Vava'u Ko e Feitu'u Malu Mei he Veve- Making Vava'u a Refuge from Waste
VEPA Waste Clean Up in Neiafu Vava'u: October 18th- October 23rd
Monday - Fungamisi & Falaleu
Tuesday - Neiafutahi & Kameli
Wednesday - Masilamea
Thursday - Aloitalau & Lototalau
Friday - Secondary School Competition
Saturday - Celebration at the Market
Check out the VEPA commercial for the upcoming cleanup event at YOUTUBE:
A few generations ago, solid waste wasn’t a problem for the breathtakingly beautiful islands of Vava’u, Tonga. Locals didn’t produce much waste, because rubbish on the islands was limited to banana leaves, coconut husks, and fish scales that could easily be fed to pigs or broken-down naturally in the environment. However, as the world has become increasingly globalized, the residents of Vava’u have become dependent on imported goods for their livelihood. These products shipped from overseas are wrapped in non-biodegradable material that is harmful for the health and environment of the islands.
Currently the main disposal methods for solid waste in Vava’u include dumping rubbish in the bush, or burning it in the yard. Dumping and burning waste is harmful to the environment and local health for numerous reasons. Solid waste left in the bush attracts rats and flies that can spread disease, while empty tins and plastic bags collect rainwater that serves as a breeding ground for dengue mosquitoes. Also water run-off, gusts of wind, and reckless dumping can result in much of the waste leaking into the ocean where it will harm marine life by polluting mangrove and coral reef habitats. In deeper ocean, whales, turtles, and birds can be choked or strangled to death by plastic bags they mistake for jellyfish. In Vava’u, waste that isn’t left to float in the natural environment is indiscriminately put in piles and burned in local yards. The Second Vava’u Development Program estimated that 94.3% of waste is burned in Vava’u. This frequent reliance on burning rubbish is extremely concerning. The smoke produces a mixture of chemical gases that can affect people’s health and over time cause cancer and birth defects. Also poisonous particles that float from the burnt rubbish can contaminate soil and drinking water. Finally, burning rubbish contributes to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases.
The Vava’u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA) consists of a group of local leaders dedicated to conserving a healthy and natural environment in Vava’u for future generations. Members of the group include representatives from the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources, the Vava’u Youth Congress, and Tonga Community Development Trust (a grassroots development organization) who have strong ties in the local community, and the ability to mobilize and motivate change. Other members are teachers and educators that can lead a campaign to inform locals about the health and environmental concerns Vava’u is facing because of improper waste disposal. VEPA will be collaborating with Sustainable Coastlines, a New Zealand NGO that has had great success organizing previous coastal clean-ups. Last year Sustainable Coastlines led over 3,000 volunteers on Tonga’s islands of Ha’apai to pick-up and sort through 120 truckloads of plastic, steel, aluminum, glass and other wastes. Sustainable Coastlines has a reputation for organizing efficient and effective mass clean-ups. Together VEPA and Sustainable Coastlines make an incredible team, working towards solutions for Vava’u’s waste problem.
VEPA and Sustainable Coastlines plan on mobilizing several thousand locals in Neiafu, Vava’u to clean up solid waste. Leading up to the event, they will hold waste education presentations in communities and schools. They will designate different leaders to organize community clean up zones, Monday through Thursday. On Friday, the Secondary Schools will compete in a competition to collect costal waste. Each day trucks will transport the collected and sorted rubbish from the communities to the Neiafu harbor where volunteers will load bags in giant containers. The containers will be shipped to the capital, Nuku’alofa, where Waste Authority will receive them and bring the waste to Tapuhia, a proper landfill. Gio recycling will also be ready to pick up containers and take recycled-goods to their crushing center for processing. The event will educate everyone about different types of waste, and the clean up will make a huge statement about the need for proper waste disposal infrastructure on the islands. In addition, removing tons of waste from coastal habitats will save the lives of many marine species that are important for Vava’u’s biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods, and cleaning the area will prevent the spread of disease and keep the area aesthetically pleasing. The awareness generated from the event will be used towards leveraging a continued campaign for long-term solid waste solutions in Vava’u.
FROM: THE VEPA WEBSITE. SUPPORT THE CAUSE! THANK YOU VEPA MEMBERS FOR THE HARD WORK ORGANIZING THE EVENT.
VEPA website: http://www.vavauenvironment.org/