President Surangel Whipps Jr. declared the week of April 19th to the 23rd to be National Earth Week for Palau, in the interest of “protecting the health of the Palauan people and our environment from the impacts of plastic pollution [and other threats]”.
The week coincides with the observance of Earth Day 2021, a holiday celebrated in 193 countries on April 22, which this year focuses on a general theme of “Restore our Earth: Be part of the solution”.
“Earth Day is an annual reminder of the constant need for environmental activism, stewardship commitments, and sustainability efforts,” the President’s proclamation states. “Sustainability will only be achieved by being able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.”
The proclamation identifies a number of challenges facing the environment, including plastic pollution, expanding urban areas, and the mass extinction of plant and animal species.
“It is more important than ever to cooperate locally and internationally to build on the ongoing momentum on the progress of environmental protection,” the proclamation says.
Earth Day generally revolves around campaigns designed to build environmental awareness. This year, on April 21, the day before Earth Day, President David Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is hosting a virtual forum with partners in the Micronesia Challenge, a commitment made 15 years ago by the governments of Palau, the FSM, the Marshall Islands, Guam, and the Mariana Islands, to conserve at least 30 percent of near-shore marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020. The new goals for the Micronesia Challenge 2030 include conserving 50 percent of marine resources and 30 percent of terrestrial resources. The forum will focus on “bright spots and lessons learned” during the first 15 years of the challenge.
President Whipps has already identified a number of new steps he is trying to take to conserve marine environments, such as instituting size and catch limits for reef fish.
Plastic pollution has also posed a serious problem to many of Palau’s sites, including the rock islands and most especially the beaches of Kayangel, which continue to accumulate plastic waste from the ocean, much of which comes from outside of Palau. In response, many government agencies, schools, and dive companies continue to organize beach and underwater cleanups, while the Government of Japan continues to promote the development of recycling programs in Palau.

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