III. INSTITUTIONAL COORDINATION MECHANISMS
D. Institutional overlaps and conflicts
Government ministries and agencies have differing mandates and objectives, many of which do not embrace environmental responsibilities. It has also been observed that environmental conservation and protection are not accorded the highest of government priorities. The result will be conflicts over the allocation of limited government resources to competing demands in cases where responsibilities overlap between those ministries concerned with higher economic growth and those concerned with the environment.
Conflicts generally arise when responsibilities for the management of a particular resource or project overlap among several government agencies. Water management is one such example, as responsibilities are spread between TWB, the Ministry of Health, the Village Water Committees, the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources through its Hydrogeology Section, the Ministry of Works, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Box 3 provides is a good example of how the responsibilities for one resource may be spread over several agencies. There have been conflicts, but they have been resolved reasonably and sensibly. However, with future increases in consumption and in demand for better quality, more and more conflicts are bound to arise. Therefore it is now necessary to:
There are two other examples which will help to illustrate the conflicts that arise from overlapping responsibilities. Despite some objections from the Ministry of Health (1996) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources has continued to issue leases and subdivisions for residential buildings on foreshores and in mangrove areas in Tongatapu, especially around Fanga'uta Lagoon, and in Vava'u. The damage to the lagoon and marine life, and pollution from human wastes have been considerable. As one senior official of the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources noted: "how can we preach environmental protection and conservation to other ministries and the public when we ourselves are, in reality, encouraging the destruction of Fanga'uta Lagoon and its environs?"
There is no easy way out of such situations, apart from a specific and definitive legal deterrent barring the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources from further allocations of such fragile land and foreshores. With the rapidly growing population of Nuku'alofa and its surrounding suburbs, the pressure on the Ministry to allocate the fragile fringes of Fanga'uta Lagoon will be too great to resist unless it is possible to enforce legally binding regulations.
Another example is the Popua rubbish dump. Despite pleas from the Ministry of Health and residents in nearby settlements that the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources allocate another site to replace the Popua dump, nothing concrete has been done. It is a serious environmental problem which is creating health risks for the Patangata and Popua settlements. The failure of the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources to resolve the problem has damaged its credibility as the official environmental protection institution.