ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES THE HONOURABLE RAMONA RAMDIAL ON THE OCCASION OF
Good Morning, I wish to thank the Institute of Marine Affairs, for inviting me here this morning to address you on the occasion of the Commissioning of the Marine Re-circulating System , for the cultivation of Pacific white or white legged shrimp, and the launch of theÂ Jumpstart Aquaculture Programme.
We at the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources are gratified to be involved in the Commissioning, of this marine re-circulating shrimp production system. This latest research initiative of the IMA, is yet, another manifestation, of our Government’s commitment, to implementing the programmes articulated in its 2010 Manifesto. This project is consistent with the Fifth Pillar of Interconnected Development, and the creation of a “More Diversified, Knowledge Intensive Economy”, with the focus on food production and food security. Our Government has been resolute in it is efforts, to significantly reduce our country’s annual food import bill, which now stands at TT$4 billion, in order to arrest the haemorrhage of foreign exchange from our economy. Sectoral policies have enabled the implementation of programmes and projects, towards achieving the goal of food and nutrition security, job creation, rural development and the elimination of poverty, and economic growth and prosperity for all, within a sustainable environment.
World Biological Diversity Day or Biodiversity Day is celebrated annually on May 22, the theme for this year is ‘Island Biodiversity’. Many of us may recall learning in school that an island is a piece of land surrounded by water. The unique islands of Trinidad and Tobago are considered Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and as such are among the most vulnerable of the developing countries. Factors that make SIDS vulnerable include; small populations and economies, susceptibility to natural diseases and climate change, particularly sea level rise from climate change, limited diversification in production and exports, dependence on international markets and export concentration, as well as fragility of land and marine ecosystems. Biological Diversity or “biodiversity” describes the variety of life on Earth – all plants, animals, and their genetic material. Biodiversity provides basic human needs such as food, shelter and medicine. It includes ecosystems that maintain oxygen in the air, enrich the soil, purify the water, protect against storm damage and regulate climate. It contributes to culture, aesthetics, support livelihoods, economies and tourism. Biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago plays a major role in the ecosystem services that support human well being. For a better understanding of biodiversity, it may be divided into three main categories:
(i) Genetic Diversity - refers to the different genes contained in all living species, including individual plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms. For example, within marine species of fish, genetic diversity can be seen in various fish such as Grouper, Flying fish and Red Snapper. These are all species of fish but they are not the same because their genes are different.
(ii) Species Diversity – refers to the number of species or the range of different types of species within an area. Rich in species diversity, Trinidad and Tobago is home to over 100 species of mammals, more than 460 species of birds, over 3300 plant species, more than 85 species of reptiles, approximately 30 species of amphibians, at least 950 species of marine fish and 50 freshwater fish, over 650 species of butterflies, nearly 200 species of marine algae, 41 coral species, 4 mangrove species and an estimated 4 species of sea grasses!!!
(iii) Ecosystem Diversity - An ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants and animals) that interact with the non-living, physical elements (air, water, sun, soil, etc.) within an environment. Major types of ecosystems include Tropical Rain forests, Grasslands, Coral reefs and Mangroves. Small islands comprising high proportions of marine and coastal areas are important sources of income. Coastal ecosystems offer shoreline protection and provide feeding, breeding, and nursery grounds to many marine species and support marine fisheries. In 2006, the value of the reefs to recreation and tourism was estimated to be between US$100 - $130 million or approximately 45% of Tobago’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for that year and shoreline protection was valued between US $18 million and $33 million.
SMALL STATES BIG STAKES
World Environment Day is celebrated annually on June 5 to raise global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action. The UN General Assembly declared 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to celebrate the contributions that this group of countries and territories has made to the world. This year, the theme for World Environment Day “Raise your voice not the sea levels” focuses on SIDS. But what are SIDS? SIDS are low-lying coastal countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments. Currently, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs lists 52 small island developing states which include countries of the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Perhaps one of the most potent problems facing SIDS is sea level rise. Sure enough, the notion of Trinidad sinking has been well publicized but we are not sinking- a more sinister faith awaits us, we are becoming a causality of the worldwide problem of climate change. Global warming, climate change and sea level rise seem to be inextricably linked. According to Greenpeace, around 23% of the worlds’ population lives in the near coastal zone and the densities in these areas are about three times higher than the global average. Agricultural land and infrastructure also tend to be concentrated in the coastal zone, so any rise in sea-level can have significant and profound effects on economies and living conditions.
World Wetlands Day 2014 – “Wetlands and Agriculture”
On 02 February 2014 World Wetlands Day will be celebrated worldwide, with the theme “Wetlands and Agriculture.” Wetlands often have been seen as a barrier to agriculture, and in several parts of the world they are drained and reclaimed for use as farm land. Despite this, the essential role of wetlands in support of agriculture is becoming increasingly recognized and there are successful agricultural practices which support healthy wetlands.
In 1993, Trinidad and Tobago became a party to the Convention on Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) when Nariva Swamp was declared a Ramsar Site. This Convention was signed on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar. It is one of the first intergovernmental treaties on the environment and its mission is "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world".
Nariva Swamp is the largest wetland and the largest freshwater swamp in Trinidad and Tobago. Located on the east of Trinidad it covers 11,343 ha and is an ecologically diverse system with an association of estuarine and basin mangroves, freshwater marsh, freshwater swamp-wood forest, palm forest and small sections of upland forest interspersed within its boundary. As a result of the diversity of ecosystems, floral and faunal diversity is high, making it one of the most unique wetlands in the Caribbean. The Swamp is of high ecological and economic importance nationally because its size and ecological diversity facilitates agricultural cultivation and exploitation of aquatic resources.