Earth Day celebrations around the world have taken on an even more significant focus considering the many issues that our environment is currently facing. In Trinidad, the authority given the function of protecting this country’s environment is the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
The EMA’s managing director, Hayden Romano believes that environmental days are significant because they present the opportunity to continue building awareness of the damage being done by humans and allow all stakeholders to spotlight affirmative actions that they can take. Most of all it helps to highlight the fact that we all must become stewards of our environment.
This year’s Earth Day theme is Invest in our Planet and Romano believes that this is an additional call to action for each human being on the planet to change their behaviour and also for businesses to ensure that they drive sustainable practices.
“At the EMA, it is our call to action to continue our efforts to fulfil our mandate as defined in our vision of stewards of T&T’s natural resources and environment meeting current and future human, ecological and economic needs, strengthen legislation, boost public awareness of environmental issues, and initiate sustainability projects,” he added.
The EMA is cognisant of its role in helping to protect the environment and as such has implemented several initiatives under four broad pillars, which include strengthening legislation, building public awareness, maintaining the coordination function and initiating sustainability projects.
The EMA is also focused on the future, Romano added.
“We will continue to jointly execute the Bioreach project (along with Namdevco, Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Ministry of Planning and Development). The mandate of the Bioreach Project includes, amongst others, restoring degraded lands, reestablishing riverbanks with native vegetation and the continuation of the implementation of conservation plans for our protected species,” he said.
The intention is to further work and strengthen the Environmental Officers’ programme which was implemented in compliance with Section 33 (2) of the Environmental Management Act Chapter 35:05 to treat maintaining intragovernmental coordination, communication and institutional linkages for the development, integration and effective implementation of the various policies, laws, regulations, rules, guidelines, programmes and other activities designed to protect and conserve the environment.
A special focus will also be placed on implementing the Climate Change Monitoring, Reporting and Verification System which facilitates transparent reporting of accurate and reliable information and data on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to track the progress of the implementation of T&T’s nationally determined contribution (NDC), under the Paris Agreement.
Another aspect of the EMA’s future plans includes building public awareness of noise pollution and further examining the Noise Pollution Control Rules in an effort to bolster this legislation.
There has also been a lot of progress in the EMA’s mission of including the people of the country and helping them to understand their roles as stewards of the nation’s environment. For example, the iCARE Project was launched in 2015.This was the first national recycling initiative financed by the Green Fund and promotes voluntary public participation in the recovery of beverage containers for recycling.
This project also serves the purpose of preparing the population for a deposit refund system.
Recently in 2022, the Waste Management Rules (WMR) and Waste Management Fees Regulations (WMFR) 2021 took effect, thereby regulating waste activities via a permitting regime to reduce waste pollution nationally.
“In 2022, we expanded the national Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network (AAQMN), through the installation and commissioning of an Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station (AAQMS) in Arima, thus providing real-time updates on air quality,” Romano added.
Another push towards environment conservation included the designation of the Trinidad White-Fronted Capuchin and Trinidad Howler Monkey in 2022 as Environmentally Sensitive Species.
There are now three areas designated as Environmentally Sensitive Areas and there are thirteen Environmentally Sensitive Species.
One of the ways that we can play our role is by familiarising ourselves with this country’s National Environmental Policy (NEP) and acting in accord with existing legislation, Romano advised.
“Additionally, we urge all to heed the call of the United Nations to Act Now, by taking personal responsibility for the environment. Practice the Five Rs of Zero-Waste: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, and Recycle. Citizens can firstly refuse items that they don’t need or items that can potentially harm our environment,” he went on to say.
Even with the stellar work that the EMA has implemented there have been some challenges.
“A major challenge includes disregard for the environment from some which will ultimately result in environmental degradation. While public education and awareness campaigns and sensitisation sessions have been done and continue, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to bring about the paradigm shift towards responsible behaviour and general care for the environment,” Romano explained.
EMA’S INITIATIVES TOWARDS PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT INCLUDE:
The EMA recognised that stand-alone legislation was required to create a more robust legislative framework. As such, subsidiary legislation has been developed under the EM Act, for example, Certificate of Environmental Clearance Rules, 2001; Noise Pollution Control Rules, 2001; Environmentally Sensitive Species Rules, 2001; Environmentally Sensitive Areas Rules, 2001; Air Pollution Rules, 2014; Water Pollution Rules, 2019; Waste Management Rules 2021. Additionally, the Noise Pollution Control Rules have been amended reducing the timeframe to monitor noise levels and the Water Pollution Rules were revised after more than a decade of implementation and incorporated the polluter pays principle and ambient water quality standards.
