United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Multi-million Dollar Irish Commitment set to Boost Monitoring of World`s Freshwater Supplies


Nairobi -- The Global Environment Monitoring System for Water (GEMS/Water), an international programme coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to improve freshwater quality, is set to receive sponsorship of 3 million euros from the Government of Ireland, announced Irish Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Mr. Phil Hogan, this week.

Clean water supplies and sanitation remain major problems in many parts of the world, with 20 per cent of the global population lacking access to safe drinking water.

Research shows that around 1.1 billion people globally do not have access to improved water supply sources, with 2 million people dying every year due to water-borne diseases; most of them children under five years of age.

GEMS/Water develops and maintains a global freshwater quality information system that is shared with over 100 countries for the effective management of water resources.

It provides this information through a variety of mechanisms to support global and regional environmental assessment and reporting processes in the United Nations system and other international agencies.

The funding of 3 million euros over a five-year period comes with a commitment from the Irish government to provide the expertise of Irish Universities in protecting essential water resources around the world.

In making the announcement Minster Hogan said, 'Traditional societies have long cherished water as a precious resource - but in the modern world, pressures such as population change, environmental degradation and global warming have diminished the quality and abundance of water in many areas to crisis levels.'

'Ireland's funding, together with the expertise of Irish universities, will enable the GEMS/Water programme to continue to drive a focus on water quality, particularly in the developing world,' he added.

Germany is the other lead sponsor of GEMS/Water and its support will be directed to managing GEMStat, the Global Water Quality Database and information system. Having Irish officials and academics working together with their German counterparts on these global challenges will provide some great opportunities for enhanced cooperation between Ireland and Germany.

Ireland's sponsorship of UNEP's GEMS/Water will be co-funded by the Irish Aid programme, which is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Irish Aid funding for the GEMS/Water programme will be used to improve monitoring of water quality in Africa, with a specific programme for capacity building that will be delivered by a consortium of Irish universities, led by University College Cork (UCC).

Ireland's sponsorship of such a key component of UNEP's global environment strategy has been welcomed by the European Union and was endorsed by the United Nations Environment Assembly which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in June.

About GEMS/Water

The Global Environment Monitoring System for Water (GEMS/Water) was established in 1978, following recommendations of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm in 1972. Its main work is management of the global GEMS database, together with statistical analysis, technical assistance and capacity building. It is an inter-agency programme of the UN, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), based in Nairobi, Kenya. A key aim of the programme is the raising of professional standards of water quality monitoring internationally and in particular in developing countries. For more information, please visit: www.unep.org/gemswater.-

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