Sudipto Mukerjee: Message on World Environment Day, 5 June 2014
A very Good Morning to you all and many congratulations to all of you who participated in the special march this morning from the Cotton Tree to here.
This is the 41st World Environment Day; which was first observed in 1973. WED is the principle vehicle through which the United Nations stimulates global awareness and positive action for the environment. It is an opportunity for everyone to realize our responsibility to care for the earth and it helps to galvanise our individual actions into a collective power for change.
Excellences’, this year the theme for World Environment Day (WED) is “Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level”. The campaign focuses on the rise of sea levels through the impacts of global climate change, and calls on us to protect vulnerable coastal habitats. The UNDP joins the EPA and the Government of Sierra Leone in using the opportunity of World Environment Day 2014 to spread awareness of the need to preserve and protect Sierra Leone’s beautiful coast-line and rich biodiversity though recognizing the problems related to coastal erosion, mangrove deforestation, and pollution, especially also from plastics. The UNDP uses this day to encourage the EPA and other MDAs to increase political attention and action towards improving coastal protection and resilience.
The World Environment Day theme for 2014 is very relevant for Sierra Leone. While Sierra Leone’s contribution to greenhouse gas emission and the actions that lead to climate change accounts for less than 0.05% of the global emission, the country is ranked as the third most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Every day, the country is a witness to how its’ once beautiful shorelines and coast, with their enormous potential for tourism and other sources for economic benefits are changing - and heading towards a disastrous tipping point, mostly due to detrimental human’s activities.
Plantain Island, Conkarydee, Bonthe, Lakka and many of Sierra Leone’s coastal communities are threatened by climate change-induced sea level rise – and are already feeling the impacts. Their small size, low economic resource base and low resilience, high susceptibility to natural hazards, and limited mechanisms to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change leave them extra vulnerable. It is for those communities and for the nation as a whole that we should all “Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level”.
Communities throughout Sierra Leone are increasingly becoming exposed to a number of environmental issues - including pollution, degradation of mangrove forests and coastal habitats, and loss of fish breeding grounds and aquatic biodiversity loss. This ever growing list of environmental problems compounds and exacerbates the already alarming situation of extreme poverty that nearly 50% of the population of Sierra Leone are living in.
Sierra Leone has tremendous potential for prosperity. At the same time, if urgent action is not taken to protect our fragile environment no amount of prosperity will help to revive what is lost forever. We will have to commit ourselves to sustained, collective and deliberate actions towards environmental safeguards while working towards achievement of the targets in the Agenda for Prosperity. We therefore commend and join the EPA and the Government of Sierra Leone in working to improve Sierra Leone’s state of the environment through decentralization and by putting monitoring mechanisms in place.
The time for all Sierra Leoneans, both individually and collectively to assume the onerous responsibility to care for the environment is NOW.
So “Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level” and help save our environment!