World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Colossal Community-Led Island Cleanup

Tuesday 20th October 2009

Colossal Community-Led Island Cleanup:

the first step towards a long term waste management solution for Tonga

Organisers and locals are overwhelmed with the success of an enormous cleanup event that was coordinated in the remote Ha’apai Islands of Tonga last Thursday, by Kiwi Charity Sustainable Coastlines.

Young and old joined forces to collect a colossal pile of rubbish from every corner of Foa and Lifuka Islands, with over 3000 people getting involved from a total population of around 4500. Over 120 truckloads consisting of plastic, steel, tin, aluminum and glass are currently being sorted in Pangai in preparation for removal this Thursday. Due to their low lying topography, the islands are unsuitable for landfill. The event is making an example of a system that could alleviate waste management challenges, with New Zealand’s Reef Shipping sending eight containers to remove the rubbish from the event.

Emily Penn, who has been living in Pangai for three months working with the local community in preparation for this day, explains what the large scale cleanup event and education program strives to achieve. “Firstly we aim to develop an understanding among the community about the negative effects improper disposal of rubbish has on local health and environment. Secondly we are exposing the problem in Ha’apai in order to establish a long term waste management solution.”

The Kiwi charity is now helping the local community lobby the Tongan government- who has been supportive of the initiative since it began- to achieving their ultimate goal of the project, which is to implement a waste management strategy for the area.

This is set to become a formula for other small island states in Tonga and the Pacific. Rubbish provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which transmit the vector born diseases such as dengue fever and Elephantitis that affect many areas of the Pacific. 97% of rubbish is burned in the Ha’apai Islands, with the plastic content releasing dioxins (which are known to cause severe health effects such as birth defects and liver cancer) in close proximity to people’s dwelling areas.

A breeding ground for humpback whales which was once nominated as a UN World Heritage Site - has been threatened through the concentration of plastic entering the ocean. Charity were joined by a crew from the Air New Zealand Green Team and locals from the Youth Congress NGO, to coordinate the cleanup and a tree planting project to fortify coastal villages against risk from cyclones and tsunamis, on the UN International Day for Preparation Against Natural Disasters during the week.

The sheer scale of the event showed that many hands can make light work. Pita Vi, Lifuka District Officer, was astounded by the participation on the day. “I can’t believe there is this much rubbish in Ha’apai and when we all worked together it only took half a day to collect it.”

Nonu Pohiva, Officer in Charge of the Ministry of Tourism in Ha’apai was the first to hear about the cleanup back in July. “At first I thought it was a joke, but then Sustainable Coastlines turned up and the cleanup happened. I felt humiliated that Palangis (foreigners) were coming from overseas to pick up Ha’apai rubbish – why can’t we organise our own cleanup?”

Sam Judd, Co-Founder of Sustainable Coastlines commented on the change he noticed in the residents over the last few months. “The event has definitely positively changed the attitudes of the local people. I saw the enthusiasm in the people who were picking up the rubbish. Everyone was smiling and laughing – it was a great day.”


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN: India’s New COVID-19 Wave Is Spreading Like ‘Wildfire’, Warns UN Children’s Fund

7 May 2021 A new wave of COVID-19 infections is spreading like “wildfire” across India, leaving many youngsters destitute, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said on Friday. In the last 24 hours, India registered 3,915 coronavirus deaths and 414,188 ... More>>

UN: Decades Of Health Gains At Risk In Brazil Due To COVID-19

Although COVID-19 cases are declining in Brazil, the pandemic is putting decades of public health gains there at risk, the head of the World Health Organization ( WHO ) said on Friday. With global attention and support focused this week ... More>>

UN Report: Myanmar Approaching Point Of Economic Collapse

The turmoil following the military coup in Myanmar, coupled with the impact of COVID-19 could result in up to 25 million people – nearly half of the country’s population, living in poverty by early next year, a United Nations report said on Friday. That ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

Study: Cut Methane Emissions To Avert Global Temperature Rise

6 May 2021 Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed ... More>>

UN: Learning From COVID-19, Forum To Highlight Critical Role Of Science, Technology And Innovation In Global Challenges

New York, 4 May —To build on the bold innovations in science, technology and innovations that produced life-saving solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN will bring together experts to highlight measures that can broaden the development and deployment ... More>>

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us: “Healthcare Can No Longer Exist Without Technology”

A grandmother in a village in the Gambia should have the same quality of life and access to healthcare they deserve as in New York or London. Photo: InnovaRx Global Health Start-up Works To Bridge Healthcare Gap In The Gambia By: Pavithra Rao As ... More>>