In my capacity as Minister with responsibility for Environment, it is my duty and pleasure to deliver remarks on this globally celebrated day; Today we celebrate World Environment Day 2017.
Established in 1972 by the United Nations General Assembly, World Environment Day is the United Nations flagship environmental campaign event, celebrated each year on June 5th in more than 100 countries around the world. .
On this day we bring focus worldwide, on the importance of the environment and we do so to stimulate political attention and action.
The event seeks to give a human face to environmental issues as well as empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development.
“Connecting People to Nature’ the theme for World Environment Day 2017, implores us to get outdoors and into nature; to appreciate its beauty and its importance; and to take forward the call to protect the Earth that we all share.
My Fellow citizens,
As a nation, our biological resources; our sensitive ecosystems; and our natural heritage, are essential for human well-being.
We depend on these systems for food security; promoting health; regulating clean air and water; these all contribute to local livelihoods and economic development. As such, it is critical that we value, conserve, restore and protect these systems, as our lives and very existence depend on them.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, through its Departments of Environment continues to undertake various initiatives to preserve and protect our natural resources.
As Minister and on behalf of these environmental caretakers, permit me to highlight a few of these initiatives in commemoration of World Environment Day:
Firstly, in 2007, the Central Forest Reserve National Park was formally designated as a protected area. Under an existing globally funded project known as (“Conserving Biodiversity and Reducing Habitat Degradation in Protected Areas and their Areas of Influence”), the Department of Environment is developing and implementing management frameworks, for the conservation of natural, cultural, and biological resources within these designated sites.
Our current and proposed systems of protected areas and national parks such as the Central Forest Reserve, the Royal Basseterre Valley Aquifer national park , Nevis Peak, and newly designated Marine Management Area, provide opportunities for locals and visitors alike, to interact with nature in keeping with the 2017 World Environment Day theme of‘Connecting People to Nature’.
The establishment of interpretation centres, guided tours along nature trails by our team of Park Rangers, and information generated from ecological inventories within protected areas are being used to educate and increase awareness on the need for the conservation of our biological diversity.
Further, protected areas provide opportunities for research and for nationals to gain access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from utilization of these valuable resources.
Secondly, As a nation, we are all aware of the advances being made in the field of modern biotechnology and the development of products of genetic modification. Whereas the utilization of this technology provides tremendous benefits and opportunities with regard to agriculture, food security and research, the Departments of Environment in collaboration with other stakeholders across the Federation and the region is in the process of finalizing administrative, regulatory and legislative frameworks, to manage the potential risks posed by the use of modern biotechnology on human health and the environment.
Coming out of the Regional project for Implementing National Biosafety Frameworks, St, Kitts and Nevis would have developed three core capacities:
- The capacity to conduct laboratory monitoring and testing for products of genetic modification
- A national database for information sharing on all matters related to the safety and use of genetically modified organisms, and
- Administrative procedures for regulating genetically modified products within the Federation and the region.
Thirdly: Coastal and marine pollution from indiscriminate disposal of garbage and other refuse, continue to pose a tremendous challenge to the Department of Environment; to waste management authorities; to other regulatory agencies; and overall to the government and to us as a people.
In an effort to bring awareness and to address the destructive impacts of marine debris on the environment and other sensitive species of plants and animals, persons from my ministry, specifically the Department of Environment, will in September collaborate with other governmental, private sector, educational institution partners and other governmental institutions such as Parks and Beaches from my Ministry of Health to conduct a national coastal cleanup. This an annual event
Excessive litter on beaches and polluted coastal waters are deterrents to visitors. These can have negative implications for the tourism industry which is our primary driver of economic development.
I take this opportunity on behalf of the Department of Environment and broader cross sections of ministries in my portfolio, to commend the Christophe Harbour Foundation, the St. Kitts Bottling Company and other long standing contributors for their support in hosting this annual event over the past 12 years.
The physical development landscape of St. Kitts and Nevis, can be defined as coastal communities. As such, our coastal zones assets are vulnerable to the potential impacts associated with global climate change, natural disasters and man-made inventions and interventions.
As we reflect on the theme of ‘Connecting People to Nature’, we are encouraged to continue to utilize our coastal and marine environment for our recreational, cultural, social and economic needs.
However, we must be aware that the world’s climate is changing and will continue to change. The impacts and risks associated with these changes are real and are already impacting many of nature’s natural systems and sectors, which are essential for human wellbeing and livelihood. Ignore it to our peril!!
We only have to look back to our drought experience of 2015 and the near devastation in our water sector and agricultural production during that period.
As a Government, our approach to addressing the impacts of climate change has been in small but significant increments.
For example, we are currently in the process of finalizing our National Climate Change Policy; that policy will guide the implementation of mitigation measures geared towards against the potential risks and other challenges posed by global climate change.
These measures are critical since small island developing states such as St. Kitts and Nevis tend to be less resilient to the impacts of climate related risks factors. In my capacity as Minister recognizing the inherent value of our natural environment to human existence, I implore all citizens, as well as public and private sector organizations to do your part, as we endeavor to tackle the adverse impacts posed by climate variability and change.
My Fellow Citizens, My Family: I need not remind you but I will;
Our natural landscapes, our biodiversity and coastal and marine environments, provide opportunities for recreation; opportunities for economic development; opportunities for educational, social and cultural fulfillment; all, benefiting both visitors and nationals alike.
Therefore, as we celebrate World Environment Day and as we reflect on the theme of ‘Connecting People to Nature’, I encourage all citizens to embrace our natural environment through physical interactions such as nature hikes, swimming, planting a tree, conducting cleanups, recreation and other outdoor activities. In other words, GET OUTDOORS! Join the Department of Environment and other local organizations as we commemorate this day with countries around the world; and as we engage in a month of activities in celebration of ‘Our Global Environment’.
In embracing the beauties that our natural environment provide for us, let us as a people become more environmentally conscious.
This means we ought to:- respect and protect nature; work together to protect and conserve our natural resources; ensure that we utilize our environmental resources for our daily needs in a sustainable manner; and that our land of beauty, remains a place where current and future generations can thrive in harmony with nature.
For World Environment Day 2017
Get Connected with Nature;
Get Outdoors and appreciate our environment’s beauty and Importance;
Protect Mother Earth!
Thank you and God bless you all; and God bless the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis