As the world gets set to celebrate World Environment Day (WED) on June 5, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat is saying that the biggest risk to the environment is not plastics, pharmaceuticals nor chemicals, but human beings.
Speaking at a WED event at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary on Tuesday, and in keeping with the beat plastic pollution theme, Rambharat said pollution is not the sole responsibility of government. He said individuals also have a responsibility to protect the environment and having more litter wardens to police them should not be a requirement to enact better behaviours.
“It can’t be so hard for us to take a plastic bottle and place it in a plastic bag or bin. That is the system each and every one of us ought to adopt,” he said.
“The reality is that we have to continuously strike the balance in that while it may not be practical to place an immediate ban on plastic bottles, the real problem lies in what one does with the bottle after he or she uses it.”
The event hosted jointly by his ministry and the Allied Workers Section of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) was co-ordinated in collaboration with the Forestry Division of the ministry and culminated in a tree planting ceremony.
Presentations were also made by ag deputy Conservator of Forests, William Trim, Christopher Streete, first deputy president general of the NUGFW, Barry Mahabir, forest resource inventory and management (FRIM), Otadeo Ramesarsingh, president of the agriculture and allied workers section of the NUGFW, as well as NUGFW’s education secretary, Tarik Khan.
Rambharat also pronounced on the reduction and banning of styrotex, but said it cannot be done overnight. He said there must be consideration to what will happen to the livelihoods of people working in those industries.
On the hefty $100,000 fine imposed to protect the Scarlet Ibis, which is to be declared as an environmentally sensitive species in June, Rambharat said he hopes this would be a most prohibitive factor to individuals who poach and eat the bird.
He also sought to correct issues of accessibility to some environmentally sensitive areas. He said there is misinformation that seemingly unique and pristine nature make them prohibitive and or inaccessible to the public but this is not so.
“We must never feel that an ESA is an area where everybody gets locked out but rather it is an area where through proper management, everybody could co-exist, recognising that animals, plants, human beings and infrastructure alike, are all part of the environment and its development.”
Rambharat also said he will be taking to the Cabinet shortly a report and an updated policy on the work done on the Protected Areas Management System. That system is a pilot project funded by the European Union with the technical assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). It is geared towards the development and management of protected areas namely the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, Matura, Nariva Swamp and Guayaguayare.
The project is premised on empowering members of the community to protect their environment and their own livelihoods through a system that derives mutual benefit.