The International Day of Forests (March 21st) and the World Water Day (March 22nd) are annual events celebrated across the world to highlight the importance of, and advocate for the sustainable management of our freshwater and forest resources, especially in light of growing natural and human induced pressures. As the two days are celebrated back to back, the Government has since 2013 celebrated these two events together, with national themes mirroring the annual international efforts.
As such, specific aspects of water and forest resource management are celebrated each, and for this year, the focus will be on promoting nature and the healthy ecosystem services it provides, with the theme “Forest and Water Resources for Sustainable Urban Development”, focusing on the importance of sustainable management of forest resources contributing to high-quality freshwater supplies and natural flood retention in urban areas. The theme emphasizes the importance of sustainable upland forest and watershed management, to ensuring the sustainable development of our urban environments. It also re-affirms the importance of our hinterlands to the economic development of the urban setting, especially the impacts of unsustainable land management. Nature provides the natural services we require for water security as well as flood water management.
The removal of natural forest cover in the uplands, not only impacts on water availability during the dry season, but it also supports flash floods and landslides that impact the coastal towns. The development of our wetlands and natural water ways in the floodplains, has contributed to flood waters not being able to escape into the intertidal zones.
As such, the theme for this year provides a great platform to engage with the general public in raising awareness and promoting sustainable development planning processes, specifically with communities within the vicinity of the major urban waterways and those developing the upland forests.
Key thematic areas for the 2018 WWFD national campaign includes;
- Resilience of Cities: The dramatic speed of urbanisation has been putting urban forest and water resources management to an increasingly difficult test. Climate change has heightened the risk of floods and droughts, further challenging cities’ abilities to provide basic services such as clean water and sanitation.
The convergence of people, however, also offers opportunities for innovation to create liveable and efficient cities with sustainable and resilient water and forest management.
- Ecosystem Health: Forest and Water ecosystems both replenish and purify water resources essential to human health and well-being. But the sustainability of many such ecosystems has been impacted by development and land use changes involving: elimination of marshes and wetlands; the diversion of surface water or alteration of flows; increased exploitation of underground aquifers; and contamination of water by waste and discharges from industry and transport, as well as from household and human waste.
The absolute quantity and the diversity of pollutants reaching freshwater systems have increased significantly in the past few years. These include not only biological contaminants, e.g. microorganisms responsible for traditional water-borne diseases, but also heavy metals and synthetic chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides. Depending on the type of contaminant and degree of exposure, acute or chronic health impacts may result along with impacts on the environment.
- An ecosystem approach: Natural ecosystems have intricate and resilient mechanisms that filter and replenish freshwater resources and sustain marine environments. Although human technologies may enhance or replicate these mechanisms in some settings, protection of the natural watershed is also critical. An ‘ecosystem approach’ recognizes and ascribes value, including economic value, to the ‘services’ natural ecosystems provide in terms of water filtration and purification, and ensures their sustainability, through modern management regimes.
The natural ecosystem of coastal wetlands and upland forests help retain floodwaters during periods of heavy rainfall, and provide water security during the dry seasons.
- Integrated water resource management:Different users within a watershed are interdependent; therefore, integrated water resource management is essential. Upstream uses of water impact the potential of downstream users to meet their needs. Land use, agricultural patterns, and industrial development all affect water resources. A wide range of sectors, e.g., agriculture, energy, industry, fisheries, tourism, local government all must plan and coordinate strategies on the full range of developments that affect ecosystems, natural hydrology, and water consumption – with reference to expert advice and guidance of health and environment sectors.
- Coastal Ecosystems: More than one-third of the world’s population live within 100 kilometres of the seashore. Coastal ecosystems include features such as wetlands, estuaries, mangroves and coral reefs – all of which provide ‘services’ vital to human health and well-being. These services range from the natural filtration of freshwater sources in wetlands and forests; provision of habitats for fish and other species to spawn and develop; provision of livelihoods and recreational sites; and provision of coastal barriers against storm surges and sea level fluctuation. Unsustainable development of aquaculture, agriculture, tourism, transport, infrastructure and industrial facilities, and even upstream dams, can irreversibly diminish vital coastal ecosystem services to human health. Thus, preserving the health of coastal ecosystems is vital to the health and well-being of an increasing proportion of the world’s population.
Launching of the Integrated Water Management Plan for Greater Apia
The commemorations will also include the launching of the Integrated Water Management Plan for Greater Apia. This has been a product of the Economy-wide Adaptation to Climate Change Project in collaboration with the UNDP. This plan aims to address up and down-stream causes and effects of climate vulnerability within all five watersheds in the Greater Apia area.
There will also be educational displays by the various ministries, stakeholder agencies and NGOs involved within the Environment, and the Water and Sanitation Sectors.
The MNRE wishes to thank our development partners for their continuous support with water and forest resources management in Samoa. Special mention of the sponsors of the World Water and Forests Day 2018, the European Union, UNDP, GOS and all the implementing agencies of the Environment, and the Water and Sanitation Sectors. For more information on the World Water and Forests Day 2018 please contact the Forestry and Water Resources Divisions of the MNRE on telephone number : +685-67200