Report of the AOSIS Meeting of Experts on Waste Management

2003-10-27 AOSIS Download PDF

Topic: Sustainable Development

The Meeting of Experts on Waste Management for Small Island Developing States
(SIDS) was held at Hotel Nacional, Havana (Cuba). It brought together experts from all
SIDS regions and from a variety of backgrounds, such as government trade officials and
representatives from educational institutions, waste management, private business and
non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A large contingent of local participants also
attended the sessions. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided
substantial financial and technical support.
The opening ceremony was chaired by Joaquín Gutiérrez, Ministry of Science,
Technology and Environment (CITMA) and chairman of the Organizing Committee. He
welcomed Dr. Thomas Goreau who made a special presentation on waste management
and the impacts on the coral reef.
Professor Albert Binger, Director, Centre for Environment and Development, University
of the West Indies, delivered the keynote address. He noted that the purpose of the
meeting was to bring current information on waste in all its permutations, and that this
was an important aspect in helping SIDS understand their overall vulnerability.
The meeting then heard an address by Bruno Moro, Resident Representative of UNDP,
who welcomed the participants to Cuba and officially opened the meeting.
At the closing ceremony, Jorge Mario García Fernández, Director of CITMA, thanked
the participants for their efforts, noting that all SIDS, from the smallest to the largest,
have a right and a duty to contribute to discussions on sustainable development. He
commended the report of the meeting and presented each participant with a personal
The meeting requested the Government of Cuba, through the Ministry of Science,
Technology and Environment, to submit the report to the United Nations SecretaryGeneral for circulation as a UN document under the item relating to the International
Meeting to review implementation of the SIDS/Barbados Programme of Action.
Presentations were made by Nicole Baker, Julia Brown, Liuba Chabalina, Jesús Delgado,
Denise Forrest, Edison Garraway, Thomas Goreau, Velva Lawrence, Jorge Alfonso
Ordás, Rolph Payet, Hugh Sealy, Vincent Sweeney, Randolph Thaman, Teresa
Manarangi-Trott and Allen Zack. Their presentations and their case studies will be
available from SIDSNet ( Discussions were held on the presentations,
and special attention was also given to the situation of waste management in Cuba. The
discussions were far ranging, and the sections below attempt to synthesize the main
points and major conclusions.
Preparations for the 10-year review of the SIDS/Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA)
in Mauritius in 2004 are well under way. It was recalled that at the Global Conference on
the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Barbados in
1994, the international commitment to sustainable development that had been articulated
two years earlier in the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development was
further concretized into the Programme of Action for the Small Island Developing States.
A principal focus of the BPoA was the deepening of the understanding of vulnerabilities
of SIDS with a view to managing these vulnerabilities in ways that are consistent with
their sustainable development. Today, the discussion within the Alliance of Small Island
States (AOSIS) is focusing on the building of resilience, both as a practical step towards
sustainable development, while at the same time seeking to manage vulnerability and
The International Meeting that is being organized in Mauritius in 2004 to review progress
in implementing the BPoA represents another major opportunity for SIDS to reiterate to
the international community the challenges they encounter in their efforts to attain
sustainable development.
The requests for international cooperation in the building of
resilience in SIDS are expected to come against the background of assessments of the
achievements in implementing the BPoA in the past 10 years as well as in recognition of
the new challenges SIDS face in engaging successfully with the rapidly changing global
economy and the changes in the global climate.
Lessons of past preparatory processes – the United Nations General Assembly Special
Session on HIV/AID (UNGASS) on SIDS, the ninth session of the Committee on
Development (CSD9) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) –
have been drawn on to make the current process as efficient as possible and allow for
maximum participation of stakeholders or their representatives. One such lesson is that
information on the implementation of the BPoA must be researched and packaged to
inform broad stakeholder participation in national and regional discussions. Clearly, we
as SIDS must be better prepared and focused if the International Meeting is to be a
success. The level of preparedness and the availability of key information to the
negotiators will be crucial.
Although waste management was one of the priority areas of the BPoA, no elaborated
strategy was developed to help guide SIDS in the implementation of sustainable waste
management systems. Consequently, waste management is now emerging as a major
concern for SIDS as the consequences become manifest. It is therefore an urgent
necessity for SIDS’ waste management experience to be studied, in order to identify
approaches that are more socially equitable, less costly to operate, more environmentally
friendly and less demanding on the limited land resources.
