Stakeholders discuss alleviation of water resources management challenges during Seychelles SADC Water Week

Over the years, the people of Seychelles have had an increased access to an improved drinking water source. Statistics show that access to water stood at 88.9 percent in 1990 and at 97 percent in 2010 respectively.  Similarly, Indicators of access to improved sanitation show an increase from 78 % in 1994 to over 97% in 2012.

Although this is a positive development in terms of meeting the Millenium Development Goals, Seychelles exhibits water resources management challenges such as floods, droughts, sea level intrusion, land management, costs associated to desalination of water. These challenges and sustainable solutions to alleviating them in an integrated manner were highly debated during the Seychelles SADC Water Week held at ICCS, Victoria, Mahe Island, Seychelles from 8-10 July, 2015.

The Seychelles National Consultation took place on 9-10 July, 2015 and was officially opened by the Honourable Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Honourable Didier Dogley. During the opening,  Mr. Dogley indicated that the Government of Seychelles is committed to working closely with SADC in solving the countries numerous water resource and climate change challenges. He emphasised on the need for ensuring that collaboration is strengthened between SADC and his government by establishing a SADC focal point water resources expert in the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change within the next two months.

During the launch of the youth and media platforms held on 8th July, 2015, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Mr. Wills Agricole noted that the SADC Water Week was timely as it set the momentum in crucially tackling water and climate related challenges in the Seychelles.

A number of presentations were made that generated debate on the water resources status of the island and possible solutions to alleviating them. Among the issues discussed included were from the following presentations:

A presentation by the Public Utililty Corporation and efforts being made in tackling Non-Revenue Water was made by Mr. Steve Mussard, Director of Water and Sewerage Division. Mr. Mussard noted in his presentation that non-revenue water accounts for more than 40 percent of drinking water that is lost in the system through physical losses such as damages and burst pipes. In his presentation, it was noted that PUC was embarking on remedying the losses through the reorganisation of the leak detection unit and setting up district metering areas.

Additionally, a presentation on “Water Integrity” by Mr. Benjamin Vel, brought out discussions on the need for more holistic and accountable management of water by various sectors and key players. For instance, it was noted that although tourism is a generator of economic growth on the islands, it brings with it overall environmental effects such as environmental degradation which hinders sustainability. It was noted that environmental effects related to tourism are problematic and may cause irreversible impacts. These environmental effects include urbanisation, over exploitation of resources, coastal erosion, deterioration of water quality, increased pollution levels, deforestation, and the destruction of coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds. Many of these factors reduce the resilience of the ecosystems, which increases the susceptibility of the islands to climate change. Furthermore, it was noted that the environmental effects are also influenced by a lack of environmental evaluation and monitoring on the islands, thus the need for the promotion of integrity in the management of water and environmental management.  

 The presentation by Wills Agricole, Principal Secretary for Energy and Climate Change (Ministry of Energy, Environment and Climate Change), on “Mainstreaming climate change adaptation into the management and development of the water resources in Seychelles: challenges, achievements and recommendations”, provided further discussion on the islands water challenges. It was noted that one of the main efforts of climate change is due to sea level rise and soil water intrusion. It was also noted that climate change has had an impact on disappearing species. Due to complex weather temperature changes arising from the effects of “La Nina” in the late 1990’s, participants were informed that Seychelles had no option at the time but to begin to undertake water desalination in times of drought. It was noted that although desalination of sea water is the main kind of remedy particularly in times of water scarcity, it has high production costs, thus a negative impact on the economy. Discussions pointed to the need for Seychelles to consider and explore other options in water conservation techniques, such as rain-water harvesting and increasing the country’s capacity to access groundwater.

The discussions further pointed to the need for more integrated techniques and approach of managing the islands water resources. This was brought out during discussions related to the presentation made by Ms Sandra Folette. The presentation, entitled “Cooperation in Integrated Water Resource Management” focused on a demonstration project focusing on La Digue in Seychelles and 5 other African Island states. The demonstration pointed to the significance of stakeholder engagement, financing, planning, land and water management measures, water quality and sanitation management, and development. It was felt that this model could be explored further and replicated in other parts of Seychelles as it displays the positive benefits of IWRM approach.

Additionally, during the three days, participants had the opportunity to listen to presentations made by SADC and WaterNet on the benefits of corporation, including capacity development programmes being offered by WaterNet. The presentation on WaterNet, by Dr. Jean-Marie Kileshye attracted much interest to the participants on possible areas of human resources strengthening that could be explored and developed for Seychelles.

The three day event ended on a high note, with the Principal Secretary Mr. Wills Agricole noting that the water week had been a learning event and also a sign of the multilateral spirit of corporation existing in SADC. Additionally, Mr. Masedi, Programme Officer at SADC, noted during his closing remarks that:  “Only by working together is Seychelles able to achieve much in managing it’s water resources and addressing climate change.” He emphasised that SADC is looking forward to deeper cooperation with the island state in the next phase of the regional water programme.

The three day event held in Seychelles is part of a regional process being facilitated by the Global Water Partnership Southern Africa and local country partners to support SADC in implementing a national platform in each SADC state. The platform, known as the SADC Water Week, has been held in 13 SADC countries so far for interaction with member states on water resource management strategic issues, with the expected outcome being the RSAP IV, which is expected to update the RSAP III. The water week in Seychelles was attended by over 70 participants comprising representatives from various ministries including energy climate change water environment finance agriculture transport foreign affairs, technical staff from PUC, Non-Governmental Organisations, Youth and the Media. GWPSA facilitated the organisation of the events with PUC.