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Mourad Teyeb 

Tunisia Makes Environmental Strides 
Mourad Teyeb 

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Legislature and the Textiles and Agro-food Industries

A study on the impact of environment legislature on commerce and competitiveness on textiles and agro food industries

The study on the impact on environment legislature on the competitiveness of the textiles and agrofood industries carried out by the ministry of environment and the Environment Technical Assistance Program for the Mediterranean (METAP), was presented during around table discussion held at the Tunis Center for Environment Technologies (CITET). A Dirge number of high officials. policy makers and businessmen took part in the table discussion.

Mr. Feiza Kefi, Environment Minister. stressed the fact that Tunisia has inscribed protecting the environment and working for sustainable development within its development agenda in the light of changing international contexts and the impact of globalization. The national exhaustive and integral mice a niveau program, gives paramount importance to environment matters and encourages companies to adopt depolluting programs and include environment friendly manufacturing costs in their provisions for production and management of various waste. This approach is likely to consolidate competitiveness of our manufactured goods in foreign markets the minister said.

Mrs. Kefi also briefed participants on major incentives, for a clean manufacturing including the package label within the ECOLEF project, the national fund to assist enterprises in their antipollution or pollution management programs, (FODEP), the elaboration of local standards for i the protection of domestic markets by banning goods that are labelled polluting and the Environment Technologies Center. The Minister said that ecological standards imposed on exports or exchanges should not be considered obstacles but means to protect the environment and natural resources as the pillars of any sustainable development project. Environmentfriendly manufactured goods can only consolidate their competitiveness in foreign markets.

Green is Clean

If you are in the habit of chucking your litter about on the streets, don't do it in Tunisia - or Labib will get you. Labib is a cartoon character, a long-eared desert fox with immaculately clean habits. You see him everywhere: on posters, in the form of statues, on television, in newspapers and in dedicated magazines. 

Labib, which is a diminutive from the Arabic meaning 'friend of the environment', is an amiable enough character until he sees litter. On television, you see Labib swooping down to pick up a cigarette packet discarded by a truck driver and stuff it into the astonished driver's mouth; or you see him collecting all the debris from a family picnic and emptying it over the heads of the guilty parties.

"Labib stands for no nonsense," says an official from the Environment Ministry. The Ministry's aggressive campaign to instill a clean-environment culture in the population initially upset some people. "But look at Tunisia today," he adds proudly. Indeed, as French landscape photographer Henri Malon told me: "I have traveled all over the Mediterranean region and I can honestly not think of a country that is cleaner than Tunisia today. "Measured by any yardstick, the pace of Tunisia's 'green revolution' must be the most astonishing in the world. Credit for this must go to the enthusiastic and pragmatic manner in which the government has tackled green issues. "I have been passionate about the environment for as long as I can remember," he underlines. 

The country already has 55 sewage treatment plants in operation and 30 more are under construction. Compare this to Morocco which has three times Tunisia's population but only one treatment plant. Not a drop of untreated sewage water reaches the sea in any Tunisian tourist area. By 2001, there will be 100 treatment plants. New technology to treat waste water was developed in Tunisia itself. The treated water is recycled to irrigate the country's many golf courses, parks, roadside plantings, cotton fields and non-food crops. "Information is vital". 

The Ministry holds regular press conferences and keep informing the public what our actions are all about. Communication with the public takes the form of illustrated publications, cartoons, and television and radio programs geared for audiences ranging in age from infants, through primary and secondary schools, to university level and 

Three symbols are also created and have been of great help in getting the message across. The symbols take the form of different colored hands: 'blue hand' for water conservation; 'green hand' for flora conservation and 'yellow hand' to manage deserts. Part of the 'blue hand' strategy, for example, means that in water-short Tunisia, heavy users of water pay higher rates as a means of discouraging them from wasteful consumption. The 'green hand' campaign, aimed at regenerating deforested areas, provides alternatives, such as kerosene stoves and solar powered ovens, to reduce the demand for fuel wood. Each year, schoolchildren and boy scouts plant thousands of trees on Arbor day to complement government reforestation programs in areas stripped bare by over grazing and environmentally harmful farming practices. The reforestation target is 15% by 2005. The 'yellow hand' program aims to halt and reverse desertification by planting windbreaks, stabilizing sand dunes and draining land that have become saline to make them arable again. 

