Saturday, June 04, 2005

Government backs environmental awareness - Vinet

Fabian Vinet, Minister for the Environment, Roads and Utilities, became the first local minister ever to mark World Environment Day [WED] with a symbolic gesture.

In a statement issued to coincide with WED Mr Vinet said that “any initiative to stimulate – always in a responsible manner – awareness of environmental issues, is to be applauded”.

“Our Environment encompasses everything that surrounds us – it is not restricted to headline-grabbing issues like the air that we breathe or to finding renewable sources of energy, but also includes seemingly mundane things such as inconsiderate noise from a next-door neighbour or discarded sweet wrappers on our streets.

Certainly, Government has a political responsibility to safeguard our environment, but this is an issue of collective accountability, where we must all learn to play our part. While it may sound like a cliché, the fact remains that even in small ways we – as individuals – can make a real difference,” he said.

Mr Vinet said that his ministry fully supports the principle of reducing the environmental impact of waste “wherever reasonably possible” and encourages practices such as recycling which alleviate that impact by preventing waste, and some months ago we promoted a private initiative for the safe disposal of empty inkjet and toner cartridges.

“Reclaiming and recycling such cartridges benefits the environment because residual ink adheres to used cartridges and can be a source of contamination when disposed of.”

The Ministry has a central point for the collection of its own cartridges and it has directed all Government Departments to make use of the service provided by Calpe Recycling, a private entitiy. All individuals and commercial bodies should make use of this free facility, he said.

“There are other services available which are sadly underused, such as the collection of batteries at four specialised containers provided at key sites (Bayside and Westside Comprehensive Schools, Morrisons Supermarket and the South District Post Office).

Details of these and other schemes can be obtained by calling the Department of the Environment on Tel No. 50924. I can assure you the staff will be more than happy to help."


More to do

The Environment Minister, in his statement said that there is more that we can do.

“Although passenger numbers on our buses have increased dramatically since April 2004, there are still many of us (myself included) who do not make sufficient use of our public transport system, a practice that reduces both traffic congestion and car emissions. This despite the fact that we now enjoy a magnificent, modern fleet of environmentally-friendly vehicles that offer a far improved and reliable service.

You and I can also contribute towards the betterment of our environment by taking care of our natural resources. Did you know, for instance, that if you brush your teeth for three minutes, twice a day, whilst the tap is running, you are wasting 10,950 litres of water a year? I only became aware of this recently, as I did of the fact that switching off my television or computer screen when not in use, rather than leaving it on stand-by, saves 30kg of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air (the same as that absorbed by ten trees). One final interesting fact: A daily bath uses 16,425 litres more water per annum than a shower. Food for thought,” he said.

Mr Vinet said that caring for our environment is a matter of civic pride.

“Abandoning vehicles is not only an eyesore but also takes up valuable parking spaces. That is why we have embarked on a dedicated campaign for the removal of such vehicles, and I am happy to report that – with the help of the Royal Gibraltar Police – almost 1,000 derelict vehicles have been removed and disposed of in the last year.”

He added:

“A walk or drive will in all probability bring you across someone indiscriminately throwing litter on our streets and pavements, often mere yards away from a litter-bin. Whether the person responsible is a youngster or an adult who really ought to know better, there is simply no excuse.

Anyone who litters our streets with rubbish is not only carrying out an action that defies logic, but is demonstrating a severe lack of civic pride and a total disregard for our environment. I would like to take this opportunity to plead with that minority of persons to mend their ways and act responsibly.

I said earlier on that caring for our environment is a question of collective responsibility. This Government will continue to play its vital role in that process.

I am firmly of the view that this Government has, since 1996, done more for our environment than any previous administration. As a sign of the importance we attach to environmental issues – and recognising the increased public awareness – a fully resourced and staffed Department of the Environment has been established, as per our manifesto commitment.

Indeed, only a few weeks ago we have employed the services of an environmental specialist to better co-ordinate all environmental policies and Government obligations, as well as to interact with social partners and non-governmental organisations.

There is, however, more to be done. On this World Environment Day I repeat theGovernment’s commitment to preserve and wherever possible enhance our environment, while at the same time preserving and enhancing Gibraltar’s economic growth and social progress. After all, our Environment is not a question of choosing between competing interests, but rather of finding a reasonable balance.”

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