Much of our dialogue about waste disposal is, understandably, focused on the waste that we can see as we go about our day-to-day lives. It would seem that this visual pollution serves as a trigger to remind us of the negative environmental and human impacts that improper waste disposal can cause.
But what of the waste disposal practices that take place well out of sight?
Representatives from 10 Pacific island countries have gathered in Fiji this week to explore two important international instruments that look at this very issue – the deliberate disposal of waste at sea.
The ‘Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Waste and Other Matter 1972’ or the ‘London Convention’ for short is one of the first global conventions designed to protect the marine environment from human activities. The London Convention, which has been in force since 1975, was modernised in 1996 through the introduction of the London Protocol which will eventually replace the Convention.
This month, two back-to-back meetings on the London Convention/Protocol are taking place in Suva. The first is a Regional Workshop (2-4 March) through which participants are learning about the benefits and implications of joining the London Protocol, the more modern of the two instruments, and how it fits into wider issues of marine environmental protection.
The second is the annual Joint Session of the Scientific Groups under the London Convention/Protocol (7-11 March), which is a subsidiary body that provides advice on scientific matters and emerging issues of relevance to the Parties to the treaties.
Both meetings have been made possible through the longstanding partnership between the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) and the International Maritime Organization (I.M.O).
Lui Naisara, Deputy Permanent Secretary – Ministry of Works, Transport and Public Utilities, said that the Government of Fiji was very happy to host the meetings on behalf of the region: “Hosting these two important meetings presents an opportunity for us to increase our awareness of the London Convention/Protocol and to interact with current and prospective Parties, I.G.Os and N.G.Os. It is also an important opportunity to connect with those that may be able to provide further assistance and support.”
In his opening statement, Mr Edward Kleverlaan, Head of the I.M.O’s Office for London Convention/Protocol and Ocean Affairs, noted that the Pacific region as a whole is undergoing strong economic expansion:
“Such expansion carries with it a greater risk to your marine and coastal environments – from shipping, nearshore and offshore activities and from land-based sources of pollution. While the region has already demonstrated a strong commitment to the protection of the marine environment, it is important to understand and take advantage of the relevant international tools available to meet new challenges.” Noting that the Pacific region encompasses more than 165 million square kilometres of ocean,
Anthony Talouli, S.P.R.E.P’s Pollution Adviser, observed that only seven Pacific island countries are currently Party to the London Convention/Protocol:
“I would like to stress how important these instruments are for protecting our marine environment and encourage you to urge your leaders to ratify the London Protocol. I cannot overemphasise the importance and benefits of being part of the worldwide community committed to the prevention of marine pollution.”
The I.M.O Regional Workshop and annual joint session of the Scientific Groups under the London Convention/Protocol are continuing in Suva until 11 March, 2016.
While several Pacific island countries are party to the London Convention, three have already acceded to the Protocol, namely Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.