By Pratch Rujivanarom
Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat told a press conference after the “Special Asean Ministerial Meeting on Marine Debris” in Bangkok yesterday that all member states have approved in principle the Bangkok Declaration – Asean’s first agreement to tackle marine trash – as well as the Asean Action Framework on Marine Debris.
“We have had productive discussions on the regional framework to tackle the marine debris problem, as delegates from each Asean country clearly stated their country’s intention to mitigate improperly-managed refuse and stop the flow of garbage into the sea,” Surasak |said.
“Every Asean member state has accepted the general principles of both agreements and agreed to ratify them at the Asean Summit this June.”
He said that though the ministers of the 10 Asean countries had reached a consensus on the Declaration, which covers collaboration and marine debris monitoring and research, they could not ratify the agreement right away, because some had to get approval from their governments first.
Surasak revealed that the delegates had also presented their national measures to deal with garbage problems both on land and in the sea, sharing their experiences of methods to tackle marine plastic pollution.
He said that the discussions, collaboration and consultation on marine debris mitigation in Southeast Asia will be carried further, as there will be a series of meetings among Asean member states and related stakeholders to draft a detailed action plan and road map for each locality.
Surasak also revealed that the Knowledge Centre on Asean Marine Debris would be established in Indonesia with technological and financial support from Japan.
It will be the central agency |for gathering information about marine garbage pollution in the region and developing innovation solutions and countermeasures to reduce plastic litter leaking into the sea.
He said a branch of the knowledge centre would also be set up in Thailand to be a centre for countries in the Mekong River Basin to mitigate their garbage problem and reduce the flow of litter from the Mekong River to the ocean.
Asean secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi praised Thailand for initiating the first official collaboration among Asean member states to mitigate plastic pollution in the sea. He, however, called for an even larger and more intensive collaboration to achieve the goal of reducing marine debris.
Lim said Asean has a “long and beautiful stretch of coastline”, shared by almost every country in the region, which greatly benefits the region through the bountiful marine resources and substantial earnings from tourism.
Threat to fishing and tourism
However, he stressed that due to the huge amounts of plastic garbage being dumped into the sea from countries along the Southeast |Asian coastline, there is a grave threat to the ocean environment and that the region’s fisheries and tourism industry are paying a heavy price.
He said the marine debris problem was transboundary in nature, as marine garbage could float freely across the ocean, carried by water currents.
He emphasised the need for not only greater collaboration among the member countries, but from every related stakeholder including the public.
“An intensive partnership between every stakeholder to promote sustainable consumption of resources, efficient solid waste management, circular economy implementation, and innovation are among the most important measures that will allow us to secure a sustainable future for our future generations,” he added.