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Poor policy polluted Barbados

Land pollution is the degradation of the soil due to human activity that causes toxins and contaminants to leach into the ground.  Most of the freshwater in Barbados comes from rainfall that filters through the ground into aquifers that supply the community with drinking water.

As the Mottley government looks to overhaul their development policy it is important that they look to protect and rejuvenate the land – especially land adjacent to the water aquifers (Zone 1) – from the toxins that are leaching into the groundwater.

One of the biggest causes of  land pollution is agriculture. Back in the 1960s when the Barbados GroundWater Protection Policy was created, planners thought agriculture was an ideal way to protect the soil from contamination. They didn’t know or worry about the use of highly toxic fertilizers and pesticides. With decades of fertilizer and pesticide use dangerous toxins have built up in the ground surrounding the aquifers that supply Barbados with drinking water. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified three chemicals used in pesticides that are conclusive causes of cancer. Read report here  

Perhaps the biggest worry facing the Barbados Water Authority is that cancer causing pesticides are slowly leaching into the islands drinking water. The biggest question residents should ask is:

Why restrict land use in highly sensitive water zones areas to agriculture when the science shows that farming is one of the biggest causes of land pollution?

Another big contributor to land pollution in Barbados is vacant land. A century long habit of tossing trash out the window has caused 1 to 2 feet of garbage to collect on vacant land. And while weeds and bushes may grow over it the trash below decomposes leaching toxins into the soil. The restrictive land use policy around our aquifers has caused most of the land that isn’t farmed to be left vacant.

The truth is the Barbados Groundwater Protection Policy did not protect the land but contaminated it by limiting use in zone 1 areas to agriculture.  Restricting land use also stopped pollution protection innovation and technology from developing here. Luckily other countries weren’t so foolish and green technology advanced. From natural cleaners to localized sewage treatment systems, there are many innovative ways to protect land  abutting our aquifers from pollution.

The Groundwater Protection Policy is currently under review, and we are hopeful that policy makers do not ignore the science that has identified agriculture and vacant land as contributors to land pollution.  

We encourage policy makers to look at innovative ways to protect our land, and take a “be green not militant” approach to land use. Much of the land around our aquifers needs rejuvenating and we should look to eco tourism, and organic farmers for help in the process.

Fertilizers, pesticides and garbage will continue to leak dangerous toxins into the ground water without a complete overhaul of the Groundwater Protection Policy. Banning the use of  fertilizer and pesticide on all agricultural land in zone 1 is essential but hard to police; and vacant land will continue to collect garbage unless policy makers allow other forms of land use.  

It is our suggestion that zone 1 land be opened to ecotourism initiatives that introduce and promote pollution prevention systems; and that all initiatives be required to clean up and rejuvenate the soil.

Pollution prevention systems and soil rejuvenation could easily be made part of the planning approval process for all ecotourism initiatives in zone 1 areas. It is the right, reasonable and responsible approach to tackling the growing pollution problem in Barbados.

Ontario is gearing up for groundbreaking cap and trade project

Ontario has been working hard to prepare for cap and trade, an environmental initiative that will put a cap on greenhouse emissions and help high polluters to lower their carbon levels.

The program will lower greenhouse gas emissions substantially and will help Ontario reach its climate goals to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and up to 80 per cent by 2050. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has been ramping up in preparation of the ground-breaking environmental program in Ontario, with three officers of the legislature releasing detailed reports on the cap and trade program over the last few weeks. This included the Environmental Commissioner on Nov. 22, the Financial Accountability Officer on Nov. 23, and the Auditor General on Nov. 30. The Ontario government is clearly demonstrating transparency and public awareness of the many positive aspects that involve the cap and trade program.

On Nov. 16, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray also met with Quebec Premier Philip Couillard and Matt Rodriquez, Secretary for Environmental Protection for California, at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, Morocco. The three leaders discussed their plan to link the cap and trade programs across international boundaries. Ontario plans to link the cap and trade program to Quebec and California by 2018, which will help the new green economy flourish with increased opportunities for competition. Nova Scotia recently announced it is planning to start a cap and trade program as well.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Dianne Saxe, mentioned the partnership in her report and commends its positive aspects: “The key purpose of linking is to reduce compliance costs for Ontario emitters. Linking reduces compliance costs in two main ways: Creating a bigger, more liquid market for allowances; and giving Ontario emitters access to lower cost allowances from other jurisdictions.”

Cap and trade is a a large undertaking for Ontario, but increasingly crucial in our climate-based economy. The program forces large polluters to cut down on greenhouse gases or contribute to provincial revenue through carbon credits. Alternatively, if a company lowers their emissions, they can make money by selling their extra credits. The program is expected to make $478 million in its first year, and will generate 1.8 to 1.9 billion in the following years until December 2020. The funds will be directed towards green initiatives such as solar power, energy conservation methods, and battery storage. Either way, both initiatives help the ‘green’ agenda because either a high polluter will help fund green projects or they will lower their carbon emissions.

Cap and trade program will be activated in January 2017.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is leading the way on the climate change agenda, and it is exciting to imagine the significant impact that cap and trade will have on greenhouse emissions in the province.