MAJURO TOO POLLUTED: OUTER MARSHALL ISLANDS STUDENTS

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (August 31, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---The College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) summer school teaches students from Majuro and the outer islands during June and July, many of whom are teachers in various schools throughout the country.

A questionnaire was given to over 120 students about Majuro and its environment. Questions such as "Do you think coral reefs are important?" and "Why do you enjoy living in Majuro?" were asked to find out the views of these students, who represent many atolls of the Marshall Islands.

Of the 26 percent of students from the outer islands in Majuro for the summer, 70 percent would not want to live in Majuro permanently. Why? They think that despite all the advantages the capital can offer Majuro is too crowded and the lagoon too dirty for them to want to live here all the time.

But what do the students from Majuro think of their island? The majority (65 percent) enjoy living here for the main reason that educational opportunities are widely available here, but also because there are many different resources available to them in Majuro (different foods, Internet, transportation). As well as "it’s fun!"

However, 99 percent of all the students say that the reef should be protected. Because if it is not, how would their families eat? No coral reef means no marine life, and that means no food. So it follows that 81 percent believe less dredging of coral should occur around Majuro, at the expense of construction on the island.

Dredging coral to produce building materials severely affects the health of a coral reef. When coral is removed, a myriad of factors is affected. Fish populations decrease (less food), natural protection from the reef is removed (leaving Majuro open to bombardment from high tides and large waves), and also beautiful ecosystems are lost to make way for "essential construction."

But how do the students suggest solving these problems? Eight-five percent realize there are far too many cars on the island, and would like to see a reduction of imported vehicles into Majuro. Eighty-seven percent believe there is too much trash around Majuro, both in the lagoon and on land, and think that it is essential for trash to be collected in the bins provided, not on the reef and in the lagoon.

Many suggestions were put forward for how to protect the coral reefs around Majuro and one fundamental theme came out – people must work together. Why not have clean-up drives? Or at least more trash cans. Why not have more legislation (which is enforced) fining those people (or groups of people) who pollute the environment? Why not police the lagoon more rigorously so that the oil from fishing boats, and also household wastes are not dumped in the water?

If steps such as these are taken, perhaps Majuro’s water, air and land would not suffer so much from the pollution it is facing now.

But what are the simple steps each person can do to help, starting from today?

The CMI summer school students from many islands of the Marshall Islands realize the problems the environment of Majuro is facing and want their voice to be heard. Are you listening?

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail). 

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