IV. ANALYSIS OF MEASURES USED TO IMPLEMENT ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES
A. Measures for protecting the environment
The main agricultural protection laws in Tonga include the Plant Quarantine Act of 1981. The Act deals with imports of plants and plant materials, domestic quarantine control for introduced pests and diseases, and quality control for plant product exports. In general, the protection measures provided under the Act are satisfactory. The major problem identified by the Act is the lack of implementing regulations (Lodge, 1996). The effective operation of the Act depends upon the regulations spelling out the conditions covering the entry of plants and plant products.
Although the measures contained in the Act may be satisfactory and effective, at times that is not the case with its administration. One of the problems experienced in enforcing the environmental measures in the Act is the conflicting role given to extension officers. The officers are supposed to encourage farmers to increase their output; however, in the case of squash and vanilla growers, for example, the officers are also expected to undertake the role of quarantine inspection officers. That double and conflicting role has led to some extension officers not enforcing the measures of the Act properly and effectively. However, with more and better trained staff now becoming available, it should be possible to rectify the problem.
The Animal Disease Act, 1979, comprises two main parts. One part deals with the importation of imports of animals and animal products, while the other part covers internal disease control in the other. As Lodge (1996) noted, the Act is comprehensive in scope and follows a logical sequence. However, it has a major drawback that is similar to that of the Plant Quarantine Act, i.e., a lack of implementing regulations.
The Pesticides Act, 1975, is currently being used to deal with issues related to pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, plant growth regulators, soil fumigants etc. It empowers the Director of Agriculture to undertake the registration of pesticides, and prohibits the manufacture, importation, sale or use of any pesticide which has not been registered under section 4 of the Act. Some 36 different pesticides etc. have been registered for use in Tonga. The Extension Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry informs the public about the use of pesticides and similar chemicals via radio, field days and colour information sheets and pamphlets. The Act contains detailed instructions regarding the labelling of pesticides, including the requirement that all labels be in Tongan. Unfortunately, the Act contains several shortcomings which make it less effective than intended:
One of the more serious environmental risks facing the country is that of pollution from the increasing and excessive use and misuse of agricultural chemicals. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has no capacity to carry out toxicity and persistency tests on soils and plants in order to warn and safeguard the public against indiscriminate use of farm chemicals, pesticides and other agrochemicals etc. Even the Public Health authorities have a very limited capacity to protect consumers through the monitoring of chemical residues, hormones and drugs in food. Despite the information put out by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the public in general has only a limited awareness of the inherent dangers in the application of chemicals on food crops. In addition, interviews with a number of farmers clearly have indicated that the Media and Extension Sections of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry should be strengthened to enable regular warnings and information to be provided to the public concerning the critical importance of proper storage and application of the different types of agrochemicals.