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VIEW: ‘Ottawa’s lack of support for GEMS is embarrassing,’ says Barlow and Schindler

This past Friday, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix (with a daily circulation of 65,000 readers) published an op-ed by Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and Professor David Schindler on the freshwater crisis in Canada and the government’s inaction on (and worsening of) protections for water.

They also highlight that, “For 30 years Canada has hosted the Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS), assessing more than 3,000 freshwater sites around the world and supplying 24 UN agencies with vital information upon which to build and assess water policy. GEMS is the dominant global system to monitor water quality and has been built with Canadian expertise and technology. But in recent years, successive federal governments have starved the program so much that GEMS director Edwin Ongley quit the program in 1998, citing the ‘abysmally naïve understanding by Environment Canada of emerging global water issues.’”

“In early 2008, senior Environment Canada officials told GEMS scientists that the program would no longer be funded in Canada. After a public outcry, Environment Minister Jim Prentice contradicted his officials and said the program would remain after all; but the funding allocated is only $500,000 a year — half the already diminished previous budget and nowhere near enough to keep the program going. As a result, GEMS scientists were not able to continue their contribution to the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership Indicators report, an important initiative to track and recommend on invasive species and loss of biodiversity. Nor could they contribute global indicators to the recently released UN World Water Development Report, arguably the most comprehensive compilation on the world water crisis ever written.”

Barlow and Schindler conclude that, “Ottawa’s lack of support for this internationally renowned program is embarrassing. The world is experiencing a growing water crisis that poses one of the greatest ecological and human threats of our time. The Canadian government must get its act together now.”

The full op-ed can be read at http://www.thestarphoenix.com/opinion/op-ed/Canada+abandons+freshwater+legacy/1755590/story.html.

You can read more about the GEMS on the Council of Canadians website at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=276.