President Paula-Mae Weekes has called on the Government and interest groups to take urgent action to protect the environment.
Speaking at the inaugural Tobago Environmental Partnership Conference at the Mt Irvine Bay Hotel, she said policymakers should “be impatient” about setting environmental policies as pollution statistics for Trinidad and Tobago are troubling.
“Trinidad and Tobago has one of the most invidious reputations of being one of the most polluted small island states in the world,” the President said.
The two-day conference, a collaboration between public and private stakeholders including the German Embassy, Environment Tobago and the Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC), seeks to develop policies and plans for sustainable environmental preservation in Tobago.
Citing the 2016 Marine Environment Report, the President said the degradation of the coral reefs, depletion of the mangroves and seagrass beds are due to pollution, land use change and development.
In highlighting, some of this country’s environmental challenges, she pointed to “ recurrent oil spills, rapid and indiscriminate deforestation, deleterious industrial runoff, indiscriminate use of plastic, unacceptable methods of waste disposal and high levels of waste generation.”
She also pointed to the country’s “unbridled appetite” for wild meat.
Deputy Head of the Mission Federal Republic of Germany, Andreas Haak said his country has contributed over US$150 million to environmental sustainability throughout the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
He said T&T has an important role to play as it’s a signatory to the Paris Agreement. It’s an agreement on climate change agreed to by 196 states at the end of 2015 in Paris. The parties agreed to reduce global warming to “well below 2 °C” Celsius.
Haak said while Trinidad’s oil-based economy posed a challenge to adopting measures promoting climate change, Tobago is different.
“The island has the capacity to promote these environmental goals and alter public opinion on the ground, for the whole nation,” he said.
Secretary in the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment Kwesi Des Vignes, who also spoke at the conference, encouraged Tobagonians to embrace measures to preserve the environment.
A representative for Environment Tobago Bertrand Bikharry echoed similar sentiments.
The conference opens up a “new breath to the economy” allowing everyone to preserve the environment while they reap its benefits, Bikharry said.