My fellow Tobagonians, as we celebrate World Environment Day this year, we do so against the backdrop of increasingly challenging times in our global community. As the global superpowers haggle over the Paris Agreement and its implications for the Earth, it becomes even clearer for us here in Tobago, that the protection of our environment is our responsibility. We must always stay true to our mantra of a Clean, Green, Safe and Serene Tobago.
This year’s World Environment Day theme, “Connecting People to nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the Equator”, is an encouragement to “reconnect with the places that matter most to you”. In the context of Tobago, as one half of a developing country, there exists a constant challenge to strike an equilibrium between modern pursuits and the inherent mandate to protect our environment. As Tobagonians, we need to stand at the vanguard, readily demonstrating our willingness to ensure environmental sustainability.
It is at this point therefore, that I recognize the efforts of our environmental staff, the Administration and its regulators, who work aggressively to pursue international standards and to safeguard the rights of Tobagonians to a clean, healthy and stable environment. There have been many achievements in these areas, despite limited resources, including:
- the consistent monitoring and profiling of 36 beaches;
- water quality testing of over 60 water sites;
- the move towards phasing put Styrofoam use;
- the recent initiative of the Air Quality Monitoring Project 2017;
- setting up of a Noise Pollution Joint task force;
- the Tobago IFPAM project aimed at forest improvement and management of protected areas – which has seen us institute a co-management approach between the NGOs and the THA; and
- the recent workshop kicking off the process to develop a Waste Oil Management System for Tobago.
Additionally, the THA is currently working towards the Main Ridge Forest Reserve being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Grounding these initiatives in scientific methodology allows for more efficient planning of environmental protection initiatives and overall governance, towards tackling challenges such as climate change, global warming and treating with harmful emissions and substances.
The way forward is an across-the-board stakeholder buy-in to effectively tackle key sustainability issues including:
- reduction of all forms of Noise Pollution including business places, music from vehicles and from homes;
- ensuring that our water courses remain free of pollutants;
- preserving our flora through the elimination of destructive practices such as slashing and burning and illegal logging, which devastate our hillsides and our watersheds;
- being mindful of overhunting and poaching of our fauna, including turtles and various fish and bird species; and
- being our own litter wardens and cleaning up after ourselves.
It is only through collective will and continuous effective action that we will realize sustained success in our bid to protect and preserve this environment.
As I conclude, I charge you to consider how blessed we are to have access to clean air and clean water; to enjoy some degree of protection from natural disasters; and to have the ability to connect daily with a scenic landscape. It is indeed a privilege to live in Tobago and to be called Tobagonian, and with such privilege comes a duty to be more and to do more for our environment.
Every Tobagonian must take charge, living in ways that contribute meaningfully to Tobago remaining Clean, Green, Safe and Serene. It is our responsibility to be the ‘Champions for Tobago’s Environment’, which is our prized asset, our competitive advantage and one of our best chances of survival.
With this, I wish you a Happy World Environment Day 2017.