Water Security at Risk to Climate Change

15th December 2017 **Tonga is highly dependent on intermittent rainwater harvesting and thinning groundwater levels for potable water, and such rainfall patterns and thin groundwater lens is further exacerbated with the onset of climate change through prolonged drought periods and rising sea-level. It is a real threat to our water security, Tonga’s Head of Delegation told the Asia Pacific Water Summit. **

The CEO for MEIDECC (Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications), Mr. Paula Pouvalu Ma’u, was heading Tonga’s delegation to the Third Asia Pacific Water Summit been held in Yangon, Myanmar, from 11-12 December, 2017.

He reminded the Summit that water and the plethora of issues concerning water security is considered and remains the highest of competing priorities in many if not all our countries in the region.

“A drop in rainfall due to drought could severely affect Tonga’s access to freshwater, and those options to desalinate seawater are energy intensive and beyond its economic limitations,” he said. Drought at the same time, could seriously affect Tonga’s agricultural and livestock production.

He further added that saltwater contamination by sea level rise and storm surges already affected freshwater for human consumption in the low-lying islands of Tonga.

He further emphasized that partnership of common interest, exemplified through forums such as this, and in which Tonga and the Pacific have regionally expressed through the regional Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific 2016 (FRDP). This framework is not only intrisically aligned to SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, but also to national instruments such as Tonga’s Strategic Development Framework, Tonga’s Joint National Action Plan on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management, and international instruments such as the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the SAMOA Pathway, the Sustainable Development Goals overall.”

But as we know, goals and aspirations as such are continuously hampered by unprecedented rates of coastal erosion, increasing occurrences of flash flooding, prolonged drought periods, outbreaks of both water and vector-borne disease which are further compounded by tropical cyclones that are increasing in frequency and intensity. These are all climate change-related effects.

The ominous effects of climate change on national water security entails we take greater steps toward alleviating the risks to our scarce water resources. The adoption and implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was indeed a giant step to solving these issues, including positive outcomes from this summit, he said.

These within-reach solutions can be further enhanced into concrete actions throughout and beyond the International Decade on ‘Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028.

Mr. Ma’u also conveyed his indebtedness and his delegation to the Asia-Pacific Water Forum and its Secretariat for their impeccable organisation and arrangements of the Summit, and Myanmar for their kind and excellent hosting.

He was joined by Mr. Sione Talo Fulivai, Principal Climate Finance Officer of MEIDECC.


Issued by the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications