One in the bag for the environment in Nicaragua16/07/2013 - by Maya Schaerer, Netherlands Red Cross, Managua, and the Climate Centre
The Nicaraguan Red Cross (NRC) is taking part in a drive begun by the government earlier this year to reduce the cumulatively huge quantity of garbage that gets thrown out of bus and taxi windows every day in the capital, Managua.
In a campaign originated in selected municipalities together with the Nicaraguan environment and transport ministries and local government, reusable garbage bags are being given to taxi and bus companies for people to deposit their trash on board and not in the street.
A parallel campaign to reduce that ubiquitous modern environmental curse, the plastic shopping bag, is also underway and includes the distribution of reusable bags.
Volunteers are stationed outside supermarkets, for example, and give reusable bags to people as they emerge with their shopping.
The Netherlands Partners for Resilience (PfR) programme for climate- and ecosystem-smart risk reduction supporting the NRC campaign is centred on the municipalities of Somoto, San Lucas, Las Sabanas, San Jose de Cusmapa and Puerto Cabezas.
Just after last year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13 October, PfR partners held a fair in Somoto where, among other events, hundreds of children traded stamps they collected at stands for reusable bags.
Over two days in February this year, the NRC linked up with the Italian NGO Gruppo di Volontariato Civile, the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University, the environment ministry and the municipality to distribute reusable bags outside supermarkets in Puerto Cabezas – one of the main towns on the country’s Caribbean coast.
Ansia Alvarez, PfR programme coordinator for the NRC, explains: “Good waste management and reduction of the use of plastic bags are becoming priorities in Nicaragua – to protect the environment that provides us with food and water and enables tourism.
“It’s also important to stop drains getting blocked and causing floods. So far the programme has distributed 6,000 reusable bags in five municipalities.”
In a separate project supported by the Italian Red Cross called Hermano Sol (Brother Sun), the NRC has produced another 3000 environmentally-friendly bags that are being distributed along the Pacific coast.
The environmental projects in Nicaragua are only the most recent of their kind undertaken by the Red Cross Red Crescent worldwide, which is increasingly involved in this kind of work.
Some Red Crescent societies in the Middle East and North Africa region, for example, carried out a programme called “Think Green”.
And the Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) is now implementing a risk reduction project in four communities that includes a component – identified in vulnerability and capacity assessments – aimed at improving the management of communities’ solid waste.
“Another intervention being looked at is the provision of reusable shopping bags to each household,” says Ahmed Siyah, Project Officer for the MRC’s community-based disaster risk reduction project.
“The disposal of plastic bags is a significant issue due the quantity being thrown out and the difficulty of safe disposal.”
The first rubbish bags for buses were delivered in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, on 11 July 2013 with the help of the UNDP and the offices of the local police and mayor. (Photo: Nicaraguan Red Cross)