Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica, announced his Government’s bold decision to ban plastic on the 27th of July. He was quoted as saying that such a ban was in accordance with his administration’s vision of making the island nation the first climate resilient country in the world.
Like most others, I, too, wrongly concluded that the news referred to the Caribbean island nation, The Dominican Republic. It turns out that there is a whole other island called the Commonwealth of Dominica located in the West Indies. And a very bountiful island at that.
The following tidbit is taken from the official Dominican website, www.dominica.dm:
“Dominica’s location is 15 degrees North latitude and 61 degrees West longitude. The island sits midway along the Eastern Caribbean archipelago, just a few miles from Martinique to the south and Guadeloupe to the north.”
Two-thirds of the land area of Dominica is enveloped by rainforests, not to mention the wide array of flora and fauna that is bound to be present in such lush lands. The climate has features typical of the tropics, with a large number of rivers, lakes, streams and waterfalls, fed, of course, by the high annual rainfall rate. The island also has a feature common to the equatorial regions. There are volcanoes and sulphurous rocks, geothermal pools and seas with warm beds!
The Prime Minister’s announcement has many facets to it. For one thing, the import of non-biodegradable containers will be restricted in order to try to curb their usage in restaurants. Skerrit also referred to the fact that solid waste management has become a baffling issue. In light of the devastation brought on by Hurricane Maria in 2017, this decision would augment the initiative to develop sustainable practices and make Dominica hurricane-resilient.
Come January 1st of the new year, all plastic knives, forks, plates, Styrofoam cups and containers will be off-limits to the 70000 good citizens of Dominica.
All this leads to the question of motivation behind such an iron-tight policy. We don’t have to look too far, however. Dominica’s warm waters have been home to the largest population of sperm whales which migrate here in the summer. Since sperm whales aren’t the only visitors during the sunny times, a fair quantity of plastic can be found floating on the waters. What happened next is all too familiar. The animals, particularly young calves, were found dead on the shores. Lots of tourists have also claimed that seeing floating plastic trash, even in a place as remote as Dominica, does take the lustre off of the pristine waters.
Undertaking such an ambitious project is certainly a commendable action by the bearers of the title of ‘Nature Isle’, as Dominica is popularly called. In the words of Margaret Mead, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’