Keynote Address by the Honorable Minister of Water Resources Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochekpe CON, On The Occasion Of 2015 World Water Day.

PROTOCOLS,
  Distinguished Heads and

Representatives of International, Regional and National Organizations, Distinguished Participants of the World Water Day, Members of the Press,

Ladies and Gentlemen.
Serah OchekpeIt is with a gratitude to God to stand before you today to celebrate this annual event of the UN World Water Day holding at the Vines Hotel, here in Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria. I wish to welcome you all, distinguished participants to this important event.

2. Each year, the World Water Day highlights specific aspect of freshwater. In 2014, the theme for the World Water Day was on Water and Energy. The theme for this year is “Water and Sustainable Development”, which provides an important opportunity to consolidate. Upon the previous World Water Days that highlighted the role of water in the sustainable development agenda.

3. As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, reaches the target date by the end of 2015, the global community is engaged in a renewed political commitment for sustainable development. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (Rio+20), the 192 Member’ States declared their commitments to support global Sustainable Development Agenda beyond the year 2015.

4. You may wish to recall that at the Rio+20, Member States recognized the importance of water in sustainable development and the post-2015 development agenda, by emphasizing in its outcome document thus “Water is at the core of sustainable development as it is closely linked to a number of key global challenges”.

5. One of the concrete outcomes of Rio+20 was the agreement to start a process of defining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be built on the Millennium Development Goals and will critically address three dimensions of sustainable development. It also emphasized that SDGs should not only be coherent with, but also integrated into the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015. Following these developments, different processes in defining the global development agenda have been initiated both within and outside the United Nations.

6. The role of water in human development and environmental sustainability has been clearly defined in the MDGs by dedicating a specific target (Target 7C) on “water and sanitation” as part of the overall goal of realizing environmental sustainability (Goal 7). The target is to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”. This target is monitored by two indicators: “Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source” and “Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility”. According to the latest report 2 of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved sources of drinking water since 1990, and 116 countries have met the MDG target on drinking water.

7. It is pertinent to note that “Water” is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socioeconomic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations. It is central to the production and preservation of a host of benefits and services for people. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between the climate system, human society and the environment.

8. We are aware that ‘Water” is a finite resource that is fundamental to human Well-being. It is only renewable if well managed. Today, more than 1.7 billion people live in river basins where depletion through use exceeds natural recharge, a trend that will see two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed countries by 2025. Water can pose a serious threat to sustainable development. If managed efficiently and equitably, however, water can play a key enabling role in strengthening the resilience of social, economic and environmental systems in the light of rapid and unpredictable changes.

9. In addressing Sustainable Development, Water is pre-requisite to the development of some of key sectors. These include:

Agriculture: This is by far the thirstiest consumer of water globally, accounting for 70% of water withdrawals worldwide, although this figure varies considerably across countries. Rain fed agriculture is the predominant agricultural production system around the world, and its current productivity is, on average, little more than half the potential obtainable under optimal agricultural management. By 2050, world agriculture will need to produce 60% more food globally, and 100% more in developing countries.
Industry and energy: These account for 20% of water demand. More-developed countries have a much larger proportion of freshwater withdrawals for industry than less-developed countries, where agriculture dominates. Balancing the requirements for sustainability against the conventional view of industrial mass production creates a number of challenges for industry. One of the biggest is globalization and how to spread the benefits of industrialization worldwide and without unsustainable impacts on water and other natural resources.

Domestic sector: This accounts for 10% of total water use. And yet, worldwide, an estimated 748 million people remain without access to an improved source of water and 2.5 billion remain without access to improved sanitation.

Cities: More than half the world population live in urban areas and by 2050, it is projected that more than two- thirds of the global population of 9 billion will be living in cities. Furthermore, most of this growth will happen in developing countries, which have limited capacity to deal with this rapid change, and the growth will also lead to increase in the number of people living in slums, which often have very poor living conditions, including inadequate water and sanitation facilities. Therefore, the development of water resources for economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability will be closely linked with the sustainable development of cities.

Ecosystems: Perhaps the most important challenge to sustainable development to have arisen in the last decades is the unfolding global ecological crisis that is becoming a barrier to further human development. From an ecological perspective, the sustainable development efforts have not been successful. Global environmental degradation has reached a critical level with major ecosystems approaching thresholds that could trigger massive collapse. The growing understanding of global planetary boundaries, which must be respected to protect Earth’s life support systems, needs to be the very basis of the future sustainable development framework.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
10. Permit me to say that, the Federal Government has improved access to water coverage by 67%, sanitation by 40% and our surface and under groundwater reserves cumulatively are now 440 Billion cubic meters (JICA Report 2014) for the year 2014. We are hoping that in the coming years all these figures will improve tremendously. I thank all our stakeholders especially our Donor Partners and Individuals for collaborating with the Ministry in the realization of this statistics.

11. That notwithstanding, the theme for this year is another clarion call to all our stakeholders to come together in ensuring that the natural resources is developed in a sustainable manner.

12. As a nation under the leadership of His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR President of the Republic of Nigeria has committed so many resources in insuring development in this sector. The foremost was the demerger from the Ministry of Agriculture to enable the Federal Ministry of Water Resources carry out its full mandate. In addition, some of the abandon project’s in the sector has been completed. I am glad to mention that the Ministry has focused its attention on ensuring that our dams have hydropower component in their designs. As at today, 13 dams which brings the total impoundment in our reservoirs to 34 BCM, are ready for commissioning.

13. One of such as Gurara irrigation project which was commissioned on Friday 20th March, 2015 by the Vice President. The Gurara Dams has three major components Viz Hydro Power, generate Irrigation scheme, Water Supply to FCT as well as for industrialization. The aim is to manage water resources in a sustainable manner.

14. I cannot conclude this speech without mentioning the effort of Government in the sector through international and regional organizations which Nigeria is a member. As you are aware, Nigeria is in the fore front of championing multilateral and bilateral efforts at eliminating regional conflict and promoting peace through effective and efficient sustainable Trans-Boundary Water Resources Management. This will do through the Lake Chad Basin Commission, Niger Basin Authority, Nigeria -Cameroon Joint Commission, among others -

15. Similarly, through Niger Basin Authority, support was granted to Nigeria for the rehabilitation of Kainji and Jebba Dams in Niger State which on completion will increase hydro power generation for the population of both Nigeria and Neighbouring Countries.

THANK YOU and GOD BLESS YOU ALL
SARAH RENG OCHEKPE
Honourable Minister
23RD MARCH, 2015

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