• In 2017 the Global Environment Facility funded Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystem Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (GEF IWEco) was launched. This Project, which was completed in 2022, restored natural vegetation, reduced sedimentation and flood risk and restored ecological function to exhausted or abandoned quarry pits. 18 hectares have been restored at National Quarries Company Limited (Valencia), Carib Glassworks Limited (Matura) and at Trinidad Cement Limited’s Mayo Quarry, using a range of nature-based methods and a community participatory approach which have been documented in a manual to enable wider learning.
• In 2010 the National Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, Wildlife and Livelihoods Project was launched, reforesting 236 ha of degraded wetlands (used for un-regulated rice production) at the Nariva Environmentally Sensitive Area. Executed from 2014- 2018, the pioneering National Wildlife Survey on the population and distribution status of five game wildlife species, namely, the red-rumped agouti, the tatu/taoo, redbrocke deer, lappe and wild-hog/collared peccary (quenk) embedding community members in all conservation activities.
• In 2015 the Recyclable Solid Waste Collection Project also known as iCARE was launched. iCARE is the first national recycling initiative in Trinidad and Tobago. The Green Fund financed iCARE project promotes voluntary public participation in the recovery of beverage containers for recycling, effectively preparing the population for a deposit refund system or other measures to promote sustainable waste management.
The project has conveniently made it possible for our citizens to make the right decision as it pertains to waste management with the establishment of 701 collection sites in Trinidad, thirtynine in Tobago, assisted the development of two Pilot Collection Depots in Trinidad and two Material Recovery Facilities; one in Trinidad and the other in Tobago and has collected over three million bags which is the affirmative action is necessary to drive recycling in the country.
EMA policies focus on environmental issues including, climate change, pollution, deforestation, and habitat destruction
• The National Environmental Policy, 2018
• The Environmental Management Act, Ch, 35:05
• Environmentally Sensitive Species Rules, 2001
• Certificate of Environmental Clearance Rules, 2001
• Environmentally Sensitive Areas Rules, 2001
• Noise Pollution Control Rules, 2001
• Air Pollution Rules, 2014
• Water Pollution Rules, 2019
• Waste Rules, 2021
CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION
The EMA is the National Focal Point for Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). Climate change education is incorporated into the EMA’s awareness and outreach initiatives, the most recent one being the Green Leaf Awards 2023 which focuses on youth involvement in climate change. The EMA is also in the process of developing the ACE Space, a platform on its website.
Through this platform, organisations, companies, community groups, civil society groups and individuals can submit photos, videos and/or accompanying captions related to different ACErelated activities which address the six pillars of ACE – education, awareness, training, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation.
RAISING AWARENESS ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
The EMA has been implementing environmental education programmes since its inception.
This is ongoing and through our Public Education Unit, we develop and execute programmes, projects and activities for all age groups and sectors. We also conduct weekly public outreach sessions to varying demographics including an active school outreach programme.
Information is shared on a range of environmental issues and ways in which all can protect and conserve our natural resources. We host interactive educational booths where we share information with various audiences.
Additionally, we use our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn) to raise awareness about environmental issues. One example is our current weekly social media series where we promote tips/precautions individuals can take when visiting turtle nesting sites during the nesting season.
Another recent example is the Listen Responsibly/Stop Noise which was aired across multiple channels.
Our hopes are to continue these activities, amongst others, while also adapting to make a large impact.
In 1998 the EMA introduced the Green Leaf Awards (GLA) to honour those who have made significant and positive contributions to the environment for the past two years or more or succeeded in highlighting substantial environmental issues to the wider public, community or those who have taken national or international action towards notable environmental concerns.
In 2023, the GLA will focus on youth involvement in climate change, such as climate change projects, programmes, ventures and video shorts that address a particular climate change issue in Trinidad and Tobago.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
For businesses, we ask that you adopt environmentally friendly practices. For some businesses, this may entail switching to bio-degradable materials or installing recycling bins within the establishment; for others, this can involve the inclusion of hybrid work arrangements to limit the level of carbon footprint being produced daily.
Get creative by forming environmental groups or clubs within your schools, communities or businesses that are educational, interactive and eco-friendly. Through your own small initiative, we can make an impact on our earth; it starts with you.
Here are a few examples of activities that clubs/groups can get involved in
: • Clean-ups
• Tree planting
• Community gardens
• Designation of recycling collection bins or areas
• Carpooling systems
• Environmentally sustainability competitions (art or poetry) Also, the EMA urge people to practice the Five Rs of Zero- Waste: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, and Recycle.