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T&T choking with environmental neglect
Given the stance of the lead parties in the coalition People’s Partnership Government towards environmental issues when they were in opposition, it could have reasonably been expected that in office the Government would have demonstrated a concerted and committed effort to environmental issues.
In the budget presentation for 2013, the Finance Minister did not even bother to pay the lip service that was displayed in the budget statement of 2012. Last year, finance minister Winston Dookeran promised incentives for the purchase and use of solar panels.
This year, the Finance Minister has not even reported on what transpired with the last set of incentives offered and what the Government would be focusing on in this fiscal year to encourage the building of the green economy—because “going green” need not cost money.
It may even bring in income and provide jobs in areas such as recycling, which involves collecting, re-purposing or processing used material and then reselling it. In developed countries, citizens must sort their garbage into different categories—glass, plastic, paper—before the local authorities will even collect it.
The thousands of plastic bottles that are now said to have caused the Diego Martin floods in August could have been collected and put to good use. As it is, on a small scale, a few private companies have begun their own recycling initiatives with no help from either local or central government.
Fossil fuels will run out sooner rather than later; this country is blessed with an abundance of another free source of energy—sunshine—and yet makes no attempt to draw on it. Even in the instance of the long-term push towards the use of CNG, the focus has been on the financial and economic aspects of nudging the country from using gasoline to switching to CNG.
Plastic bags are being outlawed in many developed countries: as well as being unnecessary, unsightly and expensive, they can be lethal to wildlife on land and at sea—another of T&T’s natural resources. Most recently, plastic bags have been banned in Haiti, which is paying a terrible price for its neglect of the environment, with reckless deforestation leading to soil impoverishment and disastrous flooding.
But T&T is not showing any sign of being willing to learn from its neighbour’s experience or its own in this regard. Instead, citizens continue to use plastic bags as if they are going out of style—which is precisely what is happening elsewhere on the planet. No government of this country has made any notable attempt to intervene in this massive, wasteful consumption.
And what of halting the degradation that is the consequence of a highly industrialised economy, given the size of land and the population of the country? The industrial estates already in existence for more than 25 years, and the several others planned to utilise the energy resources of the country, need attention. Many of these estates were created during the period when environmental consciousness was not as sharp as it is now.
Pollution from these industrial developments, from the hundreds of thousands of cars that choke the roads, from chemicals and litter, from toxic fires in landfills, is not being and has never been seriously addressed. So, too, the country must guard its water resources from which the country gets its daily supply of potable water.
Trinidad and Tobago are two small islands with precious natural resources which are very sensitive to abuse—and they have been abused for several decades now. The time has arrived for the Government, in developing policies for economic advance, to take into account the adverse effects that the unthinking exploitation of those resources could have both now and in future. In so doing, it must commit to build an environmental element into all its programmes.
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