TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Joao Carrascalão, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure
Thank you for the invitation to speak.
To refresh our minds – what is Sustainable Development?
“Development is sustainable if it meets the needs (economic, social and environmental) of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”.
As per the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development “Our Common Future ”(1987).
- Hence, essentially we must replenish/substitute whatever we degrade/destroy in nature in the interest of our economic development and livelihood, so that our children and grand children are not deprived of their fair share of nature. Furthermore, our endeavors to improve our standards of living must not disturb the harmony in the natural world and ecological balance.
- East Timor must develop an integrated sustainable development strategy in which sustainable economic development will be based upon sustainable infrastructure while reversing the environmental degradation and conserving natural resources for future generations.
- Conserving natural resources in East Timor is indispensable since no attention has been paid to this aspect throughout the last few centuries.
- It is also essential that we address the issue of sustainable development not only in the context of environment but along with poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy, so that environment does not get disproportionate attention to the detriment of other essential issues for improving our society. This is particularly true for East Timor. Hence there has to be a balance regarding our funding of all the above mentioned factors and inter-sectoral priorities.
- As Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, I am fully conscious of applying sustainable development principles with regard to environment in everything my Department plans and executes.
Infrastructure and environment are interrelated. For instance, whenever a road is constructed, it results in deforestation, excavation/erosion of soil, and siltation of streams and rivers.
Similarly, construction of an airport results in displacement of communities, disturbance to natural habitats and serious noise pollution. Construction of a port disturbs marine life, leads to pollution of the sea from shipping and affects traditional methods of earning livelihoods by coastal communities. Power stations cause noise pollution, and dispose of oil and lubricants, which pollute underground water. In the field of sanitation, disposal of waste without polluting streams and rivers is a serious concern. Maintaining the supply of hygienic and potable water to the population is a big challenge in view of constant pollution from a number of sources.
Whereas, I will enunciate a comprehensive policy in due course, I wish to share with you certain measures that I have in mind to prevent the following ill effects in the field of infrastructure.
Examples of problems and mitigating solutions
- Soil Erosion: Planting grass/trees.
- Siltation of riverbeds by soil material and waste: Identification of appropriate dumping sites.
- Sudden change in the means of livelihood of affected communities: Relocation facilities and establishment of alternative industries. Policy on Involuntary Re-settlement.
- Endangering wildlife/habitat characteristics: Reconsider alignment, if possible including economic.
- Noise pollution from construction equipment during construction period: Legislation and use of noise barriers.
- Pollution from vehicle exhausts: Set proper emissions standards by law.
- Emission from Thermal Power Plants: Set proper emissions standards by law.
Policies to be developed
A National Sustainable Development Strategy for East Timor and national environmental laws need to be developed. Policies need to be in place to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments are undertaken simultaneously with feasibility studies for infrastructure projects. Data management for effective environmental planning and management is also crucial. An appropriate policy needs to be developed on Involuntary Resettlement.
Cost of Environmental Protection.
East Timor has limited funds. We do not have enough money for infrastructure and many other urgent needs of our society. While environment protection is important, here too we will have limited funding.
Citizens and NGOs must support and undertake measures for environmental protection, as government cannot do everything.
Experience of Pacific Island Nations.
I would like to interact with Pacific Island Nations to learn from their experiences of building infrastructure, without damaging the environment and with limited funds available to the State.
While, we will study the ideas proposed by the international community, East Timor should develop indigenous solutions consistent with its culture.
I am looking forward to the final tangible and feasible recommendations of this Conference and I would certainly be happy to nominate one of my officers to represent the Infrastructure Department on the proposed Task Force on Sustainable Development.