‘Completing the cycle’ in Fiji: Improving the health of humans and the planet
21 August 2014 | News story
The LifeCycle initiative hit the road this week, as a multi-sector stakeholder meeting was held to help encourage the uptake of cycling in Fiji as a healthy and climate-friendly form of personal transport.
Fiji has a large number of low-grade, second-hand vehicles with old diesel engines. These vehicles pump out high levels of ‘particulate matter’ – tiny specks of soot that have chemicals that are toxic at high concentrations.
According to the World Health Organization, particulate matter is a pollutant of major public health concern. In people, it can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. It is also unhealthy for our planet – vehicle emissions contribute to climate change, which is predicted to have catastrophic consequences for the people of the Pacific Islands, and the globe as a whole.
There is also a big problem in Fiji with non-communicable diseases, which the Ministry of Health has identified as the leading cause of morbidity, disability and mortality in Fiji. Non-communicable diseases include heart disease, cancer, stroke, asthma, diabetes, and kidney disease. These are sometimes referred to as ‘lifestyle diseases’, because they can be caused by smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, poor nutrition and insufficient physical activity.
IUCN is implementing the LifeCycle initiative to improve the health of Fijians and the planet. The objective of LifeCycle is to promote the productive use of renewable energy through human-powered vehicles – in other words, riding bicycles!
The initiative aims to provide several cycling advocacy and development activities, including:
- Incentives for people to ride to and from work or study;
- Facilitating the creation of dedicated road space for cyclists;
- Forming tax incentive policies for employers who install cycle-friendly facilities;
- Detailed mapping of cycling routes and establishment of rural trails; and
- Training and certification for bicycle standards and maintenance.
Encouraging people to switch from automotive transport to bicycles will help achieve the LifeCycle initiative’s objectives of reducing fossil fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and the incidence of non-communicable diseases, in order to improve air quality and the national health of the Fijian population. This is consistent with the goals and objectives of the government ministries that have been involved in the planning process. The initiative will also seek to provide employment opportunities for youth in both urban and rural communities.
“The bicycle has, since its invention, proven to be the most energy efficient and cost effective method of transport. The ancillary benefits it provides in maintaining environmental integrity, increasing mobility independence for personal and commercial use, and positive health impact are all without equal. With the resounding support from the stakeholders we’ve engaged in both the government ministries and private sector agencies, we should see a much cleaner, safer, fitter Fiji emerge when people start hitting the ground on two wheels en masse.” said Andrew Irvin, Energy Programme Officer at IUCN Oceania.
The stakeholder meeting engaged participants with the LifeCycle initiative, with the aim of securing their involvement as the initiative rolls out. Participants include representatives from retailers, transport sector, government agencies (municipal and national level), universities and cycling advocacy groups.
LifeCycle is a collaborative campaign being jointly implementation by IUCN Oceania and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), in line with the goals and objectives of the Oceania Centre for Sustainable Transport established between IUCN Oceania and the University of the South Pacific.
For more information please contact Andrew Irvin, Energy Programme Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org.