Seychelles free from plastic bags by 2016?
SYAH is small in size and was formed only last year, thus leading small battles is our way of getting our voices heard and fighting to make positive changes in regards to sustainable development. The ‘Seychelles free from plastic bags’ campaign is the first national campaign which the association is leading and it is doing so alongside various other partners. As SYAH members, we are particularly protective about the environment by fear of losing the very resources which makes us what we are today. Plastic bags are an obvious problem when it comes to sustainable development for the following reasons; it litters the environment, becomes an eyesore, those which end up in the ocean are ingested by marine life mistaking it for food, it impacts economically because of its price and associated detriments, it creates a demand for more fossil fuels and so on. Now that we know that plastic bags cause more harm than good, what must we do?
We believe in the power of one i.e. individual and collective effort. For the past months, SYAH members and friends have committed themselves to sponsored cleaning beaches and coastlines as a means of raising funds for our main event. The areas covered include Intendance beach, Anse Etoile field and coastline, Bel Ombre fishing port, Anse aux Pins playground and beach and Cap Ternay. Moreover, posters have been placed in various shops across the country to raise awareness with shopkeepers and their clients.
Some of the key events that took take place during the two days celebrating anti-plastic bag day, 3rd -4th July are as follows; Friday 3 July featured a special youth event for students of the Anse Royale (South Mahe) region whereby they had the exciting opportunity of participating in a fun half day workshop on the theme. As of 9am to noon, SYAH was at the University of Seychelles campus and the programme included customizing your own reusable bags, followed by an informative presentation by WISEOCEANS, Sustainability for Seychelles, Grocers Supermarket then the viewing of a short video. The event ended with a debate on whether a ‘Seychelles free from plastic bags’ is possible. SYAH believes in the importance of indigenous knowledge thus the Elderly community was also present to give a talk about the cultural aspect of ‘sak vakwa’ and ‘kapatya’ (traditional bags used by Seychellois long ago). The activity got the youth to bring this unique product back to fashion, being a generation to hich trends matter a lot. Who knows, perhaps someday we can bring back the traditional way of carrying fish in one fashionable kapatya?
On Saturday 4 July, SYAH dedicated the day by hosting a special exhibition for its partners, especially Sustainability for Seychelles (S4S) who had interesting reusable bags available for the public. The exhibition comprised of information stalls, movie screenings and other interactive displays- the ideal stop-by for Saturday shoppers as is customary in Seychelles. Much to everyone’s excitement, SYAH also provided a packing service whereby the groceries of shoppers was repacked in reusable bags for free. Meanwhile, regular updates were posted on our facebook page especially created for our followers to have a more participative role in our online campaign. ‘A Seychelles free from plastic bags’ facebook page has over 300 likes and it allows our followers to view upcoming activities such as beach clean ups, post their own pictures of reusable bags or their own contribution towards a Seychelles free from plastic bags, comment or raise new issues, debate on topical issues, view poignant photographs of marine life affected by plastic bags and so on.
Now... how do we keep this momentum going and not let the project die along the way? How do we make sure that all these efforts do not go to waste? How do we ensure people will not use plastic bags not just through 3rd-4th July but throughout the whole year? SYAH is lobbying for the long term availability of reusable bags and in the long run, a total eradication of this environment menace. While the Montagne Posee prison and the Deaf Association has shown their support towards providing reusable bags by agreeing to sew it, SYAH feels that it needs funding to ensure its sustainability. Moreover, we feel that a bolder step to take is to lobby besides the relevant authorities, namely the government to ensure that Seychelles takes up the necessary steps to keep its reputation as a leader in environment protection and sustainable development.
So when they say… Seychelles free from plastic bags by 2016…in SYAH, we believe that this dream can become a reality.