Lovers of the St. Lawrence River and of ecology will have the chance to participate in a dinner conference to benefit the ZIP Committee of Upper St. Lawrence on May 13 at 6:00 pm, to be held at the Valleyfield Nautical Club. For this occasion, Karel Mayrand of the David Suzuki Foundation and former adviser to the United Nations will hold a conference entitled, “Notre fleuve vivant” (Our living river).
Mr. Mayrand is inviting residents to follow him as he embarks “on a journey that will begin from the Great Lakes all the way to the Magdalen Islands.” He believes that even if the health of the river is good in spite of its altered river banks and oil leaks caused by maritime transport, the speaker wishes to highlight the interdependence that exists between the health of the St. Lawrence River and that of the population. “After all, we’re made up of 70% water!” And of this 70%, 43% comes from the St. Lawrence and goes into the homes of people who live along the river since it is their principal source of water.”
Even if Karel Mayrand has worked to protect the environment at the international level and has also advised politicians, he is reminding everyone of the need for concerted community action to preserve our natural habitats. “Our relationship with the environment is local; I grew up in Rimouski and the river was an integral part of my life; we shouldn’t take the St. Lawrence for granted, our health depends on the health of its waterways.
If ecological issues have become very popular in the last few years and if green initiatives have multiplied in number recently, it is because of the efforts of forward-thinking community organisations like the Zip Committee of Upper St. Lawrence.
Since 1993, the Committee has been promoting the value of the St. Lawrence River and providing the public access from the Ontario border until the Mercier Bridge. With more than 100 volunteers, the Zip Committee of the Upper St. Lawrence is responsible for all issues that directly or indirectly affect the river and its banks. “What we wish for in particular is to give people access”, explained Marthe C. Théorêt, Information and Public Relations Officer of the Committee. “A few years ago, not very many people dared to bathe in the river in the summer because the condition of the water did not make it possible. With our efforts and those of our partners, the quality of the water and that of the river banks has significantly improved, and the number of bathers has increased substantially”, she explained.
But it is not the bathers that kickstarted the efforts of the Zip Committee of Upper St. Lawrence; Marthe Théorêt confirmed that the organisation also works with area farmers in order to limit the quantity of phosphorus that gets spilled into the river. “The blue algae crisis has at least enabled us to make people understand that water plans can be fragile; but with more rigid environmental standards, it is possible to make a difference”, Mrs. Théorêt confirmed.
Marthe Théorêt explained that the success of the Zip Committee of Upper St. Lawrence is due to the high level of participation of volunteers who work every year. The communications officer said: “Each year, between 500 and 1,000 volunteer hours are offered. That’s a lot! The feeling is that the people love the river and are prepared to give their time to improve its condition. For the cleaning period alone, we can have as many as 60 divers who help us purify the river in the area we cover”. In addition to the dinner conference scheduled for May 13, a second activity to be held outdoors is planned for June.