SOUTH PACIFIC GAMES TO PUSH TREE PLANTING

News Release

Tonga Now Government of Tonga Nukualofa, Tonga August 8, 2007

A challenge has been set to plant 2,015 native trees during the XIII South Pacific Games in Samoa.

The ‘Play it clean and green’ campaign will break new ground on 27 August, Day One of the Games, at Tuanaimato Park, next to the athletics site in Faleata, Samoa.

"Athletes, visitors and locals alike will have the opportunity to plant a tree for the entire duration of the Games. This is to ‘green’ Samoa, and to raise awareness of how tree planting can help protect Pacific islands against the effects of climate change," said SPREP.

The ‘Play it clean and green’ campaign is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) of the Government of Samoa, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the United Nations in the Pacific. The ‘Play it clean and green’ campaign promotes MDG7 as part of an overall UN campaign to promote the Millennium Development Goals during the South Pacific Games.

The campaign aims to reduce the impact of the Games on the unique Samoan environment, by encouraging easy and effortless actions such as putting litter in the bin, recycling where possible and to reduce plastic bag use by substituting reusable bags instead.

The tree planting is also an important opportunity to raise awareness about climate change, and how Pacific Islands can respond to its impacts. Replanting forests is a measure to partially offset the carbon emissions caused by aeroplanes and motor vehicles used to transport the athletes, spectators and officials to Samoa.

It also promotes the planting of native Samoa plant species in support of on-going national efforts by the Government and local communities and groups to protect Samoa’s native species.

The Director of SPREP, Mr Asterio Takesy, believes that the South Pacific Games in Samoa is one avenue the Pacific can come together to help heal the environment.

"This is an excellent opportunity for the people of the region to work together to collectively raise awareness about climate change," Mr Takesy said. "It is also an excellent opportunity for the agencies, organisations and governments of the region that are involved in this to demonstrate how a simple and single act such as planting a tree can generate public awareness that can have unexpected results for the improvement of the environment."

The partnership between those organising the ‘Play it clean and green’ campaign and the indication of willing participation from athletes is further indication of the Pacific Spirit. The regional UN Resident Coordinator based in Samoa Ms. Naheed Haque is pleased with the strong partnership that has been established through the ‘Play it clean and green campaign’.

According to Ms. Haque, "The MDG7- ‘Play it Clean and Green’ campaign not only promotes MDG7 but has also MDG8 on Partnerships. This is very exciting and the UN looks forward to the results from this campaign and hopes many more people will volunteer to take the MDG’s forward".

Since the announcement of the ‘Play it clean and green’ campaign the strong support from the general public and the Pacific National Olympic Committees has resonated loud and clear. Visitors to Samoa are looking forward to the opportunity to give something back to the environment.

The two weeks of tree planting is open to anyone and MNRE will be on site to assist people who volunteer to plant trees.

Tonga’s contingent to the 2007 South Pacific Games will make a visit to Uanaimoto Park to plant The Kingdom’s tree.

The tree planting event starts on Day One and will last the duration of the Games.

Tonga Now, formerly operated by the Government of Tonga’s Reform Information Office, is currently operated by Kalia Media Serivces, which provides media responses and information about Tonga from the Government.

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