Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean are at the losing end of the pole as it relates to climate change and with the severe toll the changing weather patterns is taking on water in the Region, new and improved ways of saving what is left of it must be explored.
This is according to Executive Director of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA), Patricia Aquing. Speaking to Guyana Times on Friday, Aquing said over the last decade, there have been changes in the weather pattern, which impact water supply in the Caribbean.
“Climate change is one of the factors. So, for example, you have years of drought in some of the countries caused by climate change itself and because of that, the countries are looking to see how else they can win water,” Aquing said.
Aquing, a Trinidadian, was in Guyana to deliver an address at the launching ceremony of the 26th annual Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association Conference and Exhibition, slated for October later this year.
“So, climate change is real for us and the impact on our water is one of the most significant impacts worldwide that the people are pointing to. And the Region has prepared itself for improving its water availability, one of which is wastewater, which is a tremendous resource.”
Sixty-five per cent of wastewater goes untreated into the sea, she explained.
“We use potable water for flushing our toilets. Should we be using expensively harvested water? Can we not use treated wastewater for watering lawns and golf courses? These are options that the Region has, to look at other options to save water.”
According to Aquing, “We cannot change climate, we are so small that our impact on the climate is so insignificant, but we are impacted in a big way by the changes in the climate variability.”
She continued that “it is really a complex management issue, and not about people getting water in their taps and getting to bathe and so on; it is more than that”.
“The average people I believe do not understand the importance of water management. Water is everybody’s business,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, Guyana will this week draft a National Action Plan (NAP) to help reduce the negative impact of climate change on health according to Principal Environmental Health Officer of the Public Health Ministry, Steve Chichester. Chichester said Monday that the strategy would be completed today, the final day of the two-day inter-agency seminar organised by the Environmental Health Unit (EHU) of the Public Health Ministry in collaboration with Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO).
The strategy is also expected to build capacity of Public Health Ministry officers and other stakeholders to implement effective programmes to help reduce the negative effects of climate change on the sector and prepare related agencies to have in place mechanisms to “mitigate the impact of climate change on health”, Chichester said.
He anticipates that the blueprint will put a premium on public awareness to improve the knowledge of Guyanese enabling them to discern the link between climate change and health.
In addition, the draft Public Health Ministry/PAHO/WHO document will also emphasise stakeholder preparedness “to respond to emergencies related to climate change as far as practicable”, the EHU official explained.
Guyana, like the rest of the Region, suffers from several endemic and environmentally-sensitive disease vectors, according to PAHO/WHO Adviser Abrianus Ton Vlugman. Vlugman said too that the Region was “particularly vulnerable because they tend to have a dual disease burden: many endemic and environmentally-sensitive disease vectors (and) human populations with high rates of cardio-respiratory diseases.”
This burden is exacerbated because the health systems of individual territories are “generally underfunded”, the PAHO/WHO Adviser noted referring to an Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report. The spike in temperature attributed to climate change is expected to increase dengue fever transmission by some 300 per cent, Vlugman warned because “increased temperature reduces incubation time of the parasite”.