Regional and international infrastructure and environmental planning experts gathered at a symposium held 25-27 June 2018, at Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi, Fiji to learn and share ideas on new concepts for Green Infrastructure and financing development in the Pacific. An aim of the symposium was to highlight the importance of proper safe guards for projects to drive and protect sustainable development.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) was represented by Dr. Gregory Barbara, Environmental Assessment and Planning Officer who presented and highlighted the Pacific Regional Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Guidelines a tool to help build robust EIA processes.
Over 20 government representatives from 11 Pacific islands, experts on infrastructure and environmental impact studies attended the forum which was jointly hosted by University of New South Wales and The University of the South Pacific. The symposium was co-hosted by the Asia Development Bank, along with the World Bank and Government of Australia. The private sector and the NGO community were also represented. The forum helped connect key actors including international donor banks and regional institutions including SPREP as playing significant roles in guiding sustainable development.
SPREP is the leading regional development agency on EIA capacity building across the Pacific region, with over 25 years supporting EIA-awareness and training programmes. EIA is the primary instrument for planning, assessing and managing development projects, to support sustainable and resilient development goals and green growth development. It also assists in facilitating Environmental and Social risk assessment in the Pacific.
“The symposium was an opportunity to introduce the SPREP Regional Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines as a tool for assisting in developing national EIA reviews and linkages to Strategic Environmental Assessment and Mitigation Hierarchy concepts,” said Dr Barbara.
“We held discussions on environmental safe guards and role of EIA in sustainable development, and how a good EIA process results in cost saving of long-term project costs by investing in upfront stakeholder consultations and engagement to identify and mitigate risks.”
The SPREP presentation was informative presenting the participants with templates for how to assess an EIA and mitigation risk for a development project. Participants learned from a group discussion on applying Mitigation Hierarchy (MH) and EIA principles which helped them to discuss good practices and provide examples of where it has been used in their own countries.
Participants in a breakout session documented key issues for sustainable housing development in Fiji and Vanuatu, focusing on risks, challenges and opportunities within informal settlements for implementing sustainable practices.
“The World Bank have, in the past collaborated with SPREP and the wider donor community with the objective of a common approach to promote best practices for environmental impact assessment. The World Bank is moving towards promoting environmental and social risk assessment and over the next six months will be rolling out introductory workshops with the aim to introduce the Bank’s new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF),” said Mr Nick Valentine, Environment Specialist of Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands, World Bank.
“The ESF protects people and the environment from potential adverse impacts that could arise from Bank-financed projects, and promotes sustainable development. It is planned to align this roll-out schedule with SPREPs EIA training and awareness programme in countries.”
The SPREP Regional Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines was developed as an initiative of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Group of States funded by the European Union ACPMEAs project delivered through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by SPREP for the Pacific ACP region.