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Pacific POPs Release Reduction Project reaches mid-term milestone

Pacific POPs Release Reduction Project reaches mid-term milestone. On 11-12 April, representatives from 13 Pacific island countries joined staff from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to attend the third Steering Committee Meeting of the Pacific POPs Release Reduction Project in Suva, Fiji.

The project, funded through the Global Environment Facility – Pacific Alliance for Sustainability (GEF – PAS), aims to reduce persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Pacific region through the improved management of solid and hazardous waste.

In his opening address Mr Kevin Helps (PhD), GEF Portfolio Manager for UNEP, noted the importance of the timing of the meeting:

“Given that the project is now at its mid-term, it’s the perfect time to take stock and ensure that everyone gets the most benefit from the project. It’s also an important opportunity to explore synergies with other projects across the region and identify strategic gaps so that we can move forward.”

Some of these strategic gaps identified during the meeting, included the incomplete coverage of issues relating to POPs in existing legislation and low levels of monitoring and enforcement of existing laws. Another identified gap was the inadequate attention paid to occupational exposure of POPs, particularly women who, in the Pacific, tend to have a high level of exposure to smoke as a result of cooking over open fires.

Also speaking at the meeting was Professor Bill Aalbersberg from the Institute of Applied Science at the University of the South Pacific. Professor Aalbersberg and his team have developed a training programme and accompanying resource materials in the use, management and regulation of hazardous chemicals.

Between May and October 2016, the training programme will be rolled out in all 14 participating countries. A key outcome from the training will be the development of a chemicals management action plan for each country.

Other highlights included an overview of the upcoming regional awareness campaign called ‘Stop the POPs’. The campaign will feature an educational animation aimed at school-aged children to highlight the negative health and environmental impacts of open burning.

Ms Lusiana Ralogaivau, SPREP’s GEF uPOPs Project Coordinator, was very pleased with the strong level of participation and engagement:

“We are very pleased to have been able to work together to agree on a number of recommendations to improve project outcomes, communication, and responsiveness. We’re looking forward for another fruitful 12 months of working together to stop the POPs!”

Countries represented at the meeting were Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Also present were representatives from UNEP, SPREP, J-PRISM and USP.

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