knowledge base of policymakers for integrating the latest research insights and up-to-date data

The first two results focus on improving national governance and management of water resources, in terms of strengthening the regulatory framework, human resources, institutional capacity, and coordination for Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). The final output uses research results on IWRM and ICZM generated by other outputs, integrating this knowledge to encourage informed decision-making to support Suriname's adaptation to climate change 1

[1] Project Document: GCCA+ support for Climate Change Adaptation in Suriname – Phase 2

Children playing in the river. [Photograph] Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users

This year World Water Day is about what water means to people. The different ways in which water benefits our lives, is valued, and effectively protects them for everyone. Against the background of the theme this year Mrs. Sukarni Sallons, the Head of the Meteorological Service Suriname (MDS), Mrs. Reina Ormskirk who is the Deputy PS of the Water Department at the Ministry of Natural Resources, and two indigenous women from Kwamalasamutu, Ms. Endonie Savira and Ms. Jessalyn Tawardi, will tell us about the importance of water, what influence climate change has on water availability in Suriname and how important water is for their livelihood, cultural habits, well-being, and local environment.

Mrs. Sallons affirms that global climate change affects the climate in Suriname because there are prolonged periods of less rain. This means that available water sources in Suriname can’t be replenished. And on the long term, groundwater availability can also be affected.

Mrs. Sallons states: “The water must be replenished by means of precipitation and if that doesn’t happen regularly, there will be a water shortage. And in the long term we will not have enough available water”.

Mrs. Sallons is also of the opinion that: “Water is an important factor, and if it decreases, it can also affect us, the people in Suriname. Our health, our hygiene, the availability of drinking water and the production of food, the agricultural sector needs water to maintain production for both vegetable crops as well as meat and poultry. Low availability or scarcity of water can have a big impact on the agricultural sector, and this is also caused by climate change.”

Mrs. Ormskirk indicates that in Suriname we should also be aware that the global climate is changing. The consequences of climate change are no longer abstract. All over the world, this is noticeable, and the occurrence of climate events will only increase in frequency, like the increasing intense rainfall in short periods of time.

“In Suriname we also deal with longer consecutive periods in which there is no rainfall, which can lead to drought. And the way Suriname is organized, I believe that the country cannot withstands these kinds of extreme weather events. The consequences of these can be floods, sagging of land surface ground, drinking water shortages and heat stress. Due to climate change, the social, ecological, and economic challenges for Suriname are enormous. But at the same time, in my opinion, these challenges also offer an unprecedented opportunity to shape a sustainable future for Suriname”, emphasized Mrs. Ormskirk.

Ms. Endonie Savira and Ms. Jessalyn Tawardi, are telling us how important water is for them; “Water from the river is very important to us because we do all domestic work and personal needs with this water (cooking, drinking, washing clothes, bathing, and washing dishes). Besides these household works, the river is also a source of recreation, we can swim and fish in it.”

Children playing in the river. [Photograph] Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users

What is the importance of World Water Day in your opinion?

Ms. Savira and Ms. Tawardi indicate that water is a very important factor in the interior. Therefore, this day is very important to them. They indicate “that the rainfall pattern in recent years has changed. Years ago, we had a lot of rain and less sun, now it rains less, and we have more sun. We do have access to clean water every day, but some people do not. These people usually live further from the river, making them dependent on rainwater. Even the school will not have enough clean water.”

Mrs. Sallons; “Let us not limit it to 1 day but let us continue to cherish water every day, to give an example, there is a worldwide shortage of good drinking water, but Suriname has an abundance. We must cherish and protect this. Worldwide there is only 3% of freshwater sources available to humans, in Suriname we have a lot, and we must continue to protect that”.

For Mrs. Ormskirk, World Water Day means that, in Suriname we can also make the water problem known to a wider audience.  “I have known for decades that the Surinamese territory is potentially and effectively sensitive to flooding. Especially in residential or agricultural areas, too much (or too short) of water can cause a lot of misery.  Therefor I believe that this is a special day on which various parties can contribute to transfer knowledge at global, regional, and local level. On this day not only cooperation but also development aid is important. Furthermore, it is also important to increase the awareness of every inhabitant of Surinamese, so that we are all prepared for possible related to water, related disasters” said Mrs. Ormskirk.

The planet's freshwater ecosystems are in crisis: Research[2] shows populations of controlled freshwater species have declined by 84 percent and nearly a third of wetland ecosystems have been lost since 1970 because of human activities affecting habitats and reducing water quality[3].

Is the true value of water known and can these essential resources be better protected?

