UNDP Awards TT$48,000 Grant To Environment TOBAGO
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UNDP Awards TT$48,000 Grant To Environment TOBAGO

The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Environment TOBAGO took place on Monday, 24th of March, 1997, 3:00 pm at the Blue Crab Restaurant, Scarborough, Tobago.

The MOA was in regard to grant support of TT$48,000 to partially cover the first year's operating costs of the Tobago Community Water Watch Network, a volunteer coastal water quality monitoring project, which will commence in September of 1997.

The MOA was signed by Mr. Jan van Eyndhoven, Resident Representative of the UNDP and Mr. David Rooks, President of Environment TOBAGO. Present to witness the signing were members of Environment TOBAGO, community participants in the project, representatives of the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company, the WASA Regional Laboratory, the THA Marine Affairs Section and members of the media.

The following is Mr. van Eyndhoven's address:

Mr. Chairman; Mr. David Rooks, President, Environment TOBAGO; Members of Environment TOBAGO; Project participants from the communities and schools in Tobago; Members of the Media; Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to address you this afternoon in my capacity as Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme on the occasion of the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement with Environment TOBAGO. The Agreement provides for grant support from UNDP's Global Environment Facility - Small Grants Programme for NGOs and CBOs towards the initiation of the Tobago Community Water Watch Network Project of Environment TOBAGO.

The Tobago Community Water Watch Network Project is significant to the Tobago community, the National community and the International community for several reasons. This year has been designated by the United Nations as the Year of the Reef; and 1998 has been designated as the Year of the Ocean. This is particularly relevant to Tobago with its magnificent coral reef formations and other marine, coastal and terrestrial resources, which, together with the rich culture and friendliness of Tobagonians, continue to attract visitors to your shores. This is integral to the ongoing development of your tourism industry.

Secondly, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has received the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Canadian Technical Cooperation Program (CANTAP) in the development of environmental management measures for the tourism sector. One of the components of this two-year programme specifically addresses coastal water quality management for Tobago. The identification and development of linkages between this programme and the Tobago Community Water Watch Network Project is highly recommended. This would be a useful indicator of the successful implementation of both projects.

Thirdly, the capacity of state agencies to undertake intensive monitoring of Tobago's inland and coastal water quality is severely constrained, in spite of indications of declining water quality and chronic pollution in some coastal areas.

Environment TOBAGO is to be complimented in formulating this project which emphasises a community-based approach to begin to address the identification of and solutions to chronic pollution of important public bathing beaches, particularly by sewage. The focus of the project is on building awareness, sensitisation and action at the community level through their direct participation in the technical process of assessing the quality of sea water at popular bathing beaches which are used by members of the community in the first instance. It serves to build the community's sense of responsibility for taking action to protect their environment and therefore the well-being of their members.

I note that an important aspect of the project is dissemination of the results of the laboratory analyses of water samples from the sampling beaches among members of the community. Various mechanisms for information dissemination and building community advocacy, where necessary, are addressed in the project. I wish to take this opportunity to inform you of another project currently being developed by your neighboring communities in northeastern Trinidad which has tremendous implications to communities in southwest Tobago. The Radio Toco project is soon to be operational which would not only provide an effective communication link between the communities in northeastern Trinidad and southwest Tobago, but also serve as a vehicle to disseminate and exchange information generated by the Water Watch Network Project among the communities in southwestern Tobago.

The proposal for the Tobago Community Water Watch Network from Environment TOBAGO was approved on the basis of all the reasons I just presented. However, there is one important dimension that had to be addressed in order to be eligible for grant support from the GEF Small Grants Programme. The Global Environment Facility was established following the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in order to support national and international action to reverse the destruction and deterioration of the environment which had assumed global proportions. Principle areas addressed for support by the GEF Small Grants Programme are the protection of biological diversity, the reduction of global warming and the prevention of degradation of international waters i.e. the coastal and marine environment.

It is in this latter area that the Tobago Community Water Watch Network Project has direct relevance to the goals of the GEF. I wish to suggest that the benefits to be derived from the successful implementation of the project would not only be at the local level. The problem of chronic pollution of coastal and marine waters is by no means confined to Tobago. It is a global problem that now requires action at the global level. The true success of your project lies in its potential application by Governments, NGOs and CBOs in other small island states and large continental countries as a model of effective collaboration between the state and the community in preventing the degradation of the coastal and marine environment. It is through the collective implementation of such a project as the Tobago Community Water Watch Network in other islands and larger countries that we will realise the GEF objective of stopping the degradation of our oceans at a global level.

Mr. Chairman, although the grant will support the first year of operation of the Tobago Community Water Watch Network Project of Environment TOBAGO, I wish to assure the membership of Environment TOBAGO and the community participants in the project that UNDP sees its role in supporting your efforts to address the protection and conservation of Tobago's environment in the context of a long-term partnership. This, in essence, is the objective of the GEF Small Grants Programme of UNDP.

Finally, I wish the participants in the Tobago Community Water Watch Network Project of Environment TOBAGO every success in the implementation of this project.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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