The preservation and protection of our eco-systems is vital. A number of beautiful national parks in the mountainous north and in the central region have been created. You must visit Lake Ichkeul, north of Tunis, which is a protected wetland. Millions of birds come to winter here and you can see dozens of endangered flora and 
fauna species. 

Above the Ministry of Environment is the National Committee on Environmental Development presided over by the Prime Minister.This body bring in all Ministries and other relevant bodies to co-ordinate their activities within sound environmental and sustainable parameters. Environmental impact studies are compulsory for all sectors. "Even if you want to put up an advertising hoarding, you have to carry out an impact study. This also applies to hotels, factories, hospitals, the lot", says the Official. "We monitor pollution rigorously. If, say, a factory has pollution problems, we sit down with them and work out solutions. Once we have worked out a remedial plan, the factory is expected to pay 30% of the costs, we chip in 20% and the remaining 50% is raised through very low-interest bank credits," he add, and urban landscaping is very much part of the program. "We have created 100 urban parks, most of which used to be forests," says the Minister of Environment. "Today there are five sq meters of green space for every urban dweller; our aim is 10 sq meters in the near future. 

"Tunisia's environmental policy is now regarded as the model for other countries in the region to follow. In 1996, the International Center for Environmental Technologies was opened in Tunis. It is not only a scientific research center but also a training institution for personnel from African and southern Mediterranean countries. Will Tunisia pass the European environmental regulatory test come 2008? "With flying colors!" , and Labib seems to nod in total agreement.

Protecting and Enhancing the Cultural Legacy

Tunisia is spotlighting its cultural past to help make the adjustment to a more challenging future

Says Mohamed Ghannouchi, the former minister of international cooperation and foreign investment, who has been prime minister since Nov. 17: ''Culture is key to coping with any external crises or challenges our country may face.'' To ensure the continuation of a culture that dates back over 3,000 years, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has announced that the government will gradually increase the cultural budget to 1 percent of gross domestic product during the next four years. In addition, the Ministry of Culture is currently being rebuilt in Tunis's Place du Gouvernement.

''We are a small country, and we realize that despite all of our economic and political achievements, we are nothing without our culture,'' says Minister of Culture Abdelbaki Hermassi, who notes that the Bardo Museum is opening an exhibit called ''Mahdia's Treasures'' this month. ''I am continually fascinated that Tunisia, once the center of civilization at the heart of the Mediterranean, has a cultural identity that includes Punic, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Arab, Turkish and French influences.''

It should come as little surprise that seven cultural remnants - including Carthage, the medina of Tunis, the El-Jem amphitheater, Kerkouane, the medinas of Sousee and Kairouan, and the site of Dougga - are on the Unesco list of World Heritage sites. A number of projects, including a multinational cultural conference to be held in Carthage at the end of next year, are intended to lead to more programs to ''protect and add value'' to renowned sites.

Carthage, founded by Queen Dido in 814 B.C. and the location of one of Islam's most ancient and holiest mosques, built when the religion was introduced there in the seventh century, will be the focal point of much cultural development.

''During the past decades, we have safeguarded what's left of Carthage,'' says Mr. Hermassi. ''But now we want to quit talking about the destruction of Carthage by the Romans and launch the real reconstruction of Carthage by the Tunisians.''

Among the projects that will soon get under way are the $$3 million Hannibal Memorial, the $5 million reconstruction of the Punic ports to the city and the resumption of archaeological digs. ''Our ultimate goal is a natural heritage and cultural 'Carthage Park,' which will preserve the entire area for future generations,'' he adds.

Another key project is the development of a ''City of Culture,'' to be built on eight hectares (20 acres) of land on Avenue Mohamed V in downtown Tunis. This, when it opens in 2003, will be the site of a 1,200-seat theater, an art museum and gallery, a media library and a Civilization Museum, which will portray the layers of past Tunisian cultures.


Email: Mourad Teyeb 

Mourad Teyeb Mourad Teyeb holds degrees in English and Literature, Educational Psychology, and Computer Science.  Fluent in English, French, Arabic, German, and Italian. Mourad's, Mourad trained with the African Center for the Training and with Recycling of  Journalists, Tunisian Papers and Magazines.  In additional to journalism, Mourad has also had travel agent tour operating training. (More about Mourad Teyeb.)

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