According to Mrs. Ormskirk: “Water is life, without water there is no life! Good drinking water has a positive effect on health care in Suriname. Thanks to water I can remove waste products from my body. Water has an important role in body temperature and transports nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in my body. But water is also important in other functions such as transportation and agriculture. Transportation via waterways enables boys and girls in Suriname to go to school and develop. And as far as agriculture is concerned, I am thinking of irrigation for the cultivation of vitamin-rich vegetables and the creation of a regular income.”

Furthermore, Mrs. Ormskirk adds that Suriname can improve the use of essential water resources among other:

  • Increase and improve water quality of surface water I the interior.
  • Enable catchment of Purification of water by stimulating natural systems.
  • The increase of awareness about the value of water awareness is very important to ensure proper use.  The story about water in Suriname must be written down convincingly and shared widely with each person in Suriname. For example, we could narrate the water story from an active perspective, so that people can start positive initiatives. For example:
    • Set up a digital water communication network that not only provides information, but also for suggestions, advice, and questions about water (in collaboration with other water agencies)
    • Make the community aware about flooding and water scarcity, by publishing more articles, videos, and photos.

Mrs. Sallons added that, “The human body is 70% water, without water we cannot survive, so we have to protect our resources very well. If we look at the contamination, we can say that we can’t drink it if it’s polluted. If we pollute our essential resources, it means our health will suffer. That's why I say that water is very important to humans.”

“To tackle this water crisis, we must save water, but we also have to restore the groundwater replenishment so that the drinking water supply can be maintained. We must purify surface water so that it can be used as drinking water. Rainwater can be collected and used and used, for example, for agriculture,” said Mrs. Ormskirk.

The people of Kwamalasamutu are very dependent on the rivers for good water. “When the essential water resources are endangered and the day comes when there is no good water for the village for our personal needs, all village leaders should meet with the village people about water on how to get clean water and then village leaders should talk further with water organizations such as the Suriname Water Company (SWM),” Ms. Savira and Ms. Tawardi emphasize.

Mrs. Sallons indicates that: “We must be very frugal with our available precious water. Suriname still has many freshwater sources. We must continue to protect these by preserving as much as possible and not contaminate or spill it. Other countries must contend with less good drinking water, while we still have good drinking water. We must continue to protect this against misuse and pollution, use it sparingly and improve water management)”.

At the end Ms. Savira and Ms. Tawardi want to let people know that, “we residents of the interior, do not want dirty water, because we drink that water and use it for cooking. That is why we don’t want gold miners polluting the river with all the chemicals. We also want to request to the visitors from the city to properly dispose of all waste at the designated landfill sites.”

More floods and severe droughts are predicted. In other countries changes in water availability will also impact health and food security and have already proven to trigger refugee dynamics and political instability [4].

 

To adapt to the negative consequences of climate change in Suriname, we need to know how the weather is changing, what patterns and extreme weather conditions we need to prepare for or adapt to.

Within the first cycle of the Global Climate Change Suriname Adaptation Project (2016- 2019), (GCCA+ Project Phase1) it was considered most appropriate to use the hybrid hydrological model for Suriname through practical training of water managers. With this important achievement and completion of the Strategic Policy Document for Integrated Water Management in Suriname, we are well on the way to securing our water resources for a future of changed climate conditions. In addition to achieving this goal, other targets were also achieved that contributed to our water management.

o   Installation of Hydrological and Meteorological stations. Instruments to collect climate and weather data, to support an improved functional network of climate.

o   The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology trained 30 Technicians from the University of Suriname, MDS and WLA, in installation, use and maintenance of these instruments.

o   Situational Analysis of integrated water Resource Management in Suriname as part of a comprehensive report

o   Climate data Rescue of almost 70 years

o   Hydro modeling for surface water management in 4 mayor rivers (Nickerie, Saramacca, Coppename and the Suriname river)

o   20 students trained in Hydrogeology and modeling to understand the principles and practical applications of groundwater occurrence and behavior.

o   Rebuilding the Suriname water Resources Information System (SWRIS) web portal and giving access to information on water resources in Suriname.[5]

 

In Suriname, let us collectively reflect on this day and work to protect and restore the aquatic ecosystems that provide essential services to the people who depend on them most. There is a relationship between nature and human well-being, so we need to link nature conservation and development by providing people at all levels with the information they need to understand the true value of the benefits of nature.

 

Let us be frugal and value water!

 

 

[2] https://livingplanet.panda.org/en-US/freshwater

[3]  https://www.conservation.org/priorities/fresh-water

[4] https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/climate-change/

[5] GCCA+ Project Documentation 2019: Results & Reflections towards a Climate Resilient Suriname

 

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