By EDDIE OSIFELO
PERMANENT Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, Dr Melchior Mataki has proposed three pillars in helping the environment during this COVID-19 pandemic.
These include safeguards, internal resilience and focus on other options beside logging and mining to earn incomes.
Mataki suggested this in his paper on the ‘impacts of COVID-19 on the Environment’ presented to journalists during the workshop on Reporting Extractive Industries and Endemic Species in Solomon Islands at Heritage Park Hotel last Thursday.
He said COVID-19 is only adding and exposing the outcomes of our prevailing political economy, where environmental objectives and outcomes seldom make the most urgent and important priorities and overall poor to average state of environmental performance.
Mataki supported his findings based on government’s lack of serious discussion and policy directives to rationalize environmental and economic objectives since independence.
However, he said the Government and its partners have scaled up this approach through national projects such as the Tina River Hydropower Project and Pacific Ecosystem based Adaptation to Climate Change Project at Barana Nature and Heritage Park.
Furthermore, the PS said there is the lack of priority given to environmental management by stakeholders involved in natural resource extraction.
Further to that, Mataki said the 2019 State of Environment Report noted the following factors as drivers of pressures on our environment: a) population growth, b) economic development, c) climate change, and d) traditional and contemporary life styles and values.
“Mining is already showing attitudes similar to logging industry; noting as well that logging companies are now moving across to the mining sector.
“Environmental change is also influenced by people’s attitudes and approaches towards issues such as environment, development, and the meaning of sustainability,” he said.
Moreover, Mataki said logging and mining (with the exception of gold mining) is premised on the extraction and export of raw materials with little to no value addition domestically.
“Consequently, logs are exported and ore is shipped directly for processing overseas.
“This approach lends itself easily to doing things fast, whether it is negotiation with landowners, or complying with statutory requirements; consequently, limited due diligence is given by both regulatory bodies and landowners alike to investment proposals in these two sectors,” he said.
Mataki said the Environment Act 1998 and Wildlife Protection and Management Act 1998 took 10 years to be developed.
Furthermore, Mataki said the reform of environmental legislations to update, address gaps, remove duplications, and harmonise legislations to enhance environmental outcomes have been outpaced by environmental degradation, and the rise in depth and scope of threats to the biophysical environment.
He said Government legal drafters have been lethargic in drafting amendment of the Environment Act, even though drafting instructions have been with them since 2018 and in spite of numerous follow-up submissions and pleadings for action from the ministry.
Mataki said COVID-19 is an opportunity to Rethink, Reset and Redirect (R3) our country.