Improving Water and Sanitation for all

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6

Everyone deserves reliable, clean water and proper sanitary conditions. However, the Caribbean continues to suffer from limited water supplies, especially during drought conditions, and inadequate sanitation. Increased urbanization and climate change have further worsened this problem.

Rivers and Aquifers, which are the source of drinking water in most Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS), are particularly vulnerable to pollution.   Poor solid and liquid waste management practices, including inadequate garbage collection and disposal is a major concern.

Less than 35% of garbage generated in the Wider  Caribbean  Region  ends  up  in regulated sanitary landfills with the remaining 275,000 tonnes in  open dumps, often contaminating sources of drinking water in the region.The UN Environment’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) supports countries to improve their management of water and sanitation through various programmes, projects and activities.

Providing (1) financial and technical advice & support,  (2)  training  and  (3) implementing practical and sustainable solutions are the main areas of focus in our 28 member states of the Wider Caribbean Region. One such regional initiative is the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded “Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystem Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States - GEF IWEco” project.

This promotes an integrated approach to water, land and ecosystems services management while supporting participating countries  to  achieve  the  global  target  on access to safe and reliable water supplies and improved sanitation.  Activities over the next 5 years will support: (1) policy, institutional and legislative reforms, (2) implementation of appropriate technologies for pollution reduction and (3) strengthening of partnerships among stakeholders for improved water and sanitation.

At a local community level, we are working to improve water quality through the Trash Free   Waters Partnership   International. This is a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), Peace Corps, the UN Environment CEP and the Governments of Jamaica and Panama.

Effluent Discharge Suriname

This activity, which started in late 2016 aims to   reduce   and   prevent garbage  from entering our watersheds and coastal water. It will involve education and awareness activities and involvement of private sector and non-governmental organizations to identify and implement practical waste management solutions. It will also support regional commitments such as the Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution Protocol which both Panama and Jamaica have signed.

Poor hygiene and unsafe water are key contributors to water and sanitation related diseases, such as diarrhoea, that are among the major causes of death, especially of children.  The degradation of the Caribbean’s marine environment  resulting  from  the discharge of  untreated  wastewater and poor sanitation is a serious concern for those countries whose livelihoods depend heavily on their natural marine resources.

The recently concluded Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded Caribbean Regional fund for Wastewater Management (CReW) implemented by CEP project applied an integrated solution to reducing the negative environmental  and  human  health  impacts of untreated wastewater and poor sanitation.

Such an integrated water resource management (IWRM) approach recognized that wastewater can be a resource comprising reclaimed water, biogas and useful bio-solids, which are useful in improving our quality of life and reducing our reliance on other methods and sources.

UN   Environment   CEP   raised   awareness about the value of wastewater and how its reuse can ease the demand on limited fresh water supplies and improve the quality of fresh and marine water rivers by reducing the discharge of untreated sewage.

        Wastewater Treatment in St. Lucia

Under the CReW project, sustainable financing mechanisms were developed in four  countries  for wastewater management, improvements made in national policies, legislation and regulations for   the   13   participating countries   and several promotional and outreach products developed.  Over 700 persons from the 13 countries of the project were trained in wastewater treatment technologies, resource valuation, governance and wastewater effluent monitoring.

Without better infrastructure and management for water resources including wastewater, there will be further losses in biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, undermining prosperity and efforts towards a more sustainable future (UN, 2016).