This expert meeting was therefore organized with support from UNDP Capacity 2015 to
bring together a cross-section of representatives across SIDS to assess the experience
with waste management, to make an assessment of the current situation and to identify
actions and associated strategies that are needed to address this growing area of
vulnerability for SIDS.
Wastes are inevitable by-products of biological life, which requires material and energy
flows through living organisms. Accordingly, the biosphere has many integrated
biodiversity-rich ecosystems in which one creature’s waste often becomes the food for
another, facilitating the dispersal and disposal of naturally occurring wastes.
Consequently, when ecosystems are in balance, they have a robust capacity to handle the
environmental impacts of naturally occurring wastes.
As humans formed communities, enlarged waste streams became an inevitable byproduct of human culture, so much so that archaeology has sometimes been described as
the intelligent picking through of ancient rubbish heaps. However, until the industrial
revolution, the scope and magnitude of the resulting wastes has as a rule not been
sufficient to do significantly more than local or regional ecosystem damage.
But now, due to the industrial revolution over the past few centuries, the impact of the
wastes produced by our cities, activities, institutions, industries and enterprises has often
put undue stress on the biophysical environment, leading to significant sustainability
challenges. Perhaps the most notable case is that of carbon-rich emissions associated with
the production and use of energy, and the resulting potential for long-term impacts on the
world’s climate patterns.
SIDS populations have traditionally depended on environmental and natural resources to
make a living, especially through commodities such as sugar and bananas, other agrobased industries, fisheries, minerals and tourism (which now accounts for one in every
four or five jobs in the Caribbean region, for example).
This has led to a complex pattern
of interaction of people, communities, institutions and industries with the environment, as
energy and resources flow from the environment into patterns of human use, and as
resulting waste materials flow back into the environment.
In turn, the rates and routes of these flows have been largely determined by the economic
systems. The resulting interplay between economic and environmental systems has
therefore been highly dynamic, with interacting chains of causes and effects that span
different nations and often cross generational boundaries.
Additionally, the economies of SIDS are also dynamic: they develop, expand, transform
(and in some cases threaten to collapse) as new technologies are developed and old ones
relocate to other parts of the world, so that patterns of resource demand and pollution
output change accordingly. The SIDS economies are also changing as a result of
economic globalization as World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements come into to
force and SIDS continue losing access to traditional markets. These evolving economic
systems are, in turn, influenced by cultural values and underpinned by social and
psychological models that influence the ways in which the peoples of SIDS understand
their options and make their choices. Thus, the sustainability of economic development
will be materially affected by a nexus of interacting biophysical, political, economic,
scientific, technological, social and cultural factors on local, regional and global levels.
These factors affect – and are also affected by – how communities, enterprises and
institutions in SIDS manage their wastes.
The information and experiences exchanged at the meeting defined the existing situation
with regard to waste management in SIDS as follows:
▪ Limited financial resources available from the public sector are resulting in an
unfortunate lack of waste management services. For example, only a few SIDS
are able to afford the investment in sanitary landfill or adequate sanitation and
sewage treatment facilities, which are the generally accepted methods of proper
waste management.
▪ As government revenues become more limited, new approaches such as
privatization of waste management services are now being instituted. One
consequence is that poor communities continue to have less than effective
systems of waste management, and often their only options are either to dispose
of waste by burning or to dump it in drainage systems.
▪ There is a lack of information that further compounds the waste management
challenge and also a lack of sharing of information on best practices. And there is
a lack of data in qualitative and quantitative terms, further hindering the decisionmaking process. Where such information exists there is often limited sharing and
dissemination. There is an absence of monitoring and effective use of measurable
▪ There is no coordinated approach among SIDS to facilitate the exchange of
experiences and the development of new approaches. Donor agencies, both bilateral and others, continue to provide support usually in the form of loans to
develop conventional waste systems. This results in the conversion of valuable
land resources into waste disposal sites, annual recurrent operational costs, and no
chance of any degree of cost recovery despite the economic value inherent in the
▪ Inadequate handling of waste problems in SIDS translates into concern of impacts
on freshwater resources and in the coastal zone. Freshwater resources and coastal
zone areas are vital to the welfare of SIDS. SIDS in general have limited
availability of freshwater resources; the importance of the coastal area stems from
its being the major location of economic activity (industry and tourism in
particular), and also home to the vast majority of the population.
