6 Ensure environmental sustainability

Where we are?

A stream near Mau-Nunu village in Ainaro
A stream near Mau-Nunu village in Ainaro. Photo: Sandra Magno/UNDP TL

Timor-Leste is a small island with a fragile natural resource base. A majority of the population depend for their livelihoods on subsistence agriculture and fishing. Droughts, flooding, erosion and landslides will have a severe impact on growth and development, particularly on rural dwellers exacerbating poverty. 

Timor-Leste has not adequately documented or taken steps to preserve its rich land and marine biodiversity. The country is also suffering from deforestation due to the use of firewood for cooking.

Realizing the importance of adequate environmental policies and their linkage to achievement of the MDGs, the government of Timor-Leste has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the Montreal Protocol and the Vienna Convention.

Access to safe drinking water: In 2007, only 60 per cent of the population had sustainable access to clean water, and there was a sharp divide between urban and rural areas. The political crisis of 2006, and the internal displacement of people brought about by the crisis, will make it difficult to reach the 2015 target of providing 78 per cent of the population with access to clean water. There has been significant improvement in both urban and rural sanitation and the country as a whole is likely to achieve the 2015 target.

Slum dwellers: Data from 2007 shows a decreasing proportion of households with access to secure tenure. In 2007, 88.4 per cent of the population had tenure, which was a decrease from 94.2 per cent in 2000. People in rural areas have slightly better access to tenure than people in urban areas. Overall, Timor-Leste has not succeeded in reducing the proportion of the population living in slum areas.

What needs to be done:

  • Set and enforce regulations on safe drinking water in Timor-Leste
  • Develop sanitation policies for urban, peri-urban and rural areas
  • Develop the capacity of water supply user groups; these groups will in turn support the government to manage water and sanitation at the local level
  • Emphasize a total sanitation approach in rural sanitation promotion based on the principle that communities are capable of defining their basic sanitation needs
  • Water source conservation programmes, including efforts to restrict and prevent activities that could compromise the quality or quantity of water sources
  • Encourage people to adopt healthy and hygienic lifestyles

Sources: 2009 The Millennium Development Goals, Timor-Leste, RDTL and UN; Millennium Development Goals 2010, RDTL, National Statistics Directorate, Ministry of Finance and ICF Macro, 2010; 2009-10 Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey: Key Findings, Dili, Timor-Leste, NCD and ICF Macro; Timor-Leste MDG-F Case Study Evaluation, 2012. 

UNDP's work in Timor-Leste

  • Aileu farmers Daniel Soares and Francisco Fernandes show how poor their soil is due to a scarcity of water. Photo Sandra Magno/UNDP TL

    A small country with a big climate change plan

    Aileu – The concept of climate change is well and truly understood in the small villages of Aileu district in Timor-Leste. (Lee versaun Tetum iha ne'e)more

  • A rural hamlet in Timor-Leste. Photo Reinaldo Soares/UNDP TL

    Timorese finally land property rights

    Liquica – Teresa de Jesus clutched her land papers and gave a shy grin. In December 2011, the 60-year old was one of 16 landowners whomore

Targets for MDG7
  1. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
  2. Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
    • Proportion of land area covered by forest and proportion of species threatened with extinction
    • CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per $1 GDP (PPP)
    • Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
    • Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
    • Proportion of total water resources used
    • Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
  3. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
    • Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source
    • Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility
  4. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020
    • Proportion of urban population living in slums