Daily Post (Port Vila, Vanuatu) Port Vila communities rallied to clean Tagabe River on World Water Day on March 22, to raise awareness on the importance of sustainable management and universal access to safe water critically supporting a healthy planet.

The GEF International Waters Ridge to Reef (R2R) Project executed by the Pacific Community (SPC) through United Nations Development Programme, focuses on restoring habitats at the Tagabe River Catchment national demonstration site, recognizing that it is only source of portable water supply in Vanuatu.

Department of Conservation and Environmental Protection Director Donna Kalfatak said: “Water critically supports a healthy planet – from food, water and energy security, to economic development and environmental sustainability and i would like to encourage island groups living along Tagabe River to be proactive in the engagement of sustainable management of Tagabe River.

“It is very important that no one is left behind in shaping the plans to manage our water resources,” she emphasized.

The IW R2R project commemorated World Water Day together with local partners, the Tagabe River Management Committee (TRMC) and Ifira Marine Management (IMM).

Together, surrounding communities from Tagabe Bridge to Blacksands, and government officials were mobilized as part of the clean-up campaign which started Wednesday, ending on Friday.

IW R2R Project Manager, Ericksen Packett said: “The project employs a community-to-cabinet approach to natural resource management.

“From mobilizing communities to care for Tagabe river health to regulating development activity within the catchment.

“The intention of IW R2R Project and its local implementing partners for this event, TRMC and IMM, for this campaign is not only to commemorate World Water Day through a partnership between the local communities and the national government through the clean-up, but it is also significant towards raising the awareness and knowledge of community members on the sustainable management of the river health for which their livelihoods depend,” he said.

Last week, communities were active in managing waste disposal like plastics, metals and other non-degradable items found around the river and within the water protection zone 1.

Community member, Darrel Kalpukai said: “We are grateful to be part of this important initiative which has improved my understanding of why and how we need to take care of our river, and if we don’t, we will be the ones who will be directly affected in the end.”

The campaign is part of the project’s plans for broader awareness and education on waste management to ensure sustainable, safe and secure access to river resources for communities.

Participating government departments and organizations included: Department of Lands, Department of Water, Department of Environment, Department of Forestry and Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Vanuatu Environmental Society (VESS) and UNELCO.

Key activities of the IW R2R project, include: Coordinating and supporting development and implementation of the Tagabe Catchment R2R Management Plan; Strengthening capacity for participatory monitoring and evaluation of the Tagabe Catchment R2R Management Plan to strengthen the enabling environment for coastal area management; and facilitating partnerships for sustainable coastal area development established through the application of Integrated Coastal Management and Marine Spatial Planning Approaches.

World Water Day was also celebrated nationally on Tanna with the local theme – “Klin Mo Inaf Wota Blong Evriwan.”

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