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State of the Environment Report 2018

While we agree that sustainability is not always easy, its a slow grind to keep developmental activity in Tobago on a sustainable path. In 2018 Tobago faces the multiple realities of reduced tourism - its bread and butter, threats to the food supply chain - with adverse weather affecting crops, fishermen catching everything except enough fish, and little respite expected from the annual allocation of money from the treasury, national oil and gas revenues not allowing the usual great expectations.

Hard times notwithstanding, Tobago's current administrators have a duty to the public - present and future, to ensure this small patch of geography is passed on with minimal if any damage to ecosystems or coastal infrastructures. This, and again we agree it is not the easiest of tasks, is passing strange that in areas where the 'correct moves' are easy to identify (and therefore implement) nothing is being done.

We speak directly of poor waste management. The landfill at Studley Park is still the only repository for all of this island's solid waste despite limitations which were proven and documented over two decades ago. We speak too of poor land use in general. Good agricultural land is repeatedly being converted to housing acreage. Important forests and mangroves are being decimated with scant regard for preserving water catchment - either for potable use or for natural biodiversity.

The reference to waste management in context of a State Of The Environment Report is not trivial. The broad solution to almost every problem Tobago faces depends on a pristine environment. This is the logical almost intuitive deduction. So the unwillingness or lack acceptance to own or work towards it is a mystifying thing to say the least. Yet in 2018 Tobago presses on as if decades old conversations about incineration or desalination plants is enough.

Which is not to say that's all which is spoken these days. We've heard first rumours, and now find it confirmed that there will be a large hotel planted in the vicinity of the Buccoo Marine Park; with its effluent sanitised (to the best levels that tax dollars can buy); with its (concrete) footprint minimised to the point where no piece of coral will feel the stress. This of course is mere promise to deflect from what has been the historic norm; mismanagement of Trinidad and Tobago's natural resources for some private parties personal gain. The problem we foresee for 2018 and beyond is even more degradation of the Buccoo Reef complex, suffering as it is from toxic overexposure and chronic undermanagement and soon to come the Sandals.

We've heard too that in order for Tobago to move past these hard times the Arthur Napolean Raymond Robinson International Airport will be extended to accommodate even larger aircraft than those that already do not come here. Fine. If it weren't at the cost of losing Kilgywn; one of Tobago key wetlands and probably its second largest fish nursery. The sad thing is once more we see the State, erstwhile steward of the Commons, playing the major part of destroyer, sustainability be damned.

A modern State of the Environment Report will be irrelevant if it were to overlook this country's implementation of the SDGs. Remember the Sustainable Development Goals to which Trinidad and Tobago is committed? They cover much more than the 'treehugging' measures Environment Tobago once employed. Which it naively viewed back then as the only advocacy measure needed for our people to change ways. We will now leave Trinidad out of the conversation. Implicit to Tobago begin able to tick off its share of the targets attending the SDGs is a general acceptance that behaviours have to be changed.

We at Environment Tobago sometimes, probably because people are prone to think everyone is on the same page, understands that the world as we know it has changed - is changing. Into a more hostile environment than anyone anywhere at any time have ever had to face. The fact of the matter ladies and gentlemen is even though Tobago does have that tourism slash economic problem in the near term, Climate Change and all that comes with it is an immensely greater threat. It is that threat which drives this NGO to once more pen a state of the environment report. Hopefully you dear reader will make grasp the difference between taking care of the environment and living happily within it or.... not.

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