Smarter development practices are needed to minimise damage to the the fragile natural environment and biodiversity of Pacific Island countries and territories.
These are the sentiments expressed by Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Forestry and Fisheries, Mr. Samuela Lagataki at the Regional Mitigation Hierarchy and Biodiversity Offsets workshop organised by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Nadi, Fiji this week.
“The increasing pressure placed on our fragile island environments as a result of development activities that involve construction of infrastructure like bridges, wharves, dams, hotels, schools, hospitals, mines, roads and large scale agricultural farms could result in irreversible biodiversity damage.
“Collectively we need to find smarter ways to minimise the damage done to the natural environment and biodiversity caused by clearing sites for these kinds of activities and for that I would to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge SPC and SPREP, through its RESCCUE and PEBACC projects respectively, for making this learning opportunity available to our Pacific Island Countries and Territories,” Mr. Lagataki said.
During the regional workshop, a new 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 net gains of biodiversity when managing impacts from development projects.
“It is a tool that helps better quantify and qualify the ecological impact of large development projects and to systematically explore ways to effectively mitigate these impacts. In terms of the Mitigation Hierarchy, the steps to explore include avoidance, minimisation, restoration and (biodiversity) offsetting,” SPREP’s Project Manager for the Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PEBACC), Mr. Herman Timmermans explained.
In the Pacific, however, the implementation of the full Mitigation Hierarchy remains highly disparate depending on national circumstances, including needs and capacity.
A recent regional review commissioned by SPC’s RESCCUE Project shows that there is room for progress in virtually all Pacific island countries and territories.
RESCCUE Project Coordinator, Mr. Raphael Bille noted that the Mitigation Hierarchy and biodiversity offsets are relatively new concepts in the Pacific and that there is both a growing need and potential for integration into the existing Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and development consent frameworks.
The workshop this week aims to lay the foundation for interested countries in the region to develop a ‘roadmap’ on how to promote the uptake of the Mitigation Hierarchy.
The workshop is a collaboration between SPC’s Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Adaptation to Climate Change (RESCCUE) and Pacific Territories’ Initiative for Regional Management of the Environment (INTEGRE) projects as well as SPREP’s Pacific Ecosystems-based Adaptation to Climate Change (PEBACC) initiative with funding from the French Development Agency, French Facility for Global Environment, the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.
The 2-day workshop at the Sofitel Fiji Resort ends today 8 December 2016.