8 December 2022

As his second UNESCO speaking engagement since taking office, the Hon. Konris Maynard,  St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Public Infrastructure, Energy and Utilities, Domestic Transport, Information and Communications Technology, and Post, was invited to address UN water ministers, and water experts and other international agencies, and stakeholders, at the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater held at UNESCO, Paris, this week.

He was the only minister from a small island developing state to address this UN conference. He extended his views to also embrace the concerns of his fellow ministers of the Caribbean SIDS, which all share similar groundwater supply challenges.

“I wish to speak of the chronic paucity of groundwater supplies in St. Kitts and Nevis and across the entire Caribbean– with a legacy going back years  – a situation that has intensified as a result of climate change”, the Minister noted.

Noting that St. Kitts and Nevis faces three climate change-induced impacts of higher temperatures and droughts, with a decrease in annual rainfall of nearly 20% over the last 10 years alone leading to critical water shortages, coastal Erosion leading to loss of beach and damage to coastal infrastructure and increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes in our region, Minister Maynard, reiterated his Government’s determination to restore the policy of 24-hour supply of water.  However, “certain topographical and infrastructural characteristics of small islands hamper our efforts in the replenishment of freshwater including small land mass with limited catchment basins. There is limited availability of surface water throughout the year leading to high dependence on limited amounts of groundwater, which at present require fossil fuel energy to extract. In addition, climate change factors have exacerbated the problem as Global warming has contributed to issues such as drainage problems, soil and water degradation, and rising sea levels leading to saltwater intrusion in aquifers causing contamination of groundwater”.

Minister Maynard explained that Saint Kitts and Nevis has a small land mass, with limited catchment basins, creating limitations in the replenishment of freshwater resources. A lack of availability of surface water throughout the year, with high dependence on limited amounts of groundwater, means that fossil fuel energy is required to extract the sources.  Underlining that climate change factors have exacerbated the problem, he asserted that “global warming, as rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion in aquifers, have aggravated contamination of groundwater, and contributed to drainage problems and water degradation”

Recognising the critical role of water in food production by Caribbean governments, and the continuing struggle with inadequate supplies of water for agriculture, the Minister opined that, “This fuels several conflicts, as different areas including agriculture, hydroelectricity, and drinking water and sanitation, compete for this already scarce resource”.

Urging the international multilateral and bilateral communities to intervene in providing technical expertise, Minister Maynard stated, “Distinguished Ministers and UN experts, I do not exaggerate when I state that I have probably understated the very real challenges to water security of Caribbean SIDS”.

Going forward, asserted Minister Maynard, “what is desperately needed is increased expertise in the use of technological innovations, such as solar-powered (micro) irrigation systems to improve water efficiency. Expertise is also required for the management of, and access to, clean and renewable energy to increase agricultural productivity, and optimisation of water use”

Minister Maynard called upon UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP), the FAO and other relevant UN agencies, to join governments in the Caribbean region  in strengthening the Caribbean SIDS scientific, technical and policy capacities to achieve the immediate and urgent goals, notably to enhance water security and supplies, improve water quality and waste-water management and promote safe reuse of waste-water,

The St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, H.E. David P. Doyle, who attended the UN-WATER Summit on Groundwater at UNESCO, remarked that “the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis stands ready to act as a catalyst in developing a platform to enable a pragmatic and scientifically-driven water policy dialogue to materialize, This would, of course, involve the Caribbean States, UNESCO IHP, FAO and other multilateral and bilateral partners.

Secretary General of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Commission for UNESCO, Ms. Dorothy Warner stated, “The Federation is indeed proud of its legacy in continually raising the awareness level of the challenges Caribbean small islands face in affronting dwindling daily sources of groundwater at such an august UNESCO water conference”.

As part of a dedicated ministerial section of the UN-WATER event, Minister Maynard, in a video statement, was joined by other eminent ministers, such as H .E. Steffi Lemke, Federal Minister Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of Germany, H.E. Li Guoying, Minister, Water Resources, Ministry of Water Resources, People’s Republic of China, H.E. Juan Carlos García Pérez de Arce, Minister Public Works of Chile, H.E. Antti Kurvinen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland, H.E. Ms. Abida Sidi Mia, Minister Water and sanitation, Malawi, and H.E. Ms. Wha-Jin Han, Minister, Environment, Republic of Korea.

Minister Konris Maynard addresses the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater at UNESCO