The work in the Solomon Islands.
Environmental Monitoring and Governance

26 March 2024 - Honiara, Solomon Islands - A wave of new optimism is flowing through the Solomon Islands to balance economic development with safeguarding its rich natural environment against unsustainable development. 
This follows an environmental management workshop hosted by the Secretariat of Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) which was attended by key government and non-government stakeholders including environmental officers and practitioners, policymakers, NGOs and academics. 
The five-day workshop covered crucial tools like Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, and effective environmental data management. Hands-on exercises allowed participants to apply these methods to real-world development projects in sectors like mining, forestry and coastal tourism.
The workshop was attended by staff from Environment and Conservation Division (ECD) of the Ministry Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM), and representatives from the Ministry of Mines and Rural and Electrification (MMERE), the Ministry of Forestry (MOF), the Honiara City Council, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Solomon Island National University (SINU) as well as Environment practitioners across the country. 

Environment monitoring in the Solomon Islands
The overarching goals of the workshop was to bring key players in the environment sector to discuss biodiversity conservation, environmental management and sustainable development in the Solomon Islands, highlight persistent challenges and chart a course towards sustainability. In his opening remarks, Mr Karl Kuper, MECDM’s Deputy Secretary Corporate implored the participants to be engaged in the discussion and contribute collaboratively to environmental protection and biodiversity conservation in the Solomon Islands.
The workshop presented an opportunity for a dialogue with key players in biodiversity conservation and environmental management in the country about the progress and challenges in the Solomon Islands.  
Speakers from the IUCN-funded EREPA project, WCS and TNC presented on key biodiversity conservation initiatives in the Solomon Islands. The Honiara City Council, represented by the Director for Waste Management and Control Division, Mr Abed Maeohu, shared the Council’s initiatives and ongoing programmes for a cleaner and greener Honiara and key strategic priorities driving planning and sustainability in the city. 
“Behaviour and mindset change is critical to environmental management in the Solomon Islands and the Honiara City Council has prioritized partnerships with donors to build capacity and to roll out awareness programs,” said Mr Abed.
Through the workshop, participants gained proficiency in the full EIA cycle - from screening new projects for impacts, to scoping impacts and developing a term of reference for assessments, all the way to the review of EIA reports and strengthening compliance, monitoring, and enforcement mechanisms. 

Environment monitoring in the Solomon Islands
There was a strong focus on improving coordination between different government agencies and ensuring meaningful public consultation. SPREP also introduced the Regional EIA Guidelines, the Coastal Tourism EIA guidelines, the Strategic Environmental Assessment guideline, and the Coastal Engineering EIA guidelines specially tailored for Pacific islands, which included toolkits aligned with global best practices. 
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was highlighted as a method to promote sustainability and resilience into national and sectoral policies and plans from the outset.
As part of an ongoing collaboration with SPREP, the UK Government Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCCP) which is funded through the Blue Planet Fund, EIA expert, Ms Daisy Leadbender, also joined the training to deliver on the EIA process in the UK and best practices for effective administration of the EIA.
Complementing the workshop was a hands-on GIS training which equipped participants with the skills to map out sensitive environmental areas like key biodiversity habitats and cultural sites. The discussion also featured the application of GIS to critical stages of the EIA process including screening and scoping of development proposals. 
This geospatial data, combined with effective environmental management practices, enables rigorous analysis to identify low-impact development sites and minimise ecological damage. 
The dialogue also featured discussions on strengthening environmental data management practices in the Solomon Islands. Several existing challenges were identified; including challenges in data sharing and storage which hindered inter-organizational collaboration. 
To address these challenges, participants were introduced and trained on utilizing the Solomon Islands' national environment data portal for centralised data storage, sharing and evidence-based decision support. These set of national environment portals were designed to address data management gaps across the region and facilitate data sharing and collaboration. 
“The training workshop had exposed the ECD Development Control team to many gaps that is very relevant in ensuring successful implementation of the EIA procedures in Solomon Islands. The lack of necessary templates for almost all steps of the EIA procedure is an urgent need for our work as regulators of the EIA process of Solomon Islands,” said Mr Philip Riogano, Principal Environment Officer with ECD.
“We will also continuously seek support from SPREP to address the gaps we have through assistance in the relevant processes within the EIA procedural step as required by the Environment Act and its regulation.” 

Environment monitoring in the Solomon Islands
The outcome of the workshop is a strong commitment by the ECD to work closely with SPREP to improve systems, practices, and policies to strengthen environmental decision-making processes in the Solomon Islands. 
"The positive feedback received is a strong indication of the real benefits and skills that have been shared in protecting the precious natural and human resources in the Solomon," explained Mr Puta Tofinga, SPREP's Environmental Assessment and Planning Officer. 
"By building skills in EIA, GIS and data management, local stakeholders have been empowered to make sustainable development decisions that are backed by robust evidence."
SPREP remains committed to collaborating with members like the Solomon Islands to build crucial skills and systems for a resilient and sustainable blue pacific future.
This cross-cutting capacity building initiative supports the Environmental Monitoring and Governance (EMG) priorities under SPREP's regional mandate. 
The workshop was made possible through funding support from the Pacific BioScapes Programme, the Capacity Building related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries - Phase III (ACPMEAs III) project, the Ensuring resilient ecosystems and representative protected areas in the Solomon Islands (EREPA) project and technical assistance from the UK Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCCP).
For more information on the Solomon Island Environmental Management Workshop and related programs, contact Mr Puta Tofinga, [email protected], or Ms Vani Koroisamanunu, [email protected] 

Environment monitoring