It is crucial that national and provincial Governments gain a greater understanding of the impacts of development projects on the environment. This is needed to ensure leaders at all levels make informed decisions that minimise damage to the natural environment while still ensuring economic growth.
These are sentiments expressed by participants at a series of workshops for National and Provincial government officials held in Lenakal on the Vanuatu island of Tanna and in the capital Port Vila. The workshops highlighted the benefits of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) and the Mitigation Hierarchy.
Tafea Provincial Acting Secretary General, Mr. Etienne Ravo acknowledged The Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) through the Restoration of ecosystem services and adaptation to climate change (RESCCUE) and Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change (PEBACC) projects, for making the learning opportunity available to the Tafea provincial leaders.
“This workshop has been very useful, Tafea province is developing its five yearly strategy, having this information will help that planning process and assist us in making better decisions” Mr. Ravo said.
SPREP’s PEBACC Country Manager, Mr. David Loubser said it was encouraging to have community leaders present at the workshop.
“The workshop at the Tafea provincial headquarters was very hands on with provincial government and other traditional and community leaders undertaking an exercise to map current and future developments and proposed changes in land-use as a precursor to developing a spatial database to assist with environmental decision making.”
“Increasing pressure placed on the island environments as a result of development activities that involve construction of infrastructure and unplanned land-use changes could result in irreversible environmental damage. Collectively, we need to make more informed decisions to ensure impacts on our environment are avoided as far as possible and reversed if any damage occurs”.
“We need to educate our leaders to understand the tradeoffs between economic development and environmental degradation and to be passionate advocates of environmentally responsible development”. Mr. Loubser added.
At the workshop, a tool called Mitigation Hierarchy that focuses on minimizing the negative impacts of any development project on the environment was introduced.
The innovative tool is increasingly being used internationally as a way to achieve no net loss or even achieve net gains of biodiversity and ecosystem services when managing impacts from development projects.
The Port Vila workshop focused on National Government partners.
This collaboration between SPREP, SPC and the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation follows a very successful regional workshop held in Nadi in November 2016. The concepts shared this week will help the provincial and national Government make informed decisions regarding development in a rapidly growing Vanuatu.
In Port Vila the workshop focused on discussions around the Government’s new EIA regulations, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank Environmental Safeguards and SPREP’s regional EIA guidelines.
Practical exercises in the implementation of the Mitigation Hierarchy were also undertaken and the workshop closed with the development of a plan and a pathway to integrating SEA regulations into Vanuatu’s environmental legislation.
The SEA/EIA and Mitigation Hierarchy workshop on Tanna happened on the 12th and 13th of June while the Port Vila workshop from 14th to 15th June 2018.
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