The Forsaken Dirty Secret of PNG Communities
There’s a silent growing problem in amongst our rural villages and communities which is hardly taken seriously and which, I think, demands greater attention from the grass-root to the senior bureaucrat, from the consumer to the supplier and to the manufacturer – in order for us to positively contain its’ effects. That problem is rubbish.
I’ve been to one too many rural villages and one too many isolated islands where stranded plastic items and decaying batteries have made permanent their home. Of course, it’s not hard to determine how the plastic wrapper got to the village in the first place: Mum and son go to the ‘big town’ to sell some buai or buy some rice. Son wails for something sweet. Mum buys ice-block to shut son up. Son carries ice-block back home to showoff to his cousins. Son finishes it all by himself and then inadvertently disposes of the plastic wrapper by throwing it onto the ground – and plastic wrapper decides to hang around in the village for the next forty years.
Whose fault is it – do we blame the little boy who is the consumer? Can we hold the State accountable for not educating our people and/or for the lack of rural waste services? Do we point our fingers at the manufacturer or the supplier? Or at the customer – the mother? What can we expect the villager to do with flat batteries, glass bottles, and/or plastic bags? These questions don’t have easy answers, but I think it’s essential that they are asked.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has identified such waste, particularly marine debris, as a serious threat to all Pacific countries and is in the process of launching a marine debris awareness campaign. Here is what the SPC has to say:
“Marine debris is an environmental issue. It also often constrains tourism development and therefore has a negative impact on the economy of many coastal countries. All this is true in the Pacific region where the amounts of marine debris in our lagoons and shores has not been decreasing in recent years. The impact of all this rubbish on marine life, especially turtles and seabirds, is significant so action is needed.
While the issue of marine debris is addressed by SPC’s sister organization, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Marine Resources Division of SPC is also tackling this problem by trying to raise public awareness in the region. The attached document originates from Spain. The Nearshore Fisheries Development and Training Section purchased the copyright and has adjusted the content to suit the Pacific context. The material has now been printed in poster (A2 size) and folded leaflet (A6) forms and their distribution is being undertaken from New Zealand where they were printed last December.
In order to get the widest possible dispatch, we have been mailing a substantial amount of copies to the Environment, Fisheries and Education offices in each of our member countries and territories. This is about all SPC can do and we now fully rely on each of the recipients to ensure the comprehensive dispatch of the materials through local networks – the Ministry of Education to schools and teachers, the Fisheries Department to fishing cooperatives, associations and companies, the Ministry of Environment to NGOs, community leaders and other stakeholders. The contribution of all is essential!“.
You can download the full SPC marine-debris raising awareness campaign poster here.