On October 18th, 2023, at the European Parliament, MEP Maxette Pirbakas delivered a powerful speech highlighting the escalating water crisis in the French overseas departments, particularly in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Mayotte.
Maxette Pirbakas says it is unacceptable in 2023
“Mr. Chairman, Commissioner, the water crisis is reaching fever pitch in our five French overseas departments, especially in Martinique and Guadeloupe,” Maxette Pirbakas began her address. She pointed out that in Guadeloupe, it has been estimated for years that over a quarter of the population lacks access to drinking water.
“This is unacceptable. We are in two-thousand and twenty-three,” she stated, emphasizing the urgency of the situation.
Pirbakas further highlighted the dire situation in Mayotte, where there is a total absence of water. She expressed her concern that this severe problem seems to be largely overlooked. “Commissioner, I would remind you that we are talking about a European territory that should benefit from European solidarity like any other region of the Union,” she asserted.
She attributed the crisis to decades of under-investment in water infrastructure, stating, “Today, we are paying the price of decades of under-investment in water infrastructure on French streets.” She criticized the effectiveness of cohesion funds in addressing this issue, describing them as merely “a sprinkling of money.”
In her call to action, Maxette Pirbakas implored, “I’m calling for a real comprehensive plan to be put in place, led by the Commission in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Mayotte.” She stressed that the health and livability of these territories are at stake.
Her demand includes renovating sanitation and distribution infrastructures, creating new treatment plants, and putting an end to the “pierced hosepipe” – a metaphorical reference to the ineffective and leaky water supply system.
Maxette Pirbakas‘ impassioned speech underscores the urgent need for comprehensive and effective solutions to address the water crisis in these French overseas departments. It calls for immediate attention and action from the European Union, reminding us that these territories, though distant, remain an integral part of the Union and deserve the same level of care and solidarity.
Potable water crisis threatens the quality of life
The picturesque French islands in the Caribbean, known for their stunning beaches and vibrant cultures, are facing a severe crisis that threatens the quality of life for their inhabitants: a scarcity of potable water. Despite being surrounded by vast expanses of ocean, the islands are grappling with increasing water shortages, a problem exacerbated by climate change and infrastructural challenges.
In recent decades, the islands have been experiencing longer periods of drought due to global warming and changing weather patterns[^1^]. These environmental changes have led to a rise in temperature and a decrease in rainfall, which have in turn strained the islands’ water resources[^2^]. This scarcity of water is not only a problem for the daily life of the inhabitants, but it also poses significant challenges for the islands’ agricultural sectors and could potentially impact their tourism industries.
Furthermore, the infrastructural systems that support the islands’ water supplies are compromised. Economic challenges have hindered the maintenance and development of these systems, leading to further problems in the provision of potable water[^1^]. For instance, on the French side of St. Martin, the tap water’s high chlorine content makes it unsuitable for drinking[^3^].
The water crisis in the French Caribbean islands is a complex issue with no easy solutions. It requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the environmental factors contributing to water scarcity and the infrastructural challenges that hinder the provision of potable water. As these islands continue to grapple with this crisis, it is clear that concerted efforts on a local, national, and international level will be necessary to ensure a sustainable and secure water future for their inhabitants.
[^1^]: Caribbean Currents: Water scarcity a dire problem for the islands – The Philadelphia Tribune
[^2^]: Climate change puts pressure on failing Caribbean water supplies – DW
[^3^]: Drinking water on French side – St Martin / St Maarten Forum – Tripadvisor