Tonga works on clean, resilient and sustainable environment
Mangroves are now being looked at as coastline protectors for most of Tongatapu's low lying coastline villages. Photo: PEJN Nuku'alofa - July 17, 2020 (PEJN): Tonga has been hard at work in ensuring that the environment is clean and healthy over the past two years. It has been a government effort as the threat of climate change is realized across the Kingdom and the Pasifika. Joining hands in taking the lead role are the Ministry of Environment (MEIDECC) and the Ministry of Tourism. They are working with partners across the country, including communities. Non-Government Organisations like the ‘No Pelesitiki Campaign’ and the Tonga National Youth Council have also been great initiators and work with different community groups as well in cleaning up the main Nuku’alofa waterfront – from Sopu down west to Patangata out East. Rubbish bins places along the waterfront so that members of the public can place their rubbish in them. Photo: PEJN The Waste Authority of Tonga is also a critical partner in ensuring that waste collected from clean up campaigns are properly disposed off. A major push for a cleaner city started in 2018 and to-date community groups have joined in the campaign. Monthly clean-ups are being done from the Sopu waterfront right down to Patangata. Waste Authority, Environment and BSP have joined in placing rubbish bins along the waterfront so that people can throw their rubbish in. Tongatapu is a low lying island, with one half of the island exposed to sea level rising. That half runs from Afa in the East to Ha’atafu on the West. Sea level rise is a reality for the villages along the coastline, as it is to some of the low lying islands as well in Ha’apai, Vava’u and the two Niuas – Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou. Ministry of Environment’s Chief Executive Officer Paula Ma’u says it is crtical for Tonga to work on ensuring that the environment is clean and also sustainable. “We need to clean out environment and get rid of rubbish like plastics and other items that pollute the environment,” he said. “That will help in ensuring that nature grows, the trees need to grow healthy, the marine life needs to grow healthy. “And at the same time we need to ensure that our environment is sustainable and resilient.” He said climate change is a big threat and if we do not take action everyone and everything will perish. “Critical therefore for Tonga to implement programs that can help Tongans be more resilient and able to adapt better,” he said. The Nuku'alofa waterfront. Photo: PEJN Part of that program is the replanting of mangroves and coastal plants along the coastlines to help protect communities from sea surges. In the last two years Tonga had undertaken nation-wide campaigns to help people understand the climate change threat and to prepare for the worst. The Department of Environment works with communities on different programs aimed at helping build their capacities and their resilience. And so does the Department of Climate Change. In the past three years the Climate Change Department had implemented projects in villages to help them adapt to the challenges faced. Tonga is ranked 2nd behind Vanuatu as the most vulnerable country to natural disasters. It’s not lost on the government, which is ensuring that every effort is taken to help people understand and while understanding make the decisions to prepare for the worst. That begins with the easiest but challenging of tasks – keeping the environment clean!