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).
Ms Susana Telakau of Tuvalu joined our Pacific environment team at SPREP late last year, being the newest member to the Waste Management and Pollution Control. Now the Solid Waste Management Adviser at SPREP, she is the former Assistant Secretary for the Ministry of Public Works, Infrastructure, Environment, Labour, Meteorology and Disaster of the Government of Tuvalu.
Her expertise in this area also saw her lead the Tuvalu Waste Management work as the Director of Department for many years. “What interested me in waste is that there is a lot of things to waste. Our waste can be resources, if not managed well there will be a lot of impacts to the environment and public health. Working in this area has opened my eyes as to the impact waste has on more than just the environment. It can affect our health, our community as a whole.”
Ms Telakau is currently based in Tuvalu and will be moving to SPREP in Samoa once able to do so. As the Solid Waste Management Adviser, she provides strategic, policy and technical advice, support, and assistance to SPREP Members on solid waste management issues, programmes and projects.
Q. What is your vision for the work in your role?
My vision is to assist our Pacific islands to find solutions to solid waste management issues faced. I hope we reduce impacts of solid waste to the environment and at the same time promote and support our countries to implement a circular economy. This will improve solid waste management in country. I also hope to see a change of mindset in our Pacific people that wastes are resources if managed well.
Q. Being fairly new to SPREP, what is one of the best things you like about this role so far?
As a new staff to SPREP, the best things I like about my job is the challenge that it brings in dealing with solid waste issues in different Pacific islands and finding solution to protect our environment and biodiversity. I also enjoy being part of the SPREP, working with colleagues of diverse culture and nationalities within SPREP.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge in your role thus far, and how are you overcoming this?
The biggest challenge in my role is working with our diverse Pacific islands and finding solutions to different solid waste management issues as suitable for each country as there is no one solution for all. As a new staff, I plan to overcome this challenge through consultations with countries to ensure that the best solution is developed. This is very important as our Island Members know what the best solution for their country is, and I can provide the technical support, advice to help.
Furthermore, is the COVID-19 pandemic that is the biggest challenge now as I am working remotely from Tuvalu due to border closure and not being able to reach out to Member countries of SPREP to assist them face to face in country as normally done in previous years. However, everything now is done virtually which is another challenge due to internet connectivity but the key to overcome these challenges is being flexible and adapt to new changes as it comes.
Q. What tip do you think we should all know to help protect our environment?
I think we should all know that managing wastes is very important as it helps to protect our environment, reduce pollution, improve public health as well as reduces greenhouse gasses from generating in landfills that contributes to climate change. We must all remember that wastes are resources if managed well – for example, the recycling of wastes generates income for the private sector as well as the public.
To learn more about the Waste Management and Pollution Control programme at SPREP please visit: www.sprep.org