Dakhla (Morocco), March 28 (IANS) For the first time in the world, a tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean has made it mandatory for visitors to sign a pledge not to harm its fragile environment — before entering the country. The Republic of Palau, an archipelago of around 200 natural limestone and volcanic islands with lush forests and an aquamarine lagoon, has recently changed its immigration laws upholding the cause of environmental protection.
Upon entry, visitors need to sign the pledge to preserve and protect the island nation’s environment during their stay there. The pledge is being stamped on the passports of international arrivals from January this year.
Pierre-Emmanuel Quirin, President of the Crans Montana Forum (CMF), signed the pledge in the presence of the First Lady of the Republic of Palau, Debbie Remengesau, during the CMF on Africa and South-South Cooperation held in this Moroccan Sahara city recently.
The First Lady of Palau recently founded the Palau Legacy Project and the Palau Pledge to make visitors and residents aware of the impact of their actions and the important role they play in protecting the island nation’s environment and culture.
The Palau Pledge is an oath in the form of stamp that is issued by the Palau immigration officers for visitors to sign upon arrival, acting as an agreement to act responsibly when staying in the South Pacific state.
“Children of Palau, I take this pledge, as your guest, to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home. I vow to tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully. I shall not take what is not given. I shall not harm what does not harm me. The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away,” the pledge states.
All tourists are required to sign the pledge and follow the environment protection checklist. Non-adherence could lead to a penalty.
“Palauans have also taken the pledge, from the President, the first pledgee, to traditional chiefs and residents. Education will play an important part in supporting the pledge as locals commit to protecting and celebrating the uniqueness of their sacred home. A new curriculum for primary and secondary school students and other programmes will help build eco-awareness in tomorrow’s leaders and conscious business principles within the tourist sector,” the palaupledge.com website states.
Over 47,560 pledges have been taken so far.
“It is our responsibility to show our guests how to respect our island home, just as it is their duty to uphold the signed pledge when visiting,” Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau, stated.
Palauans are hoping that other nations would also follow this unique initiative.
“What we hope is that the world will take notice,” Keobel Sakuma, Director of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, stated.
With global concerns in recent years over climate change and environment protection, the island nation has certainly taken the first big step to ensure a safe environment.
(Jaideep Sarin, Editor-North with IANS, was in Morocco on the invitation of the Crans Montana Forum. He can be contacted on [email protected])