His Excellency Brigadier David Granger: OAS representative to Guyana, Mr. Jean Ricot Dormeus; other members of the Diplomatic Corps; Rotoractors, members of the Rotaract Club of Georgetown and other Rotaract Clubs; special invitees; members of the media. I’m happy to participate in this gala and I thank the Rotaract Club of Georgetown for its kind invitation to me and I have several reasons to be happy to be here this evening.
First of all, as you can see from my button I am a Paul Harris fellow and I am an honorary member of the Rotary Club so it is my duty to be here with you this evening among fellow Rotarians.
Second, it is my turn to be Chairman of the Caribbean Community this semester and as you would have known from the newspapers I attended the inauguration of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti last month as the newest Head of State of a Caribbean country.
This evening’s Gala concerns Haiti and therefore it concerns me as Chairman of CARICOM. Third, the United Nations would celebrate tomorrow, the 20th of March- International Day of Happiness. International Day of Happiness emphasises the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.
The United Nations in 2015 launched its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals which seek to eliminate poverty, to reduce inequality and to protect our planet; three elements which underpin the pursuit of happiness.
Fourth, you see I have a lot of reasons to be here this evening. The 22nd of March marks the observance of World Water Day and as you have discovered by now having heard the presentation from the GWI – water is important, focus of Rotaract’s Gala this evening and finally we are observing also, World Rotaract Week- this is an annual event which falls in the week of the 13th of March so it is Rotaract season.
The time of the year when Rotaract Clubs celebrate their work; it is an opportunity for the clubs to seek public support for their projects and I thank you on their behalf for your attendance here tonight indicating your support of their project.
The One Caribbean Charity Gala has brought us together as part of this celebration and I share entirely the objectives and the sentiments which have been laid out for this gala this evening. Rotaract Clubs have been important vehicles for young people self-actualization.
The clubs bring young people together in the spirit of service in observance of their motto ‘Service Above Self’ this service develops a sense of social responsibility. The clubs can successfully channel the enthusiasm of their young people and their enterprise into projects, which benefits communities, the country and this evening the region as a whole.
The Rotaract Club of Georgetown as we have heard for the past thirty-two years has epitomized the virtue of selfless voluntarism and the value of such voluntarism is evident in the projects that they have undertaken over the years; particularly their stewardship of children in the huge ward of Georgetown- the largest ward of Georgetown, the poorest ward of Georgetown, we call it Sophia.
But Sophia is just part of that ward we call Sophia it is really made up of bits of Cummings Lodge, Liliendaal, Patterson and Turkeyen but the population of that ward is over twenty-one thousand. It is the biggest ward in Georgetown and I really thank and congratulate Rotaract for becoming involved in stewardship in this huge ward.
Secondly, I congratulate Rotaract for its partnership which it has forged in order to fulfil its program in housing the vulnerable. If you follow the activities of Rotaract you will see every single year these young people go out in a spirit of selfless service to help residents and citizens of our country.
So I congratulate the club on its various projects. I thank them also for making this year’s focus a focus on water sanitation. Let me make a few brief remarks on water- access to clean water and the conservation of water are of extreme importance to us all as you have seen in the video and you have heard from the GWI presentation.
The United Nations adopted the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. Goal number six seeks to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. A key target of that goal is the universal and equitable access to safe and affordable water for all by 2030 so we’ve just got thirteen years to go.
Access to clean water is considered a human right. Some serious language; it’s a right to clean water. Water is essential to life. We cannot do without water. Water is needed for personal hygiene, for cooking, for washing, water is essential for agriculture, for industry, for economic growth, for public health but at the same time fresh water is becoming a scarce resource because stocks of fresh water are dwindling as a result of climate change and human activity.
The indiscriminate waste of water in agriculture, in industry, in mining is depleting the world’s surface water supplies. Global warming is increasing evaporation of water from the earth’s surface. Global warming is contributing to the drying up of the wetlands and the rivers. Salt water intrusion into underground water sources is threatening our reserves.
Here in Guyana we are aware of this threat and that is why we have declared our objective to establish a ‘green’ state; becoming a ‘green’ state means that we take the opportunity to eliminate the threats to our water resources posed by droughts; posed by floods and posed by pollution of our rivers and waterways by human activities such as mining.
That policy is intended to ensure improved access to clean water by extending treated water for all and by guaranteeing that our rivers and creeks which are used by our people for cooking, for drinking, for fishing and washing remain free from pollution and contamination and those of you who’ve been in the hinterland would know that communities are completely dependent on our rivers and creeks for pure water and when those rivers and creeks are contaminated people get ill and the water becomes unusable.
Thirdly, our policy is meant to engage in water farming as a means of drought control in order to protect our fauna and agriculture during periods of drought, as you know some parts of our country are susceptible to cyclical bouts of El Nino and during that phenomenon some of the rivers actually dry up and the fish, particularly the world’s largest freshwater fish- the arapaima could find themselves in jeopardy.
Water therefore for us in Guyana is a precious resource but clean water is not just scarce. It is also costly. Water has to be treated before it can be used for human consumption and those of you who go to the supermarkets would know that a litre of water is more expensive than a litre of gasoline. I believe the average cost of a bottle of water is about $240 and the cost of a litre of gasoline is a $190. So we’re living in a world in which water is already more expansive than gasoline.
The Rotaract Club of Georgetown has committed itself to raise funds for water conservation in Bintouribe, Marmont, in the Republic of Haiti, a member of the Caribbean Community. I congratulate them on this initiative, reaching across the Caribbean Sea to a sister state. I’m happy also that the Rotaract Club of Georgetown is assisting to raise funds for that water conservation project.
Haiti as you know has been very unfortunate. It has been damaged by a succession of natural disasters; of earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. There were two devastating hurricanes in one year in Haiti alone. So our sister state needs support and solidarity. It is part of the one Caribbean family which we speak about and of which this evening I am Chairman.
So I wish to extend our gratitude and our congratulations to the Rotaract Club of Georgetown in the execution of its community projects and in the partnerships it has forged with other organizations. I encourage everyone present here this evening to support the Rotaract Club of Georgetown and assist it to achieve its objectives and I pray that God may bless you all and richly reward your efforts.
Thank you very much.