World Wetlands Day 2009 -- Marshall Islands

23/03/2009

WWD 2009 report from The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)

With modest funding from RMI Environmental Protection Authority for refreshments, the Jaluit High School Health & Environment Club conducted an informative PowerPoint presentation for the members of the Jaluit Atoll Local Council and the high school students. The presentation focused on Wetlands, their ecosystems and services to the community and the people. With the assistance of the High School principal (Mr. Joseph Cain), his students made an excellent presentation that really impressed the councilmen. The students were praised for their presentation by the councilmen and the community leaders who attended the event.

The Mayor spoke on behalf of the traditional leaders and the council to thank the students for such educational presentations, which really helped to raise their awareness of the important functions of the mangrove wetlands and the plants that also grow in the mangrove swamps. In addition, he also provided a little background as to why Jaluit Atoll was designated by the RMI Government to be the first Ramsar site in the Republic. Moreover, he told the students that in the early days, the mangrove forests were once in abundance of land crabs which are very popular source of protein for the locals. In fact, the inhabitants of Jaluit Atoll are quite healthy because of nutrients from the crab meat. In addition to mud crabs, there were also Mangrove crabs which are no longer in existence in the mangrove swamps due to over-harvesting. “It is sad that young people like you can only see this kind of mangrove crab only in pictures but not in real life because they are extinct today” said the Mayor.

“The mangrove forests were the safest spot on the land during typhoons because they could withstand the force of the high waves and provided a safe area for the people to seek shelter. I know this because during one of the early typhoons when I was till a boy, our elders advised all the people on the island to seek shelter in the mangrove forests to wait for the typhoon to pass,” said the mayor.

During questions and answers, the students raised their concern with the Mayor that many of the incoming passenger and cargo vessels to the island just discard their wastes into the surrounding waters and the police do nothing about it. The Mayor promised the students that the local police would make sure that such vessels do not use their lagoon for dumping their wastes.

Everybody in the audience were pleased and proud of what the students were able to accomplish. To many of the elders, it was hard to believe that the students could really explain the importance of mangroves and their ecosystems.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. John Bungitak
General Manger
RMIEPA
PO Box 1322
Majuro
Marshall Islands 96960
Phone: 692 625 3035
Fax: 692 625 5202
Email: eparmi@ntamar.net

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