Over the past 1,200–12,000 years, diverse small island communities in the Pacific and Indian Oceans have proved remarkably resilient to major, natural calamities including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods, storm surges and severe droughts.
As island communities continue to grow and transition from subsistence to developed economies, they face new challenges which threaten island sustainability. These are exemplified in securing safe, reliable water supplies for island communities. Challenges range from technical, environmental, economic, demographic, political to governance issues. Examples of their diversity from Nauru, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga and the Maldives are given.
The issues involved are complex and there are no simple, formulaic off-the-shelf solutions. Indeed simple technical fixes can decrease resilience. Rather, a long-term approach is required, building on local strengths and experience. Sustained efforts to strengthen institutions, enhance human capacity, engage in sustained mentoring and improve information and understanding as well as encouraging behavioural change are needed. Such enduring commitments are suited to regional organisations but remain problematic for aid and donor organisations.
ABOUT PROFESSOR WHITE
Prof. Ian White is currently Professor of Water Resources in the Fenner School of Environment at the Australian National University. He is a distinguished member of several international organisations, including the UNESCO-HP program.
His major research theme is the prediction and measurement of the downstream impacts of landuse. This includses the acidification of coastal streams, modelling the groundwater dynamics of salinity and waste disposal schemes, prediction of water use by trees, sustainability of water extraction from shallow groundwater systems in coastal areas, quantitative techniques for soil water measurement in the root and vadose zones at appropriate scales.