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Private sector said key to successful fight against coastal, marine pollution

Dominican Republic exemplifies environmental stewardship at the 1st COP to the Protocol concerning pollution from Land Based Activities (LBS Protocol)

POLLUTION is a constant to the Caribbean Sea, as is the daily tide, but it doesn’t have to be so — not if the private sector gets involved, say key stakeholders involved in a recent meeting held by the United Nations Environment Programme.

The Grupo Punta Cana (GPC) — which owns and operates the Punta Cana Airport, three hotels and various residential properties in the Dominican Republic — demonstrates this well.

The group engages in and encourages ecological and sustainable development practices in the provision of all services; from electricity to water, water treatment, and waste management.

And by considering the local community one of its key stakeholders interacts with them carefully. Its sub-companies must conform to local environmental licences and permits — high standards having been introduced in the groups early days, even before the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Environment was established.

As such, it led by example and was well prepared to conform to the legal and regulatory framework developed subsequently by the national authorities. It was a founding member of the Partnership for Ecologically- Sustainable Coastal Areas (PESCA), which promotes sustainable fishing and tourism in particular.

GPC’s enlightened approach has allowed it to have a good working relationship with the government and the local community and to be authentic in its representation to the public as practising sustainable development.

“The company sees sustainable use and development as a competitive edge. It aims to influence the mind-set of other businesses in the area. Tourism is an image business,” said Jake Kheel, the group’s environmental director.

They see themselves as investors with a long-term commitment, which is good for the community, the environment and the company. It is no accident that all of the area resorts have water treatment plants, that no buildings are more than three storeys high, that water reuse is being introduced in the area for irrigation, that two tonnes of garbage is recycled each day, and that biomass is used to fuel a steam laundry.

“Long-term commitment works,” said Kheel.

This example was seen as a model at the first Conference of the Parties to the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-Based Activities (LBS Protocol), held in late October 2012 in the Dominican Republic. As part of the meeting activities, a panel of experts from different sectors reflected on their individual experiences with marine and coastal pollution.

It allowed all participants to appreciate various perspectives — private, industrial, Government, NGO, and donors at national as well as regional levels — as they identified the barriers to achieving greater progress in managing land-based sources of marine pollution.

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