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Hogan supports focus on water quality in developing countries

Published on Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014

Hogan supports focus on water quality in developing countries

08/07/14

Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government today (8 July, 2014) announced that Ireland is to become a main sponsor of the Global Environment Monitoring System for Water (GEMS/Water).

GEMS/Water is a comprehensive global water quality monitoring system and network, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Ireland will provide funding of €600,000 per annum to the programme over a 5-year period.

Minister Hogan commented that, ‘Ireland’s funding of GEMS/Water will provide a key tool for the urgent work that needs to be done to protect essential water resources around the world and it will leverage the expertise of Irish universities to help address some global challenges.’

He continued, ‘‘Traditional societies have long cherished water as a precious resource - in Ireland we have holy wells in nearly every parish – but in the modern world pressures such as population change, environmental degradation and global warming have diminished the quality and abundance of water in many areas to crisis levels. Ireland’s funding, together with the expertise of Irish universities, will enable the GEMS/Water programme to continue to drive a focus on water quality, particularly in the developing world”.

Ireland’s sponsorship of UNEP’s GEMS/Water will be co-funded by the Irish Aid programme which is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Irish Aid funding for the GEMS/Water programme will be used to improve monitoring of water quality in Africa, with a specific programme for capacity building that will be delivered by a consortium of Irish universities, led by UCC.

Minister Hogan said “Access to clean drinking water and good sanitation facilities makes a huge difference to people’s health and wellbeing. Diseases such as diarrhoea and worms, which result from inadequate access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, are one of the largest causes of malnutrition in children under five. 

“This cross governmental support for the GEMS Water programme builds on the commitment made in our Policy on International Development, One World One Future, to take a whole of government approach to reducing poverty and supporting development.”

“I am very pleased that four of the Irish universities (UCC, TCD, NUIG and DCU) have come together to work with my Department, Irish Aid and the UNEP to provide global leadership in this very important area. The UCC GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre will act as the global coordination mechanism for an institutional network of Irish partners supporting various components of the GEMS/Water programme.  I foresee this Centre having a significant impact globally and I hope to see Irish universities and Irish graduates playing their part on the global stage while addressing such important global challenges.’

‘I would also like to see Irish companies with relevant expertise becoming involved in this initiative as I believe that there are significant opportunities for Irish companies in this sector.’

Germany is the other lead sponsor of GEMS/Water and its support will be directed to managing GEMStat, the Global Water Quality Database and information system. Having Irish officials and academics working together with their German colleagues on these global challenges will provide some great opportunities for enhanced cooperation between Ireland and Germany.

Ireland’s sponsorship of such a key component of UNEP’s global environment strategy has been welcomed by European Union colleagues and was endorsed by the United Nations Environment Assembly which was held two weeks ago in Nairobi, Kenya.

Donor Agreements between UNEP and the sponsoring Departments are currently being prepared and Minister Hogan hopes that his Department’s agreement with UNEP can be finalised in the coming weeks.

ENDS
 

Note for Editors
It is estimated that less than 3% of the Earth’s water is fresh water. Only an estimated 0.8% of water is fresh water in liquid form as groundwater and 0.01% is in the form of surface water in rivers, lakes and wetlands.

The Global Environment Monitoring System for Water (GEMS/Water) – www.unep.org/gemswater - was established in 1978, following recommendations of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm in 1972. Its main work is management of the global GEMS database, together with statistical analysis, technical assistance and capacity building.  It is an inter-agency programme of the UN, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), based in Nairobi, Kenya. A key aim of the programme is the raising of professional standards of water quality monitoring internationally and in particular in developing countries.

There are four components of the GEMS Water Programme:
(a) Management/coordination (Nairobi)
(b) The global water quality database (Germany)
(c) The network of participating National and Collaborating Focal Points
(d) The capacity-building component. (Ireland)

GEMS Water has, since its inception, been funded and supported by Canada. Ireland and Germany are now taking on that role for a 5-year term and they will also leverage the expertise of Irish universities.

Ireland’s funding will support the GEMS/Water administration in Nairobi and the capacity-building and training component co-ordinated by UCC and including NUIG, TCD and DCU. The UCC GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre will act as the coordination mechanism for an institutional network of Irish partners supporting various components of the GEMS/Water programme. This will include provision of training in quality data generation, as well as training in laboratory procedures, including laboratory inter-operability.

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