Improper waste management represents a growing public health threat. In addition these coastal
areas are rich in biodiversity and are highly productive ecosystems critical to the
food security of SIDS.
▪ There is a lack of appropriate legal instruments in some cases; in others there is
inadequate enactment and a lack of enforcement, or both. In addition to this, there
is a lack of enforcement capacity as well as judicial awareness in most SIDS.
▪ Governments, the private sector, NGOs and local communities do not collaborate
adequately on waste management decisions.
▪ Many SIDS are parties to international conventions and protocols that mandate
the acceptance of imported waste. In some SIDS, ship- and airplane-generated
waste (both solid and liquid) constitutes a significant proportion of the total waste
stream requiring management. However, air and sea waste management facilities
in most SIDS are inadequate and constitute potential threats to the environment
and risks to public health. In addition there is a lack of harmonization of
regulations and procedures across regions. It is also clear that SIDS lack effective
capacity and mechanisms for the safe management of hazardous waste (agrochemical, nuclear, persistent organic pollutants or POPs, heavy metals, etc.).
▪ There is increasing evidence of public health and ecosystem impacts of
inappropriate waste management. Destruction of natural resources from current
waste management practices is a result of poor waste management practices
leading to pollution of groundwater resources and coastal waters, with associated
degradation of critical ecosystems, such as coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves
and coastal zones, and negative impacts on human health.
Dr. Thomas J. Goreau has made the following references in his work (please see Annex
“Excessive nutrients released to the coastal zone from poor human waste management is
the major factor causing coral reefs to be killed by algae. Coral reefs are the most
nutrient-sensitive of all ecosystems. They are overgrown by algae at such low levels of
nutrients that no other ecosystem would be affected. Water quality standards based on
human health permit nutrient levels hundreds of times too high for corals. Much stricter,
environmentally sound, nutrient standards are needed to protect coral reefs because
natural sources of nutrients are close to the limits that corals can tolerate in most reefs. A
strict policy of zero waste nutrient discharge to the coastal zone is needed. When nutrient
inputs are reduced, the algae quickly die off. Waste nutrients in the coastal zone not only
destroy the ecological and economic value of coral reefs for fisheries, tourism, shore
protection, and biodiversity, they represent a wasteful loss of fertilizers that are badly
needed on land.
“Most plant growth, especially on islands, is well below potential due to lack of nutrients,
An integrated nutrient management approach for whole islands and coastal zones is
essential to minimize waste and maximize useful production on land and in the sea.
Recycling nutrients on land is readily done using many approaches, whose effectiveness
and cost depend on population density and land availability. Effective nutrient recycling
would allow much greater production of food and energy on land while preventing
destruction of reefs and fisheries. At present no coastal zone management unit knows
how much nutrients are entering the coastal zone, where they are coming from, and the
effects of natural variations or management of them.
“No SIDS are using currently available state of the art technology, which would allow
continuous real-time measurements of nutrients to locate and every source and their
magnitude and changes. Developments of these tools are essential to placing coastal zone
management on a scientific basis and optimizing useful production in our lands and
waters, the very point of sustainable development. They ne
They need to be applied not just to the coastal zone but to the whole adjacent land watersheds.
Integrated management and recycling of all waste nutrients on land would result in true sustainable development of natural resources in both land and sea. Failure to manage nutrients properly will result in
crippling losses as global warming, sea level rise, storm intensity, and pollution rise out
of control.”
▪ The planning, development and implementation of public awareness, education
and information programmes tend to be ad hoc and insufficient. The impact of
such interventions is not assessed for their effectiveness.
▪ In addition to the lack of public awareness, there is inadequacy in the education
system combined with emigration of skilled labour. The complexity and fragility
of SIDS ecosystems and the need for improved knowledge of the impact of
wastes on ecosystem processes and biodiversity calls for greater public awareness
and education.
▪ Environmental education in the formal education system is weak, and
environmental issues are not adequately integrated into the curricula of primary
and secondary schools.
▪ In all SIDS there is a high degree of capacity limitation at the systemic,
institutional and individual levels. Particularly noteworthy at the systemic level is
the inadequacy of the policy, legislative, regulatory and enforcement framework.
In addition, the sources of financing available for waste management are limited,
and few external resources exist. Limited capacity and the onerous requirements
of funding agencies also negatively affect the ability of SIDS to access
international funding and to formulate appropriate plans and projects. This further
increases dependence on external, often non-SIDS, entities for project
development and implementation. Those that are available may lack experience
and understanding of the needs of SIDS communities and may have different
vested interests. At the institutional level, there is a lack of negotiating skills and
technical expertise to backstop project development and management. At the
individual level, there are few people with the requisite management and technical
▪ The human resource capacity of the agencies involved in waste management is
limited by the inadequacies of the formal education system, and also by the
emigration of many skilled workers to the developed economies.
▪ Careers in waste management may not be perceived as attractive.
▪ There are few examples of good partnerships between governments and the
private sector in effective waste management in SIDS; in all cases, poor
communities are underserved and thereby more susceptible to disease.
▪ There is no practising of integrated waste management in any SIDS. In some
SIDS, however, appropriate systems for effective waste management have been
developed and demonstrated. A range of technologies is available, but not
implemented, such as co-composting, anaerobic waste treatment systems and
composting toilets.
Consistent with Agenda 21, SIDS, in common with countries around the world, are
attempting to integrate environmental policy and economic development in a climate of
increasing global competitiveness. The economic recession of the 1980s spurred a
rethinking of approaches to dealing with waste. This has resulted in the view that waste is
a sign of inefficiency, something to reduce and avoid rather than conceal. And in the
opening session of the meeting the view was expressed that barriers to waste reduction in
particular were more “attitudinal” than technical. As population and economic growth
result in the generation of greater volumes of waste, continuation of the present trend will
mean increasing public health risks, and degradation of critical ecosystems and with them
the key services and goods they provide for the survival of SIDS.
SIDS share a number of characteristics that affect their ability to institute policies for
economic development including: limited internal markets; lack of economies of scale;
very high transportation costs resulting from the relatively small quantities involved;
grave vulnerability to natural disasters; significant difficulties in attracting foreign direct
investment; limited availability of human and institutional capacity; and the high cost of
domestic capital. For SIDS to remain competitive they will need to do a better job than
other countries of integrating environment protection and economic development policies
and strategies. This means that the existing attitudes in SIDS, which rate waste as a
nuisance to be disposed of and not as a resource, need to be radically altered. One of the
challenges is thus the restructuring of mindsets that prevent SIDS from seeing waste as a
resource, as a subject for management and for integration with other sectors of the
economy. The limited availability of land is a critical constraint for some technical
options for waste management in SIDS, and is thus a driving force for the adoption of the
integrated waste management (IWM) paradigm.
Increased private sector participation has been widely accepted as a way to improve
service delivery. However, limited contract management skills and private sector capacity
result increasingly in privatization approaches that are inappropriate, and can
compromise the access of poor, rural and isolated communities to IWM. In addition,
restricted financial resources and the lack of capacity in SIDS for effective privatization
have led to outcomes that have failed to meet expectations. Paramount among these
unmet expectations is equity of access for the poorer segments of the populations. Future
public-private partnerships to support waste management should ensure that there is
equitable participation of the local private sector and civil society. And that poor
communities are not discriminated against.
SIDS remain vulnerable to solicited or unsolicited proposals from promoters of untested
and inappropriate technologies. However, in many cases SIDS lack the technical capacity
to evaluate these proposals. There is seldom recognition of the economies of scale in such
applications as incineration and recycling making them economically viable. This can
result in waste of limited resources, and possibly lead to the application driving
unsustainable practices, further undermining the adaptation of potentially beneficial
innovations in SIDS.
The close linkage between increasing urbanization, changing patterns of consumption
and decreasing self-sufficiency, and increasing dependency on, and import of, polluting
and waste-laden imports, requires different approaches by the public sector. Growing
population densities are overloading waste management systems. Increased access to
water-based sanitary systems and a concomitant increase in domestic waste-water
generation has strained freshwater resources both in terms of quality and quantity.
Additionally, the absence of proper sewage treatment systems has significantly increased
the quantities of water-borne and sediment-rich nutrient loads in the near-shore and
aquatic environment, threatening critical ecosystems. The pollution of groundwater and
surface water resources in SIDS and in coastal areas by physical processes, chemical and
biological waste, and saltwater contamination and intrusion constitutes a critical health
and environmental issue, particularly in smaller islands and coral atolls.
Tourism is an important economic factor, but places additional stress on waste
management. Ultimately it could help destroy the very ecosystems on which it depends.

Document continues. Download the PDF to read the full version

Sub Topic:

Forum: None