Editors comment | Rubbish crisis

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Rubbish carelessly thrown beside two empty rubbish bins. Picture: FT FILE

It is encouraging to know that at least four permanent secretaries are discussing ways to enhance enforcement of the Litter Act to fight our rubbish crisis.

This issue of rubbish was raised at the height of recent floodings in parts of the country.

That came in the wake of drains clogged by green and plastic waste which resulted in drains clogging up, and water spilling onto roads in heavy rain. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change permanent secretary Dr Sivendra Michael believes Fiji needs more than just a mindset change, but “real, affirmative action”.

Permanent secretaries from the Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management, and Ministry of Tourism, came together to discuss what could be done to address the issue.

Work was going on, he said, to try and see areas where they could enhance enforcement of our Litter Act.

Discussions had also focused on reform, and whether there was a need to increase fines.

It touched on the issues of enforcement training and accountability. Dr Michael also spoke about the need to relook at Fiji’s drainage systems.

Fijians, he said, must take pride in their vanua and take care of their environment.

There were a lot of illegal dumping sites in the country, and something “needs to be done about it”.

The ministry, he said, in collaboration with Tourism Fiji was trying to create a national clean-up campaign.

There was a need to motivate and inspire change in rural communities.

There was a need to empower villagers to take ownership of waste disposal issues and take ownership of being custodians of the land.

On the homefront, the onus is on parents and guardians to foster a sense of value around cleanliness.

Don’t be surprised to see used plastic food containers lying on the grass near provided rubbish bins.

Don’t be surprised to see rubbish thrown out of moving vehicles.

And don’t be surprised to see people spitting chewing gum onto the road or pavement or throwing cigarette butts carelessly.

There are many Fijians who do this without a care in the world. It is a poor reflection of who they are.

But this is the reality in Fiji. So we say, the success of a multi-pronged approach hinges on effective collaboration between government agencies, NGOs, and the public.

Educational programs can raise awareness about responsible waste disposal.

Fostering a culture of responsible consumption by encouraging reusable products and reducing single-use plastics will reduce waste generation in the first place.

Our rubbish crisis presents a major challenge and presents an opportunity.

We can transform this crisis into a catalyst for a cleaner, healthier environment and a strong sense of communal responsibility.

But we must start somewhere, now!

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