by Eric J. Lyman
FAVIGNANA, Italy, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Greening the Islands, a four-year-old conference that seeks to highlight and help resolve some of the environmental challenges faced by the worlds more than 500,000 islands, will split into three separate events starting next year including one that focuses on the Asia-Pacific region.
The conference was first held in 2014 on the Italian island of Pantelleria. Since then, it moved around Europe -- the second edition was held on the island of Malta, followed by the Spain's Canary Islands last year -- before returning to the island of Favignana for the Nov. 3-4 conference this year.
Greening the Islands focuses on specific challenges islands face, whether it is access to fresh water, the impacts of tourism and migration, transportation to and on the islands, energy generation, and efficiency.
Gianni Chianetta, the event's founder, told Xinhua that in 2018 the event will split into three, with the original event being reduced in focus to European issues and two others -- one for the Asia-Pacific region and one focusing on the Caribbean -- will be launched.
"There's a demand for more events in other parts of the world to make it easier for participants to attend and for regional players to compare notes and network," Chianetta said in an interview.
The details of the 2018 events -- including the specific dates or the host islands -- have not yet been finalized, Chianetta said.
The keynote speaker of this year's event was Italian Minister Plenipotentiary Paolo Serbi, director general for globalization and global issues in Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In his remarks to participants, Serbi noted that "the theme of sustainable development is increasingly at the heart of national and international debates."
"This is a theme that concerns every territory and community," Serbi said. "But it has a particular significance for island territories, especially small islands."
Serbi also called for "greater and more focused attention to the significant and multiple challenges islands face."
In order to shed light on some of those challenges, organizers held sessions on a variety of issues including desalinization of seawater, ways to use renewable energy and batteries to help propel people and merchandise to islands and to move around them, and ways in to help turn the tide of migrants from a problem to an asset.
"Good planning can help turn the arrival of migrants in Italy and Greece and elsewhere into benefits employed in agriculture and in other areas," Konstantina Toli, an Athens, Greece-based senior program official with the Global Water Partnership said in one session.
Chianetta told Xinhua the full program for the full 2018 set of meetings will be unveiled by early 2018, with the Asia-Pacific session likely to take place after the other two, most likely in November.