Regional cooperation key to solving marine pollution
REGIONAL cooperation is critical to arresting the scourge of marine pollution impacting the Caribbean, where 80 per cent of the pollution seen is due to activities on land - from deforestation and agricultural chemicals to industrial oil spills and littering.
This is the word from Chris Corbin, programme officer for assessment and management of environmental pollution/communication, education, training, and awareness at the United Nations Environment Programme Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP/CEP).
According to him, one of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-based Sources and Activities (LBS Protocol), which was ratified by Jamaica last November, and by 11 other islands before that.
"There is a profound need to reduce the pollutant load to the seas from land-based sources and activities through continued regional cooperation. Given the strong link between weak sanitation systems and the incidence of the mosquito-borne Zika virus as well as yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya, the LBS Protocol enables governments within the region to collectively improve these structures in the face of this unfolding health crisis," Corbin said.
"It is absolutely necessary that regional cooperation is strengthened to reduce, control and prevent pollution in all forms in order to achieve sustainable development," he added.
Among other things, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to realise accessibility to clean water for all, with a specific focus on the improvement in water quality by "reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally".
This is also reflected in the various SDG targets concerning health, water and sanitation, sustainable consumption and production as well as marine conservation.
"The LBS Protocol is centred on assisting member states in the wider Caribbean region to effectively meet these objectives," he said.
The protocol is the only regional legal agreement for the wider Caribbean that promotes an integrated approach to the prevention, control and reduction of marine pollution.
It works to reduce pollution by implementing improved standards for wastewater discharges and industrial effluent, and through the promotion and use of best management practices and improved technologies.
"Reducing pollution is extremely important, and governments of the wider Caribbean region must take responsibility for protecting and sustaining the quality of the coastal and marine environment of the Caribbean for current and future generations," noted Corbin.
His comments are validated by statistics shared by the UNEP/CEP, including that:
- 70 per cent of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine plants; and
- 50 to 80 per cent of our turtles have eaten some form of marine life.
At the same time, coral reef species - crucial for healthy fish populations and the coastal environment and which provide US$375 million in goods and services annually - have diminished in the Caribbean by 90 per cent.