April is Environmental Awareness Month

Do you understand why it is important to protect our environment?

It’s Environmental Awareness Month! Help spread awareness on the importance of caring for and protecting our environment. Fun activities are lined up throughout April, including painting and recycling competitions, raingarden restorations, lab tours, eco-waving, and cleanups, so join in, participate, and help keep the CNMI clean and beautiful. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

The environment is fragile and is in need of protection. It is especially true here on island, given the limited available land where food is grown, surrounded by the ocean with all the delicate corals and precious marine life.

Nature provides, everything is interconnected. We all need to be aware and mindful of how much of what we do impacts everything around us, and how the environment affects us.

Article I, Section 9 of the CNMI Constitution says, “Each person has the right to a clean and healthful public environment in all areas, including the land, air, and water,” meaning, we all must be able to enjoy clean land, air, and water. But, with every right comes responsibilities. It is also up to us to make sure we have clean land, air, and water.

The CNMI is blessed for having solid indigenous knowledge that sustains the natural environment, with the respected elders who continue to teach, pass on sacred wisdom, and inspire the next generations.

We are also blessed to have farmers and fishermen, gardeners, who respect the land and waters, and ensure resources are sustained. We are all so privileged to have scientists and environment workers who research on corals, fish, wildlife, forests to ensure they are all protected. But most of all, we are fortunate to have each other, working together to keep the island healthy.

‘Let’s all work together’

April has been officially declared as Environmental Awareness Month here in the CNMI, and this year’s theme is “A Clean Environment for a Healthy Community.’”And, on April 22, the CNMI will also be one with the rest of the world in the international Earth Day celebration.

In the proclamation, we are being reminded that through the Commonwealth Environmental Protection Act, policies are in place, including enforcement on environmental standards, ‘to protect and preserve marine resources and uninhabited islands; to promote the highest attainable quality of life for all generations; to preserve, protect, and improve the aesthetic quality of land, air, water, and all natural resources of the CNMI.

All these so everyone who experiences the island can enjoy its beauty.

Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, in the proclamation this week, also recognized the work of the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality in developing, implementing, and enforcing the policies set forth in the Act, as well as its partner agencies and organizations such as the Department of Land and Natural Resources-Forestry, Division of Fish & Wildlife, Historic Preservation Office, Northern Marianas College, the National Park Service, and the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance.

Palacios also stressed the need to reinforce our responsibility to maintain and protect our shared environment for the wellness and health of our community.

“Our environmental resources must be protected and improved to better sustain our island way of life, as well as benefit the CNMI’s important tourism economy. Each of us must do our part daily to protect and conserve these vital and essential natural resources,” he said.

“We assure the responsibility to ensure that Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands remain clean with bountiful natural resources for our present and future generations. It is our obligation; it is our privilege. Let’s all work together.”

Environmental awareness activities

Environmental awareness need not be boring, and so for this, a number of fun activities have been lined up for students and for the general public—including painting and recycling contests, lab tours, environmental expo, raingarden restorations, and cleanups—so we can all get involved and help spread more love for the environment.

But, first off, show your support for environmental protection and conservation by honking your horn as you drive by the BECQ office in Gualo Rai on Friday, April 9, from 3:30pm to 4:30pm, as staff and partners will be eco-friendly waving to kick off the celebration of the Environmental Awareness Month.
Here are the rest of the activities scheduled for the entire month, complete with details and persons to contact so you could join in!

I. Storm Drain Mural Painting Contest
Beginning April 9 with on-site painting on April 14

“Are you an artist who wants to make a difference?” This is an open invitation to all high school and college students! Submit your storm drain art to BECQ for a chance to win cash, plus the opportunity to paint your message in Garapan to raise awareness that improperly-disposed trash and other pollutants run-off from our watershed and into the ocean.

Prizes: 1st place ($200), 2nd place ($100) and 3rd place ($75). Five others will win “honorable mention” and $50 each

The deadline to submit your artwork is on April 9. On-site painting in Garapan begins on April 14, and winners will be announced on June 8, to celebrate the “World’s Oceans Day.”

For this event, students will also receive Service Learning/Community Service hours. BECQ will provide the paint and other materials. To get the submission form and for more information, contact Olivia Tenorio at 664-8531 or email olivia.tenorio@becq.gov.mp

II. Recycling in the Marianas Competition
Entire April with announcement of winners on April 30

All public and private schools in Saipan are invited to compete in Recycling in the Marianas, where at the end of the competition, schools that recycle the heaviest weight per category, will win some cash! Competition is all throughout April, and the winners will be announced on April 30.

Prizes: 1st place (cardboard: $125), 2nd place (plastic water bottles: $125), and 3rd place (aluminum soda cans: $125)

To register your school, and for more information, contact Marlyn C. Naputi at 664-8545 or email her at marlyn.naputi@becq.gov.mp.

III. Lab Tours
April 9, 16, 29, and 30

BECQ will be opening up their facilities for Lab Tours on April 9, 16, 29, and 30, to give students an insight on what it’s like to work in a laboratory, to gain knowledge on the importance of testing our water quality, and to learn how to tell whether our beaches are safe to swim in.

To sign up for the Lab Tours, and for more information, contact Miso Sablan or Charito Bautista at (670) 664-8500, or email: miso.sablan@becq.gov.mp or charito.baustita@becq.gov.mp.

IV. Virtual Environmental Expo (for all 5th graders)
April 27-28 from 8am-11am (Tuesday and Wednesday)

All 5th grade students and educators are invited to participate in the Virtual Environmental EXPO where they can learn from natural resource groups who will be sharing presentations, or outreach materials virtually, on how to further protect our students during this public health emergency.

To register your school for the Expo, and for more information, contact Zabrina Shai via email at zabrina.shai@becq.gov.mp or call/leave a voice message at (670) 664-8512.

V. Raingarden Restoration (CLOSED Event)
Tanapag Elementary School, April 23

On April 23, Tanapag Middle School will be launching its Raingarden Restoration Project, to improve the school’s capacity to capture storm water runoff, and mitigate erosion and its effects on land and nearshore habitats. Constructed to help control storm water, the raingarden also provides aesthetically-pleasing “green spaces” within communities.

With native wetland plant species used, the raingarden also serves as habitat for native species, and provides for an educational opportunity for Tanapag students. The project promotes Green Infrastructure, and is part of the Best Management Practices on island.

VI. Island Wide Cleanup (FREE and OPEN to public groups)
Registration ends at April 16, with cleanups on April 23 and 24

BECQ is inviting and encouraging community groups and organizations (school classes/clubs, sport/church groups, private organizations, and government agencies) to participate in the Island-Wide Cleanup, and help “pick up” trash in various locations throughout the CNMI.

Registration deadline is on April 16, no later than 4pm, and cleanups will be on April 23, from 3pm-4:30pm, and on April 24, from 8am-10am. To register, or for more information, contact Emma Iriarte (emma.iriarte@becq.gov.mp) and/or Mr. Austin Flores (austin.flores@becq.gov.mp) or contact them at 664-8500.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com

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