Awareness Needed To Save Natural Environment In Samoa

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Damaging practices must be fought with awareness of impacts

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Feb. 5, 2013) – The lack of awareness programs and the urge to earn more money is the key cause of people destroying the environment in Samoa.

This was the assessment by the Advisory Committee to the Minister of the Environment (MNRE) in a public presentation today. Chairman of the Committee, Tofilau Lupematasila Fa’amanu Ivara said that "there is not enough awareness for the people to understand the impact of their actions on the environment and a safe future for Samoa."

Tofilau said that the Ministry needs to change the people’s attitudes and they can’t do that by conducting only two or three awareness programs a year. He believes the Ministry should have a core group to handle public awareness on a regular basis.

He acknowledges the public awareness promotions and talkback shows on the radio and television on the environment. "But that is not enough," he said.

"The notices are only run accordingly to the amount of time paid." He also noted that some of the notices are only run when it’s a commemoration of a certain environmental event or after a natural disaster.

From his team’s assessment, they noted that most of the people in the rural areas have little knowledge of the real impact of their actions such as clearing forests and trees for a taro plantation or cattle farm.

He cited the using of dynamite for fishing as one of the methods used by people for a long time and they are still doing it today despite awareness programs.

"So where is the awareness and how often do these we have these awareness programs?" asked Tofilau.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Disaster Management Office (DMO) Filomena Nelson emphasized the importance of awareness to the Ministry hence prioritizing it.

"We have workshops and awareness programs almost every month on various issues," said Nelson.

She believes the Ministry is doing all it can and she agreed with Tofilau unless people change their attitudes, it would be very hard to convince them.

Tofilau and his committee members of 20 selected representatives from various districts and report directly to the Minister of the Environment.

The Committee’s role is to ensure that the law is upheld. They have been granted the authority to stop anyone or company from conducting any illegal actions on the environment especially on reserved lands. This includes the cutting down of trees, mining sand and stones from rivers, shooting of native birds and littering.

"Our Committee can only do so much but it is the Ministry that needs to enforce all this," said Tofilau.

Last week a member of the committee at Saleapaga reported a local company mining sand at Aleipata. The report was sent to the Minister and by mid afternoon, members of the Ministry of MNRE were on the case and stopped mining of sand in the area.

The Advisory committee was set up in December 2011 and members paid an allowance for their time.

The negative impact and mass destruction of the environment in the recent cyclone and flooding, shows very little was achieved by any awareness programs of the last thirty years and the annual Environment Week celebrated by the Ministry and the country in November every year.

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