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World Water Day is a day of international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and to take action to make a difference.
World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio, Brazil where it was recommended to designate an international observance for water. The United Nations Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.
Each year, UN-Water – the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation – sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or upcoming challenge. The engagement campaign is led by one or several of the UN-Water Members with a related mandate. On World Water Day, countries and tens of thousands of individuals and organizations get involved in several ways. They get informed, engaged and act. Together they make a difference – especially for the most vulnerable people on our planet but also for future generations.
2016’s theme is “Water and Jobs” – better water, better jobs. This year’s theme was coordinated on behalf of UN-Water by the International Labor Organization which is the entity that promotes rights at work, encourages decent employment opportunities, enhances social protection and strengthens dialogue on work-related issues. This year’s theme highlights how both water and jobs have the power to transform lives: water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy and decent work can provide income and pave the way for broader social and economic advancements.
In Belize, a ‘Water and Jobs’ summit was held in Belmopan and Belize City on March 15 and 16, where the importance of water was discussed by Ministry officials, the Hydrology Unit and the National Climate Change Office. The event also highlighted the winners of the National World Water Day poetry competition. First place was won by Jahseed X Avila. There were several NGO’s that had presentations, informational booths and games for the students who attended the session in Belize City. The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) assisted with the judging of the poetry competition. Entries came from across the country with notable poems about communities whose residents are dependent on fishing for their livelihood. The winners hailed from Corozal, Orange Walk, Independence Village and Belize City.
Second place was won by Suleima Pat for her poem “Water and Jobs ” which focused on drought.
“then I see a man standing on his fields.
The crops are dried; his wells are empty, and his children cry with thirst…
The seconds tick away. Tick tock tick tock …
Tears start oozing down my face.”
The week long activities included the observation of Earth Hour 2016. In several locations across the country, lights were turned off, candles lit and artists sang and conservationists gave speeches about how to carry out individual actions to to affect climate change. The CCCCC was also represented at this event which is a way to bring attention to energy consumption, sustainability, and climate-change issues.
The Caribbean has officially joined the global Earth Hour Community. Earth Hour is a symbolic 60 minute period during which participants turn off all non-essential lights to raise awareness about the effects of climate change. It will be celebrated this year on Saturday, 23rd March 2013 from 8:30PM to 9:30PM local time. Earth Hour is an annual event that began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and has since spread across the entire globe. In 2012, official activities took place in more than 7000 cities and towns across 152 countries and territories. Sadly, the only Caribbean territories listed on the 2012 map of participants were Aruba and Belize.
The Caribbean region is comprised largely of Small Island developing states that are very vulnerable to the effects of climate change including extreme rainfall patterns, sea level rise, increased temperatures and intensified hurricane seasons. Caribbean nations are inherently climate sensitive with their lives and livelihoods inextricably connected to the physical environment. In spite of the solid work by Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) and the Climate Studies Group at The University of the West Indies among others, the vital information has not been converted to widespread public awareness. Although the action of turning off the lights for one hour is largely symbolic, Earth Hour provides an opportunity for communities across the region to focus on and begin to discuss Climate Change mitigation, adaptation and resilience strategies.
Earth Hour Caribbean was launched in March 2013 and is a project of Hill 60 Bump – A Caribbean Sustainability Network. It acts as a focal point for Earth Hour activities in the region including the sharing of events, activities, tips, news and climate change relevant information. Earth Hour Caribbean will also assist in the coordination of ‘I Will If You Will’ challenges and the appointment a regional ambassador to champion the cause. For 2013, the following Caribbean countries have been added to the official list of Earth Hour participants: Grenada, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Curacao, Suriname, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Earth Hour Caribbean aims to spread the movement to all Caribbean territories and is seeking interested parties in the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Cuba, Haiti, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda among others.
Text by Heather Pinnock