The importance of increased public awareness of environmental protection in the Solomon Islands

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DEAR EDITOR, last week it was reported in the Island Sun newspaper that the Solomon Islands Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had concluded a three-year project which resulted in a set of commitments towards environment issues in the country.

In his address at the project closure workshop, Dr Culwic Togamana said a key threats to the natural environment was unsustainable resource harvesting through legal or illegal logging and mining.

He also mentioned threats such as large agricultural developments coupled with widespread subsistence farming, as well as climate change.

Dr Togamana added, “In realization of those threats repeated calls had been echoed over the years for sustainable and proper management of our environment and resources.”

“This has led to some awareness and researches being conducted to help gauge and support communities interested in seriously considering sustainable management of their resources.”

Dr. Togamana went on to say (quote)

“The SIG has been collaborating with international partners and local organizations to try and address the threats.”

“The ratification of Multi-Lateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) such as the Rio Conventions— UNFCCC, UNCBD, UNCCD being examples of the international collaboration.”

He said domestically, amongst others the SIG had enacted key laws such as the Environment Act and its regulations and the Protected Areas Act.

Also, important policies had been developed and endorsed by the cabinet, he added. “The key ones cabinet endorsed included the Climate Change Policy, the National REDD+ Readiness Roadmap, the Climate Change NAPA, and the NBSAP.”

“However, a challenge people face, currently, there is a huge gap between how those laws and policies have transpired to the provincial or rural level,” he commented.

“Provincial Governments and rural populations do not even understand the purposes of the laws and policies which weaken their ability to actively participate in utilizing or implementing them.”

Looking at the trend, Dr. Togamana said there is a need for nationwide awareness.

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The UNDP Country Manager, Ms Azusa Kubota, also speaking during the closing workshop, said the project showcased many incidents of the on-going collaboration between the UNDP and the Solomon Islands Government.

She explained despite the project having lapsed there would continue to be collaboration between the SIG and UNDP to address the significant global environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation.

She reportedly said, “One of the key objectives of the project is to increase public awareness and understanding of the conventions through the REDD+ process.”

She added that resulting from a partnership with the Solomon Islands National University and the Government; the project had developed a Resource Text Book and Teachers Guide.

Given the view that the current laws mentioned by Dr.Togamana are not being understood and consequently not be properly enacted, I would hope that the Resource Text Book and Teachers Guide will be put to effective and immediate use to increase public awareness of both the threats to the natural environment and the important steps needed for protection.

I have always been puzzled why it is that some traditional resource owners have not been encouraged over the years to have considered sustainable management of their forest resources by having set up saw milling operations which allows the forests to be properly managed and knowing a single tree can earn approximately 20 times more by milling it than selling the log to a logging company.

By obtaining such high returns the forests could be properly managed for generations.

Saw milling processing by local communities has higher benefits than large scale logging, resulting in much less environmental damage and such operations are far more sustainable in respect of the future availability of forest resources.

While it is acknowledged that the concept of nature has rights, the people have stewardship over the many natural resources in the Solomon Islands and it is vitally important for increased environmental protection and awareness of all the laws introduced to protect and safeguard the environment now and in the future and they are understood and properly enforced through willing and cooperative measures.

As stewards of our land we have the moral obligation to protect our natural resources for future generations to share and to benefit from all our richness of flora and fauna.

Yours sincerely

 

Frank Short

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