The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education jointly launched the project "Strengthening Small Island Developing States’ capacity in the water sector to cope with the effects of climate change".
The project enables water professionals from SIDS countries to enrol in a Masters Programme or Short Course at UNESCO-IHE. The first group of five MSc students started in October and short course participants arrived in January for five weeks, with more planning to start in the upcoming months.
The first experiences
Crystal Conway is from Guyana and arrived in Delft recently on a SIDS scholarship. “Guyana actually means land of many waters”. The majority of the population lives on what we call the low coastal plain, a mere two metres below sea level. Coming from Guyana to study my masters in Hydroinformatics is very valuable.”
One of the UNESCO representatives in Guyana had sent an informative email to several civil engineers asking them to share this message with their young colleagues. “I received the information by 1 September, I applied shortly after, on 23 September I heard that I had been accepted and three weeks later I arrived in The Netherlands. I am interested in geographic information systems and I had always wondered how I could put civil engineering and GIS together. For a water professional from a developing country like me, in search of a world-class education, studying at an institute like this is almost impossible, due to lack of funding. Fortunately UNESCO-IHE and the Dutch Government created that possibility for many of us and I would like to encourage more people to look into these opportunities.
‘’In my job I spend a lot of time in the field, talking to the people on the ground who deal with water related issues. For example, when it is low tide, salt water tends to intrude upstream going far into the rivers. Farmers have no choice but to use that water to irrigate their land, so they are in effect salting their land in the long term. This is one of many problems that needs to be looked at, but nobody has had the opportunity yet,” said Crystal Conway.
Rising sea level
Amit Singh from Fiji: "I heard about UNESCO-IHE from one of my colleagues, who noticed a post on Facebook. That is also how I found out about the SIDS programme. I did more research about the scholarship and then applied for the programme in Water Resources Management."
“Due to climate change and the subsequent rising sea level, it is of great importance to manage what we have. I would like to encourage fellow Pacific Islanders to apply for the SIDS Fellowships,” said Amit Singh.
Speech by Dutch King
At the UN event on implementing the Samoa Pathway in September 2015, Dutch King H.M. Willem-Alexander stressed that nearly 700 million people live in low-lying coastal areas less than 10 metres above sea level and mentioned the challenges faced by the Small Island Developing States.
“Our Kingdom is actively reaching out to countries that face challenges similar to ours. We're sharing our experience in water management with countries all around the world. And we're making top Dutch water and delta expertise available to foreign governments urgently seeking to prevent water-related disasters. A Dutch team has visited the island states of Vanuatu and Kiribati this summer to advise their governments on water issues. We're also offering scholarships and courses for SIDS at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands.”
He closed the speech by saying that together, we can restore ocean health and work towards the sustainable development of our nations and people.
Minister of Mauritius signs Memorandum of Understanding
On 20 January 2016, UNESCO-IHE welcomed Jayeshwur Raj Dayal, the Minister of Environment, Sustainable Development, Disaster and Beach Management of Mauritius to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Institute for the development of an early warning system for storm surge. He took the opportunity to meet his fellow countryman, Niraj Tacouri who was at the Institute following a five week course on Port Planning and Infrastructure Design, funded by a SIDS fellowship.
UNESCO-IHE will provide at least 20 key water professionals with MSc level education on relevant topics for the SIDS, in two batches – the first one started in 2015, the second starts in October 2016. The 18 month MSc programmes includes 6 months' field based research, to be conducted on specific problems in the home country of the participant. The deadline for SIDS Fellowships for the 2016-2018 MSc Specializations is 01 July 2016 - 23.59 (CET).
Furthermore, UNESCO-IHE will provide at least 50 water professionals and decision makers with specific expertise on relevant topics, by enabling them to enrol in UNESCO-IHE Short Courses. The deadline for SIDS fellowships are listed on the Short Course webpage.