June 4, 2020
Once again we are reminded of our connection to the rest of the world as we unite today June 5th, in the commemoration of World Environment Day. This occasion also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our actions and practices over the past year and to access whether we have been able to integrate into our lives the concept of sustainable management of the environment for a healthier and fulfilling life. This year is particularly significant as we also celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) which was established in 1995.
Indeed, the current COVID-19 global pandemic has highlighted like never before, the concept of the interconnectedness of the various elements of the environment and our dependence on the environment for our very existence. It is paramount that we take heed of the dire warnings that nature is giving us, forcing us to recognize that we must all urgently come together to protect and conserve our environment.
This year, World Environment Day celebrates nature, bringing to bear the importance of the biodiversity of our environment. Biodiversity refers to the rich variety of life on Earth. It is short for biological diversity, and is the term used for the variety of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and other life forms within any ecosystem. The biodiversity of ecosystems creates a complex web of interactions that maintain the whole. Reducing biodiversity plucks threads from the web and threatens to unravel the entire system that sustains us. Biodiversity is very important to the well-being of the planet. It provides food; makes oxygen; cleans the water; controls diseases; and provides medicines among many others functions.
Our biological resources are of great importance to all sectors of society, mainly through agriculture, fishing, recreation, tourism and culture. Unfortunately, destruction of our watersheds through deforestation and illegal logging, forest fires, and indiscriminate quarrying are just some of the human driven activities which have threatened our biodiversity, and which must be curtailed.
Biodiversity is not only threatened by our human influences but also from natural threats the most daunting of which is climate change. Many plant and animal species are unlikely to survive climate change. Analyses suggest that, a large number of terrestrial plants and animals will eventually become extinct as a result of climate changes. Some of these species will no longer be able to find anywhere suitable to live. Others will be unable to reach places where the climate is suitable.
- Island states like Trinidad and Tobago, are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of biodiversity threats, ecosystem pressures, pollution and global warming. As the Ministry with responsibility for the environment, we are particularly committed to the preservation of our environment. As part of the Government’s mandate, we recognize that the environment, in all its dimensions is an issue that encompasses all ministries and strata of society. As such, we will do all that is necessary to preserve our fragile environment, which include measures to mitigate climate change as well as protect our biodiversity.
We are pleased to note, at the national level, some of the critical strides undertaken to strengthen the protection of the natural environment of Trinidad and Tobago. The most notable, is the approval of a new National Protected Areas System Plan. This Plan is an update of the 1982 National Parks System Plan. The new System Plan places an emphasis not only on important terrestrial areas, but includes marine and freshwater ecosystems.
The new Plan proposes the establishment of 136 Protected Areas. Of these, 92 are terrestrial/freshwater (79 in Trinidad and 13 in Tobago), 40 are coastal/marine (18 in Trinidad, 22 in Tobago) and 4 are deep-sea marine areas. In total, approximately 1,933km2 (1,866km2 in Trinidad, 67km2 in Tobago) of the country’s land mass is proposed to be terrestrial/freshwater protected areas. The proposed coastal and marine protected areas approximate to 580km2 (14km2 in Trinidad and 566km2 in Tobago). The proposed open-ocean waters and deep-sea marine areas cover 15,600km2.
This initiative is certainly a large step in the right direction, but in reality the journey has only just begun. Occasions such as World Environment Day present us with an excellent opportunity to educate, to reason together and to explore the options and the practical solutions available to change the way we live in harmony with our natural environment.
Without a doubt, the changes we desire to see for our concern of the planet begin not only with actions of the Government, but with the response of each individual and the decisions we all make about how we would treat with our natural environment – choices to practice good agricultural methods, stop illegal hunting, stop deforestation, properly dispose of garbage, not to dump wastes in watercourses, to conserve water, maintain our cars and limit pollutants, to carpool, to become watchdogs at our businesses to encourage good environment practice, to conserve energy, and to become innovators of alternative environmentally friendly technologies. Choices we make today will chart the course of our future.
We wish to once again highlight the biodiversity focus of World Environment Day 2020 and remind you, our real success lies in the capacity of every citizen to become informed and take personal responsibility for their actions regarding the preservation, conservation and wise use of our environment, without which, this and future generations will be severely compromised.
We end by congratulating the dedicated and committed employees of the EMA on their 25th Anniversary and wish them continued success as they provide leadership in regulating and educating our citizens on the sustainable development of our blessed country.