2019 EARTH DAY MESSAGE BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
22nd, April 2019
My people of the Virgin Islands I greet you on this festive Easter Monday which is celebrated as a holiday in many Christian cultures. I trust that today you will take some time to reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how those events has impacted and influenced us as a people.
I would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank all of the persons who were instrumental in the planning and execution of the 2019 Virgin Gorda Easter Festival which is being held under the theme “A Cultural Jamboree in Musical City”.
Coincidentally, today is also Earth Day which is an event observed annually on April 22nd. It is a day held to demonstrate and promote environmental awareness and calls for the protection of our planet. Earth Day is celebrated in more than 193 countries each year.
It is a privilege for us here in the Virgin Islands to also join these countries for this very important and critical observance. To this end, we intend to not only “talk the talk” but to “walk the walk” by organising, mobilising and cleaning up our communities.
I have committed to lead this charge, over the course of six months, to coordinate a comprehensive cleanup of the Territory under the theme, “A Beautiful Virgin Islands Begins With You.”
The main objectives of the campaign are as follows:
- To ensure the environment is safe, clean and healthy;
- To engage communities in environmental sustainability via education and awareness campaigns;
- To restore community pride.
This initiative began on Virgin Gorda a few weeks ago with an intense derelict collection project which was executed in collaboration with the Department of Solid Waste and the Premier’s Office through the Recovery and Development Agency and other stakeholders. The wider community has also taken the initiative to clean up select areas, such as grave yards, beaches, national parks as well as private spaces within their respective communities, which are expected to continue.
I take this opportunity to encourage all community groups inclusive of businesses, churches, schools, non-governmental organisations and homeowners to join forces to clean up the BVI and strategically combat the growing waste management problem. One way to do so is to identify areas within your respective communities to be cleaned. The Premier’s Office will be assisting with the coordination of this effort, as the lead planning and coordinating agency within Government. Together we will coordinate the support and resources needed to achieve the set objectives. However, it is imperative that the communities take ownership of this endeavour and drive this initiative, remember “A Beautiful Virgin Islands Begins With You.”
In addition to the Territory wide cleanup, your Government will also be doing the following:
- Implement policies and legislation for recycling and banning of items harmful to the environment;
- Increase enforcement measures to protect our environment;
- Launch an education and awareness campaign that would seek to combat the growing waste management problem in the Territory;
- Re-establish the Litter Warden programme;
- Enforce the penalties for littering;
- Assist with providing funding to purchase clean up equipment and the continued cleanup of the environment;
- Require holding tanks on pleasure yachts;
- Create green spaces in each of the nine districts and build our livelihood around green thinking;
- Pay more attention to climate change;
- Establish a Territory wide maintenance and beautification programme;
- Use inmates who are approved by the requisite authorities to assist with cleanup efforts;
- Encourage among ourselves local tree planting, mangrove replanting and other greening initiatives amongst other things;
As the Premier of these Virgin Islands, I acknowledge the policy changes that are needed in order to address the environmental challenges we face and I am committed to doing my part. However, proper waste management is something each person can personally address. Every piece of trash we pick up helps to clean up our communities. The impacts of our mishandled waste are monumental — from poisoning our water sources to choking wildlife to increasing carbon emissions.
We are collaborating with various organisations and community groups to collectively clean up our coastlines, green spaces, roadsides and waterways. The overall goal is to be proactive and innovative in the way we address these issues and to make a tangible impact on eliminating waste from our environments. I wish to acknowledge all of the community stakeholders who have already began to take the initiative to clean up the Territory.
The increasing number of photos on social media of your efforts is very encouraging. I also wish to commend all of the Ministries and specifically the Solid Waste Department and the City Manager’s Office for their ongoing efforts to keep the Virgin Islands clean. Kudos also, to the schools and churches that have already shown a keen in interest in partnering with us on this endeavor.
I specifically want to reach out to the nine district representatives and to encourage them to lead the charge in their respective districts, whilst the challenges may seem insurmountable they are not impossible to resolve. Just remember the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
As a people we have always been beautiful on the inside. Now, together let us show the world that we are just as beautiful on the outside because a beautiful Virgin Islands begins with you and me. Happy Earth Day Virgin Islands!