Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to be here with you today, as we look at yet another aspect of environmental safety – the very important, but often overlooked subject of pesticide safety, or, to be more specific, pesticide container management.
Ladies and Gentlemen, sustainability and wise use of the environment are concepts that have always been encouraged and actively promoted by the Ministry of Planning and Development. Protecting our natural resources, which we depend on for clean water, food, fresh air and our livelihoods, is critical to Trinidad and Tobago’s future. Unfortunately, the reality is that environmental pollution is one the greatest challenges that this country, and by extension the world, faces today, because it threatens the stability of these natural assets.
According to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today. Since 1950, over one hundred and forty thousand (140,000) chemicals and pesticides have been manufactured, and while several of these have become an integral part of our daily lives and contributed significantly to our economic development, some have also become threats to human health and the environment.
It is well established, that waste and chemical management disproportionately impacts developing countries, and especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS), given our inherent vulnerabilities.
In recognition of this fact, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is committed to making every effort to enhance this country’s environmental policy and legislative framework, to protect and improve the environmental health and safety of the population, whilst simultaneously ensuring that development activities are conducted in ways that ensure the integrity of the environment. This is embodied in the National Development Strategy of Trinidad and Tobago, 2016 – 2030, also known as Vision 2030, which defines the path required to take our country to sustainable development, in fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, as outlined by the United Nations. It is further articulated in our 2018 National Environmental Policy, which provides a rational, practical and comprehensive framework for environmental management in Trinidad and Tobago.
At the broader international level, Trinidad and Tobago is a responsible global citizen, and we recognise the need for involvement in multilateral approaches to finding solutions to the global issue of sound chemical and waste management.
To this end, we are a signatory to several multilateral environmental agreements which all stand as testament to the international and national concern for protection of human health and the environment against the harmful effects of toxic chemicals and hazardous waste. These include the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, and the globally accepted overarching policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).
The Ministry of Planning and Development, as the Focal Point to these Conventions, has taken strides to ensure collaboration, integration and harmonisation of the Conventions’ provisions into national polices and across various institutions. This is being effected through several projects currently being implemented.
One such project is the The Global Environment Facility (GEF) ISLANDS Programme (2021 – 2026) entitled ‘Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in SIDS (GEF ISLANDS). The GEF ISLANDS Programme is being conducted in thirty-three (33) participating SIDS in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Oceans. The objective of the Programme is to prevent the build-up of materials and chemicals containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs), mercury, and other harmful chemicals, in the environments of Small Island Developing States, and to manage and dispose of existing harmful chemicals and materials in those States.
There are four (4) main components of the Programme:
- Preventing the future build-up of chemicals in the environment;
- Safe management and disposal of legacy chemicals and products;
- Promoting a circular economy approach for products entering SIDS; and
- Knowledge management and communication.
Another project being undertaken is the Development and Implementation of a Sustainable Management Mechanism for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Caribbean (2015-2022). This regional project aims to develop the mechanisms for the environmentally sound management of POPs, and to reduce and eliminate the threat they pose in eight (8) territories in the Caribbean, including Trinidad and Tobago. Some of the activities being undertaken under this project include:
- Development of POP Inventories;
- Development of Implementation Plans;
- Development of a POPs Regional Information Database;
- Train-the Trainer Workshops for Detection, Identification and Classification of POPs by Border Control Agencies;
- Analytical Methods/Sampling Screening and Testing; and
- Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment of POPs.
Additionally, recognising the harmful effects of the improper usage of pesticides on the productivity and longevity of our agricultural soils, the Ministry of Planning and Development, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, developed the Biodiversity Conservation and Agro-ecological Land Restoration in Productive Landscapes in Trinidad and Tobago (BIOREACH) Project. Component 2 of this undertaking seeks to decrease the rate of land degradation and restore and enhance the productive capacity of agricultural landscapes by promoting sustainable practices.
Furthermore, the Ministry is collaborating with the United Nations Development Programme in implementing the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net) project, which is coordinating the testing of honey from our local stingless bees. The analysis will be used to determine the general composition, presence of heavy metals, anti-microbial properties and the presence of pesticides in honey produced by local bees. Given the importance and value of these bees, not just as pollinators, but also as instrumental in the production of honey as a market commodity, this work will help to inform policy frameworks and develop guidelines for stingless bee honey production in Trinidad and Tobago.
Other recent initiatives which the Ministry has played an integral role include:
- The drafting of requirements for the Labelling of Retail Packages of Pesticides in Trinidad and Tobago;
- The implementation of the project Disposal of Obsolete Pesticides including POPs; Promotion of Alternatives; and Strengthening Pesticides Management in the Caribbean (in collaboration with the FAO);
- The drafting of a National Quarantine and Pre-Shipment Policy, currently undergoing public consultation through efforts under the Montreal Protocol, the international agreement which seeks to phase out the fumigant methyl bromide, an ozone depleting substance, and properly manage its alternatives.
Despite these efforts however, the management of the environment is a collective responsibility and requires the cooperation of our partners in industry and every one of our citizens. I am therefore very encouraged to see the effort being made the P4P in collaboration with the Basel Convention Regional Office-Caribbean, the Pesticide and Toxic Chemical Unit, Ministry of Health, and the Southern Chemical and Agricultural Supplies Limited, to address the issues related to pesticides and the environment. It is my hope that through your efforts and a national increase in knowledge and awareness, we can collectively address the challenges posed to our environment, our health and our livelihoods from irresponsible chemical management.
I congratulate the P4P Foundation and everyone involved, for this excellent initiative, and invite you all to accept your responsibility as environmentally-conscious citizens, to work toward ensuring a safe and healthy Trinidad and Tobago.
I thank you and wish you every success with this Project.
Happy Pesticide Week!