Youth, town officers and staff from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources prepare to clean water supply and reservoir stations in Hihifo. 21 November 2020.

Hihifo district town officers and community members partnered with Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources officials taking to villages to clean reservoir stations after training on water and coastal management.

Nineteen water supply and reservoir stations servicing 16 villages in the Hihifo District were cleaned by the Hihifo youth council last month, to ensure there is safe access and supply of water to communities.

These include two water supply stations in Nukunuku and six in Fo’ui that supplies water to the villages of Kolovai, ‘Ahau, Kanokupolu, and Ha’atafu.

Tonga International Waters Ridge to Reef (R2R) Project Coordinator, Silia Leger said: “The achievement of best practices in integrated management relies on adequate availability of local capacity for Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and Integrated Water Resource Management(IWRM) implementation.”

“This is constrained by the scarcity and limited awareness and knowledge transfer on integrated environment and natural resource management in Tonga and in the Pacific Island region,” she said.

“And our recent training on the unique vulnerabilities and inter-connectivity of water and coastal resources in Tonga and other small island developing states, played a catalytic role in the establishment of the Hihifo Youth Council launched on International Youth Day, to engage formally in the governance and management of their resources,” she concluded.

Training included topics on the environmental stresses attributed to land-based pollution and unsafe toilet systems to the surrounding ecosystems, public health and livelihoods of communities, and sand mining and illegal waste dumping.

During the clean-up, abandoned water supply stations were identified and still in use, although uncleaned for a long time. Also, the villages identified old rusty water tanks that may have collapsed during a natural disaster, thereby leaving villages with no water. This was the case experienced with recent Tropical Cyclones Gita and Harold.

Other issues identified included the use of weedkiller in plantations in the vicinity of water stations which is also a concern, as well as oil leakages from pumps, and outside the pump house.

Hihifo Youth Council Chair, Lopeti Tufui, said they are preparing a report on their findings and will submit it to the District Member of Parliament and R2R Champion Honourable Losaline Ma'asi and the Hihifo Development Council consisting of Town and District Officers.

“The Youth is here to support sustaining our resources for future generation. Although, sustainably managing our resources is everyone’s business, and we all have a role to play,” he said.

“I believe that the work we are doing now is planting seeds for a bigger harvest, not just for our district, but for the nation,” he concluded.

Silia said a maintenance plan for the water supply and reservoir stations in Hihifo is being developed and linked to the Quarterly Village Water Monitoring activity.

“Youth are the future leaders of any country, and having the Youth Council actively engaged is one of our key strategies for sustainability through local ownership,” she said.