Caribbean countries signing on to fight marine pollution

Kingston, Jamaica. August 28, 2012 - As the Caribbean grapples with the pollution of its waters, the ratification of a protocol  designed to help arrest the problem appears to be gathering steam. In the last three years alone, four countries have signed the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-based Sources and  Activities (LBS Protocol), bringing to 10 the total number of countries to have done so — 13 years after it was adopted. They are Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Bahamas, Guyana, USA, France, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Grenada, and  Saint Lucia. “Given the transboundary nature of pollution, it is only through a collective effort by all countries ratifying and implementing  the LBS Protocol that the region's Caribbean Sea can be safeguarded,” said Christopher Corbin, programme officer for the  Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution (AMEP) sub-programme of the United Nations Caribbean  Environment Programme. According to Corbin, this is why there are several other countries that are close to completing the ratification process, which  includes, among other things, a review of the protocol to determine national obligations and consultations among  stakeholders before being sanctioned by government. Those countries include the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Barbados, Colombia, and Suriname. “Since there is no international agreement on land-based pollution, countries who have ratified the LBS Protocol are seen to  have at least political will and commitment and stand to be able to access greater technical and financial assistance from  donors including from projects funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as a result of this political commitment,” he  explained while encouraging others to follow suite and ratify the protocol, which is provided for under the Cartagena  Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean. “Governments can receive both technical expertise and guidance as well as financial support through national and regional  projects to control and reduce the negative impacts of pollution,” he said. “This has direct implications for protecting human  health and safeguarding critical economic development opportunities in tourism and fisheries; reducing the negative impacts  of pollution on coastal and marine biodiversity, such as coral reefs; [and] also allows these ecosystems to better withstand  and recover from impacts of global warming and climate change.”  “Alas, there is no pot of money at the end of the rainbow. But ratification does position the country to be able to lobby  either bilaterally with specific donors or together with the Secretariat (to the Cartagena Convention) to mobilise additional  financial and technical assistance through projects that could support LBS Protocol Implementation.  This is particularly so for  projects funded through the International Waters Portfolio of the GEF,” Corbin said. He explained that there are a variety of factors that could hinder countries ratifying, including having to contend with  competing national priorities; the lack of effective champions at the national level; and a lack of understanding at the national  level of the obligations and benefits to be gained from ratification.   “[Also, the] LBS Protocol is cross-cutting in nature and often requires extensive dialogue and consensus among a wide range  of stakeholders, often with different individual interests,” he said. However, countries needing assistance for ratification can receive it. “[There is] assistance for conducting national awareness and consultative workshops; visits by the staff of the Secretariat  [to the Cartagena Convention] to meet with high-level Government officials to explain the benefits and obligations following  ratification,” Corbin said. “[There are also] small pilot or demonstration projects on pollution prevention that can be implemented to showcase the  practical benefits of ratification; and the facilitating of personnel exchanges between countries who have already ratified and  those interested in ratification,” he added, noting that these are things that were all done in the more recent countries to  ratify. Once ratified, countries are required to look at 17 categories of primary pollutants for which limitations are proposed to  ensure the prevention, reduction and control of pollution from land-based sources and activities “through the establishment  of effluent and emission limitations and/or the application of best management practices and most appropriate  technologies”.  The categories include lubricating oil, heavy metals, crude petroleum, cyanides, and detergents, among others.  (END28/08/2012)

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