Friday, April 20, 2012

Palau islanders band together to protect threatened water supply

Thin Lei Win in AlertNet: A combination of development, improper land use and increasingly severe weather patterns are threatening water sources in the Micronesian island of Palau – but a community alliance is working to thwart the challenges.

Palau’s 20,000 inhabitants rely on fresh water from rivers and streams on the biggest island, Babeldaob, for their daily needs and to irrigate farms of taro, a staple food. They also depend heavily on the island’s trees and other vegetation, and on its marine resources.

But construction of a 50-mile-long ring road on the island between 1994 and 2006 led to massive land clearing and has led to erosion and sediment runoff, damaging the island’s freshwater sources.

Worsening climate-linked extreme weather is also adding to the island’s problems. "What we're seeing in Palau at the moment is that the average rainfall is pretty much the same. It's the intensity and frequency that's really causing a lot of the problems,” said Umiich Fleming Sengebau, deputy director in Palau for The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based conservation organization. The changes include more intense storms at the tail end of Southeast Asia’s monsoon season....

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