September 5, 2014 by admin
4 September 2014, Apia, Samoa - Samoa's initiative to end marine litter was highlighted at a side event led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) during the third SIDS Conference in Apia this week.
Titled "The Last Straw – preventing our oceans from becoming dumps", the side event noted the huge environmental, aesthetic and commercial impacts of pollution from marine debris and litter. A recent UNEP report has estimated that 10 to 20 million tonnes of plastic is finding its way into the world's oceans each year, costing approximately USD13 billion per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems.
This includes financial losses incurred by fisheries and tourism as well as time spent cleaning up beaches. It was also noted that 80% of marine debris is from land based sources as a result of poor waste handling and management.
The Samoa project was set up in recognition of the need to manage land-based pollution in order to address the harbour pollution issue. Samoa's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) has worked with SPREP to run a public media campaign in conjunction with community-led activities, which included a clean-up of the Mulivai and Vaisigano rivers, community beach clean-ups, provision of trash stands and a waste craft training for women's groups.
Speaking at the side event, MNRE's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Suluimalo Amataga Penaia, emphasised the essential role of community participation in such activities.
"We are actually engaging the communities in a meaningful way," he said. "They are involved in the cleanups and are able to see firsthand the types of waste that is coming downstream."
As a result, communities are taking charge of dealing with the waste problem.
Litter booms have been set up at the mouth of the rivers to trap rubbish coming downstream and bins have been provided to the communities involved.
In addition, a waste management programme was established at the Samoa Ports Authority and at the SIDS Conference facility to ensure that the waste generated during the SIDS conference is properly managed.
Panelists and participants at the side event acknowledged that putting an end to marine debris has become an imperative that we cannot afford to ignore any longer.
Mr. David Haynes, SPREP's Director for Waste Management and Pollution Control, said "We know what needs to be done and this includes a programme for the sustainable recycling of plastics to reduce what is already there and to develop behaviour change programmes that provide options for follow–through."