Shining our spotlight on our Pacific People that work for our Pacific environment is this Q and A series from your Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
Mr Nitish Narayan is the PacwastePlus Communications Officer with SPREP. PacWastePlus aims to ensure the safe and sustainable management of waste with due regard for the conservation of biodiversity, health and wellbeing of Pacific island communities and climate change mitigation and adaptation requirements.
Funded by the European Union, it is active in 15 Pacific islands, those being the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu as well as Timor-Leste.
Protecting our environment is an area that Nitish is passionate about, especially since our environment drives the sustainability and way of life of our Pacific island communities. Working in this specific area of waste management control, he is active in empowering us all to make a difference.
Q. Tell us a bit about your focus area of work. “Population growth, urbanisation and changing consumption patterns have all contributed to the increasing challenge of waste management not only in the Pacific but globally. New markets are being created, products are becoming more diverse, and they are being consumed and disposed of in greater volumes. So, in the future, we can predict waste to be more complex and a lot more of it. This has important environmental implications.
If present waste management trends are maintained, the waste we place in landfills is likely to increase tenfold! And the issue is not restricted purely to the problem of organic and recyclable waste. Dealing with electronic, disaster, healthcare, plastic, industrial and chemical waste will increasingly need to be integrated into management systems. For our member countries, this holds particular challenges. With higher rates of urbanisation putting pressure on existing infrastructure, they will be faced not only with a larger volume of waste production but managing it will be up to five times more expensive.”
Q. How you do apply your communication skills to waste? “As a communications specialist, I try to listen more than I speak! As humans, one of our basic needs is to feel heard, seen and understood. When you honour someone else with your undivided attention, you help assuage their anxiety, wash away their worry and find clarity in the chaos. Because you’re showing them that, despite how bad things might seem, they’re not alone. Don’t just hear the words and syllables, listen so you can understand and relate. Open your mind up to comprehend their needs as the more adept we are at doing so, the better. And the more likely you are to get the same in return.
I intend to provide our participating countries with the correct tools to enable them to bring about that necessary change in our collective attitudes and behaviour towards waste management and help identify opportunities on how different actors can work in partnership to find low-cost, environmentally friendly and sustainable waste management solutions.”
Q. What has been your greatest achievement in this role? “One of the greatest achievements, so far for me in this programme, is truly understanding the various challenges that our Member countries face and how we can provide the required assistance, enabling environment and resources to our countries to appropriately deal with these challenges.
We have commenced developing a practical Regional Education and Awareness Plan that countries can use to implement their education, awareness, and country project communication activities. This brings together several stakeholders including representation from Governments, communities, the private sector, media organisations and the disadvantaged to provide meaningful outcomes.”
Q. What tip do you think we should all know to help protect our environment? “We are not part of nature, we are nature! We should be one with the land, ocean and our surroundings. We need to stop, take a step back and ask ourselves what will waste look like in the future and how well equipped are we to minimise its environmental and health impacts?
Everything starts with us as individuals. Often most of us are guilty of simply pushing the blame onto others, but we must realise that we can make that difference even with the smallest steps that we take like throwing your rubbish into waste bins instead of littering just inches away from a provided waste bin or practising backyard composting and recycling. It all starts with us and the choices we make. Also, enough talking as now is the time to take action if we really are to make that difference!”
If you’d like to get in touch with Nitish, please email him at [email protected]