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USAID-Canossian School launch Green School Initiative Helps Keep Timor-Leste Clean

USAID-Canossian School launch Green School Initiative Helps Keep Timor-Leste Clean

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DILI, October 25, 2021 – The United States International Development Agency (USAID), together with Dili Canossian School launched a Green School initiative to educate school children and their parents about how to reduce, reuse and recycle single-use plastics.

This project is implemented under the Secretary of State for the Environment and U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), through Tourism for All project.

The initiative will be conducted by school officials, students and parents to reduce plastic use and limit their carbon footprints, starting in the classroom and spreading the environmental message to the community at large.

At the launch ceremony, school community representatives signed a declaration of intent to establish a school eco-club, to organize conservation-related activities, and to work towards extending the Green School model to other schools at all levels around the country.

They also agreed on a set of school rules and regulations, by which every school member has to dispose of garbage responsibly by separating organic and inorganic waste.

Plastic bottles are prohibited: students must pack food and beverages in reusable containers and drink the water provided by the school.

To minimize the use of paper, students must write on both sides, and recycle or reuse scrap paper, aluminium, glass and plastic. The rules also require students and staff to conserve water and electricity and use environmentally safe cleaning supplies.

“The Green School is a very important program. One of our dreams is to educate young people and their parents about how to create a healthy and peaceful environment. Once we have achieved this, we will attract more people to visit this country. I would like to thank USAID’s Tourism For All Project for working side-by-side with us and making our dream a reality, especially providing 5,000 reusable water bottles and bags to our students and teachers to reduce our community’s daily consumption of plastics.” The Tourism For All Project has also supplied posters and infographics to display in schools.”The Superior of the Canossian School, Rev. Sister. Guilermina Marcal FDCC said.

The project helped the school to organize a workshop last August, which led to the creation of the Green School model, aimed at strengthening the Secretary of State for the Environment’s efforts to meet the Association of Southeast Asia Nations’ sustainability criteria in education and tourism.

“It is important to engage young people in environmental education and action. We need to empower and motivate students to drive change and improve awareness in their school, local community and beyond,” Director of the National Education Centre of Secretariat of State for the Environment, Aménica Machado Fernandes, said..

‘Timor-Leste’s tourism depends on its natural environment, and if we develop the industry sustainably, it will open up opportunities for many of these students to find employment in the future.”

Although the Government of Timor-Leste has implemented the Zero Plastic policy, understanding of environmental issues is not widespread across all sectors of society. Several retail grocers in Dili no longer provide plastic bags to shoppers, but rather sell reusable bags for a token amount.

There are regular beach clean-ups organized by government departments, non-government agencies, businesses and schools. However, within days of the clean-ups the beaches are once again strewn with garbage.

“Like many places in the world, Timor-Leste is inundated with single-use plastic waste that is consumed locally or washes up on its shores,” said Harold Carey, Director of USAID/Timor-Leste’s Economic Growth Office. “This is unsightly, unhealthy and leaves the country susceptible to extreme weather events such as the floods we experienced in April.”

When Cyclone Seroja hit Timor-Leste on Easter weekend, intense rains swelled mountainous catchments and sent tidal waves of floodwaters and debris into populated areas. These heavy rains caused floods and landslides in all 13 municipalities of Timor-Leste, displaced more than 14,000 people, and flooded 10,000 homes.

Forty-two people lost their lives. Dili was worst affected when 12 hours of nonstop rains resulted in the overflow of rivers and the inundation of many neighborhoods, with a majority of households experiencing some level of damage to their homes and property and critical infrastructure such as roads and bridges was destroyed.

In the days immediately following the flood, one of the most apparent causes identified by authorities was poor waste management leading to clogged up drains. With support from USAID and other international partners, Mercy Corps formed the Plastics Upcycling Alliance to improve capacity for plastics recycling.

However, these efforts will not be effective if there is not strong enforcement, political will, and community participation.

The Canossian Green School concept incorporates lessons learned and good practice from Timor-Leste’s experience in establishing three other Green Schools in 2019, including Cristal, St, Inácio Loiola, and Esperanca Patria.

The focus of their efforts is in five areas including: workshops and public awareness; tree planting; green gardens; recycling; and Tara Bandu, traditional law governing the management of natural resources. In addition to mitigating the effects of climate change, these activities are also essential in laying the groundwork for the establishment of sustainable eco-tourism.

Environmental protection is one of the pillars of the National Tourism Policy. Timor-Leste offers some of the world’s best scuba diving on reefs that teem with a vast diversity of marine life. The coral ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to ecological degradation due to flood water runoff and pollution from plastic waste.

Sustainable tourism requires a commitment by all stakeholders in tourism, both public and private, to actively care for the wider community and environment that the tourism industry operates in, by minimizing costs and optimizing benefits for the environment, local community, tourism businesses and workers, without adversely affecting resources that tourism depends on.

The Secretary of State for the Environment – in partnership with USAID’s Tourism For All Project – aims to achieve this by jointly developing a set of sustainable tourism criteria applicable to various sectors of the tourism industry, such as guesthouses, community-based tourism attractions, and tour operators. This will help form a base from which enterprises can develop a plan for sustainable and responsible tourism in their product and service offering.

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