|November is Tourism, Environment Awareness Month|
|Written by Richard Greenemail@example.com|
|Thursday, 03 November 2011 15:17|
Making sure the Turks and Caicos Islands remain a “beautiful by nature” tourist destination requires education of and support from all local residents.
That’s the aim of Tourism, Environment Awareness Month, a November-long joint effort by the Tourist Board, Department of Environment and Coastal Resources and Department of Environmental Health.
“A collaborative approach such as this will enhance persons’ knowledge and remind them that we have the responsibility to protect, nurture and respect our islands’ environment because it is one of the main attractions for visitors,” said Director of Tourism Ralph Higgs.
Under the theme “Our environment — our future depends on it,” each week of the month will have a different focus:
Kenrick Neely, deputy director of the Environmental Health Department, said one week will be devoted to impressing on residents the importance of proper waste disposal so that dogs, cats and rodents don’t drag garbage into the streets and bush.
A Tourist Board survey of visitors in March revealed that the number one complaint about the TCI environment was “visible litter and garbage in some areas.”
While the government still has not implemented a comprehensive solid waste management plan, Neely doesn’t think that is a major factor in littering in a country whose population has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.
“In the past, the islands used to be clean,” Neely said. “These islands never used to be dirty like this. It’s people’s different cultures, persons’ attitudes towards national pride. That’s the long and short of it.”
Blythe Clare, training manager for the Tourist Board, said her educational visits to the country’s schools have taught children to question adults when they see them littering.
“Kids get the message, and they go home and they tell their parents,” Clare said. “From the home into the schools and then into the communities, it begins at home. So we all have to take ownership. This is my country. This is your country. And for those persons who come and live and work among us, you are a part of us, so therefore you have an important role to play.”
Higgs said residents should ask police — who are responsible for enforcing litter laws — to be more active in fining people.
“In my many years of living in this country — all my life practically — I can’t recall an incident where anyone has been brought before the courts or the relevant authority for littering, and we definitely need to address that,” Higgs said.
In June, police said there has been an increase in the number of complaints relating to the improper disposal of garbage and illegal dump sites. They urged people to dispose of their refuse properly and to report violations to police at 946-4259 or by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-8477 (TIPS).
Neely said his department checks bags of garbage that are discarded illegally, but few searches have turned up anything to identify who dumped the garbage.
Clare said the Tourist Board will be visiting Grand Turk, North and South Caicos to talk to students and to launch an environmental slogan contest. On Nov. 18, fourth form students will be debating on the environment, while second and third formers will participate in an environmental art competition.
Stacy Cox, the new Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association executive, said the group has moved its TCI Shines anti-litter campaign from December to November. The annual cleanup is scheduled for Nov. 19 at 6 a.m. at the Children’s Park in the Bight.
Other community education efforts during November will be aimed at controlling dogs, both stray and domestic, and stressing to residents the importance of preventing standing water that can breed mosquitoes that can transmit diseases.
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