Rivers and water security
Water is life. Without water there can be no life. The world’s freshwater supplies, unfortunately, are under threat. Water stress is increasing in many parts of the world. Aquifers are depleted faster than they are replenished. The growth of the world’s population will increase demand for water by 55% by the year 2050, placing even further strain on freshwater reserves.
Rivers are the arteries of the earth. Seen from above, the earth’s creeks, lakes, rivers and wetlands form natural networks which sustain nature. Rivers and lakes account for 90% of the world’s freshwater stocks.
Rivers have been the cradles of human civilization from time immemorial. The earliest civilizations were nurtured along the banks of rivers – including the Euphrates, the Indus, the Nile and Yellow rivers. Rivers remain vital today. Rivers will be essential for all eternity.
Rivers are indispensable to human well¬-being. The waters of rivers are used for cooking, drinking, fishing, recreation, transportation and washing. Rivers also provide water for irrigation for farming, mining, manufacturing and other economic activities.
Rivers are important for the security of states. Half of the world’s peoples live in countries, like Guyana and Brazil, which share river boundaries. The management of transboundary watercourses must promote cooperation and collaboration rather than confrontation and conflict.
Rivers must be protected from pollution, including that caused by environmental degradation and the discharge of effluent from industry, mining and agriculture. River pollution impacts adversely on water quality, on health and the economic and social well-being of citizens.
The protection of the sources of the world’s freshwater sources is essential to ensuring:
– citizens’ entitlement to water;
– communities’ access to safe and sanitary water; and
– countries’ and the continent’s water security;
The word Guyana – the name of my own country – is derived from the Amerindian expression meaning ‘land of many waters’. I feel proud to be here to speak to you from the land of waters.
Guyana, a small state, is part of the Guiana Shield – an area spread over 2.7 million km2 – making it bigger than Greenland. The ‘Shield’ is a zone which encompasses parts of Brazil, Colombia and all of French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and parts of Venezuela. The ‘Shield’, described as the “lungs of the Earth” and the “greenhouse of the world” is a global resource because of the environmental services it provides.
The ‘Shield’ is vital to global water security because it contains 15% of the world’s freshwater resources. The rivers of the Guiana Shield discharge an average of 2,792 km3 (cubic kilometers) of water annually, with one of the highest specific discharge rates for a zone of that size.
The adverse effects of climate change – droughts, flooding, rising sea levels and extreme weather events – are exacerbating water quality and environmental security. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has forecasted that climate change will result in reduced surface and ground water in most sub-tropical regions.
The protection of the world’s freshwater sources, therefore, is essential to global water security. This World Water Forum is encouraged to continue to introduce initiatives to protect these resources, particularly the rivers of the Guiana Shield.
The 8th World Water Forum coincides with World Water Day – 22nd March 2018. World Water Day reminds us of our shared responsibility to protect the earth’s water resources.
Guyana, therefore, calls on this World Water Forum to take action to protect and preserve the Guiana Shield as a vital source of the world’s freshwater reserves. We recommend to this the Forum, a three-point action agenda to enhance:
– Commitment to pay continuous attention and unceasing action, not only to occasional conferences;
– Collaboration among states, especially neighbours which share the waters of rivers; and
– Conservation of water resources and the protection of the environment everywhere in order to maintain the integrity of the earth’s rivers and lakes.
At stake is nothing less than humanity itself. The Cooperative Republic of Guyana wishes every success to the 8th World Water Forum.
I thank you.