Pretoria: 23 October 2017
The battle against global marine pollution has been given a massive boost following an announcement by the Norwegian government of the setup of a fund totaling NOK150-million (or R258-million) for use in efforts to combat marine waste.
In a statement, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Børge Brende said marine litter globally had become a huge environmental hazard, with some areas of the world far worse than others. The fund budgeted for 2018 would initially target these areas, he said.
‘Norway intends to take the lead in ocean affairs internationally. Marine litter, including plastics, has become one of the most serious environmental problems of our time. That is why the Government is launching a concerted effort to combat marine litter and microplastics and is establishing a development programme in this field,’ said Mr Brende.
He added that: “The new development programme will use effective and environmentally sound approaches to combating marine litter. To start with, the programme will focus on Southeast Asia, which is the region where the problem is most acute. We will also look at ways of using the programme to support other countries and regions where marine litter is a growing problem, for example in Africa.”
For Africa, this is expected to come as a boost particularly given that this comes only three months after the region held a five day conference in Port Elizabeth, South Africa to focus specifically on the progressively impending marine waste pollution disaster along the continent’s coastlines.
At that conference in July, it was revealed that with more than 150 million tons of plastic material floating across the world’s oceans – and likely to rise to 950mt in 30 years – and with very little being done about it, the world was facing an imminent ecological disaster.
However, it was also confirmed that the problem was especially acute in Africa.
Among more than a dozen scientists attending and sharing views on the problem, Dr Linda Godfrey, a manager of the Waste RDI Roadmap Implementation Unit at the Centre for Science and Industrial Research (CSRI) in South Africa, painted a disturbing picture of particularly the African continent with regards both its current status on waste management as well as imminent future challenges that could make the task of eliminating plastic waste more difficult if not arrested effectively, soon.
She said the continent was largely characterized by poor landfill practices, general poor waste management, uncontrolled dumping compounded by a rapidly growing population of middle income people who were increasingly migrating to predominantly coastal cities.
“Africa is at a watershed, in that if we do not stop and take action now, we are going to be faced with a massive marine waste problem locally, regionally and the potential impact globally. And there are essentially seven reasons that I see for why we should take action now,” she said.
Days later at a mini conference hosted jointly by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the United States Consulate, the International Ocean Institute and the V&A Waterfront held at the Two Oceans Acquarium at Cape Town’s Waterfront, it emerged that South Africa was among top contributors to marine waste generation.
It was revealed that the country at the southern tip of the African continent, at the point at which three oceans meet, ranks No.11 in the world for waste management production and that the country alone is responsible for 12% of global plastic waste and about 2% of total mismanaged plastic waste, leading to between 0.9-0.25 megatons of it ending as marine plastic waste annually.
A week ago in Oslo, the Norwegian government said Africa would be an area of focus for the new fund beginning 2018, adding that the contribution was part of Norway’s overall effort supportive of campaigns undertaken by such as the UN Environment, the World Bank and INTERPOL to combat marine litter.
“Norway’s new development programme will include efforts to reduce waste and improve waste management in the areas that are most seriously affected by marine litter. Supporting efforts to clean up shorelines and coastal areas can also have a major impact,” said Mr Brende.
Meanwhile, Mr Brende said his government also intended intensifying its engagement with other countries in the identification and responsible exploitation of more economic opportunities presented by the world’s oceans economy,
“The Government is calling for sustainable use of the oceans to be given greater priority at the international level.
“Prime Minister Erna Solberg hosted a high-level event at the UN General Assembly on 20 September on the wealth of opportunities offered by the oceans. The event was attended by heads of state and government and ministers from a number of countries.
‘Norway has also supported the initiative to appoint a UN special envoy for the oceans. Former President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji was appointed to this important post in September, and Norway will support him in his work,’ Mr Brende said.
He further confirmed that the Norwegian Stortinget (or Parliament) had also approved in June this year, a white paper on the place of the oceans in Norwegian foreign and development policy.
“The white paper sets out three priority areas: sustainable use and blue growth, clean and healthy oceans, and the role of the blue economy in development policy. In the time ahead, the Government will conduct dialogues on ocean affairs with other countries with a view to strengthening cooperation in these three areas,” he said.
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