IV. ASSESSMENT OF THE INTEGRATION OF URBAN ENVIRONMENTAL MEASURES INTO DEVELOPMENT PLANNINGEnvironmental management cannot be framed in isolation from the development and policies of the sectors from which the issues emanate. It cuts across virtually all sectors, disciplines and development issues. For example, the increasing squatter problem in Suva is as much an environmental problem as it is an urban planning, housing, and poverty problem.
Fiji's development planning process described in chapter III focuses on economic issues. However, development does not only involve economic issues. To be sustainable, social and environmental issues need to be integrated into the decision-making process. Under the current system, environmental considerations are marginalized in the decision-making process, both at the national and local government levels.
The present promotion of growth-oriented development shows a lack of understanding of the wider socio-environmental issues and their implications for longer-term development. Only when a thorough awareness is achieved will sustainable development become part and parcel of the intricate process of development planning and development project formulation and implementation. Stanely (1996) concluded:"Decision makers need to know the manner in which people benefit and lose as a result of conserving biological and other natural resources, as well as the values and costs of the goods and services that create the gains and losses. It is from an understanding of these basically economic aspects of environmental conservation that governments can then be clear and explicit about national objectives for environmental considerations."
The present promotion of growth-oriented development shows a lack of understanding of the wider socio-environmental issues and their implications for longer-term development. Only when a thorough awareness is achieved will sustainable development become part and parcel of the intricate process of development planning and development project formulation and implementation. An economic analysis should be required within an EIA so that economic values on natural resources can be integrated in the decision-making process. Such values keep planners and policy makers informed of just how crucial biological diversity and environmental management is to sustainable development and national development objectives. That approach would require expertise in resource/environmental economics which, in turn, calls for closer interaction between the Department of the Environment and economic planners in CPO and/or line ministries. But, as yet, there is no formal process for such interaction, and no personnel are available with the resource/environmental economics skills which will be needed for the process. Under current conditions, any economic evaluation of external effects of development projects requires the expertise of overseas consultants. Some provisions exist under the proposed Sustainable Development Act for quantifying natural resources in financial terms.
There have been a series of major reports on Fiji's environment as well as environmental planning and management, over the last decade, commencing with the National Environmental Management Systems (NEMS); followed by the National State of Environment Report (NSER), Capacity 21, the National Environmental Strategy (NES); and culminating with the draft Sustainable Development Bill. As a part of the ESCAP project a report was prepared on "Integrating environmental considerations into economic policy making processors at the national level in Fiji".
All the reports reveal major weaknesses in environmental management at the national level. Those weaknesses apply equally at the local level such as in Suva City. The common problems identified include:
At the sectoral and local municipal government levels environmental considerations are taken into account to a certain extent through EIAs. However, EIAs are not mandatory and only apply to identifiable new development projects. Most environmental degradation is resulting from ongoing activities. Furthermore, very little monitoring of projects is undertaken once they have started. In the case of Suva, air pollution from vehicle emissions and the cement factory are clear examples.
Fiji, with assistance from the international community, has in recent years made progress toward establishing the institutional framework necessary for achieving sustainable development. The main achievements have been:
There has been encouragingly close consultation in the development of the Sustainable Development Act. It is a good omen for the future that the Bill has received good support from the business community, which recognizes that it establishes the "rules of the game" and a "level playing field" in competing with firms that are damaging the environment. Yet most of the consultation has been, by necessity, with official and organized bodies. It is unfortunate that more resources were not devoted to consultation and the promotion of the Bill at the community level, both in the rural and urban areas.
Many of the requirements for improving the sustainability of current development practices have been identified in NES 1992 and in the reports leading up to the formulation of this present document. Many of the recommendations are being implemented or are under consideration. However, Fiji is far from incorporating environmental considerations into decision-making, particularly at the macroeconomic level.
The government has failed to provide sufficient support to the Department of Environment to enable it to adequately undertake the tasks expected of it. The Department has inadequate core funding (it secures most of its funding through specific aid funded projects) and staffing (staffing levels are only half the minimum levels recommended in NES). That indicates a persistent lack of will by the government to commit itself to the issue of sustainable development. The Department of Environment needs to be adequately staffed, both in terms of numbers and qualifications. If that is not done, there is little point in implementing the Sustainable Development Bill. In an atmosphere of declining overall staff ceilings in the civil service that will be a difficult task, and can only be achieved through the reallocation of staff within the service. However, with the changing role of government in the development process, some departments are greatly over-staffed. One example is the Extension Division of the Ministry of Agriculture (Asian Development Bank, 199). However, major reallocations of staffing numbers, within a declining overall ceiling, will require an unprecedented level of cooperation between ministers and PSC. Progress on that front in recent years has not been particularly encouraging.
The enactment of the Sustainable Development Bill should begin as soon as the necessary consultations have been completed and any appropriate modifications to the draft legislation made. However it must be recognized that the Bill merely creates the necessary legal and institutional framework and is far from adequate for ensuring that sustainable development occurs. Monitoring and enforcement mechanisms need to be strengthened in parallel with legislation. For the Bill to achieve its objectives there must be strong and ongoing political commitment and, perhaps more importantly, a sustained desire on the part of the civil servants administering the Bill to make it work. Those civil servants will, however, need to be trained in the required technical skills to do what is expected of them under the Bill.
Legislation has an important role to play in achieving the desired environmental and sustainable development objectives. However, because of the poor record of Fiji in that area, particularly with respect to enforcement, it is recommended that economic incentives and environmental awareness be given greater attention in support of the goal of achieving of compliance.
The planning and decision-making machinery needs to be strengthened, along the lines indicated in the Siwatibau Report, if environmental considerations are to be mainstreamed. As with the enactment of the Sustainable Development Bill, those institutional reforms provide only the basic necessary conditions. That strengthening will need to be accompanied by a collective determination among public servants and decision makers to use the planning and decision-making machinery for promoting sustainable development.
Fiji's most apparent limitation for incorporating environmental considerations into macroeconomic decisions is its current lack of an appropriate administrative and institutional framework. The reasons include:
Thus the problem of old, excessive and fragmented laws is addressed. The Bill goes to great length to overcome the ineffectiveness of civil law with respect to pollution. The requirements and responsibility for enforcement are now more clearly defined; although they are not necessarily vested in one government agency. To quote the requirements of the policy on integrated waste management: "Upon approval by the National Council for Sustainable Development, every government ministry, department or statutory body shall observe, and to the extent of its authority, enforce the policy on integrated waste management."
The problem of the lack of training and resources cannot be addressed directly by the Sustainable Development Bill. A major training initiative is being planned to complement the implementation of the Act. A project paper has been prepared that identifies the necessary training needs and institutional building requirements for the implementation of the Act. The package was to be presented by the Department of Environment for funding consideration at a forthcoming donors' meeting. The public sector requirements include training in:
Support is expected to be forthcoming for the ambitious, but nevertheless necessary, public sector training package that is detailed above. The question of adequate funding being allocated for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Bill, particularly in the area of enforcement, is much more problematic. It would be unrealistic to expect a significant increase in the allocation of public funds to environmental protection. The fiscal position of the national government is particularly precarious, with a large proportion of the capital budget being reallocated to write off the debts of the National Bank of Fiji. In the 1997 budget only the Ministry of Education received an increase in its budgetary allocation. A freeze is in place on public service recruitment, with a target of a 10 per cent reduction in civil service personnel over the next few years. The Suva City Council is in an equally tight fiscal position as a result of its limited revenue base and the increasing demand for services. However, it is felt that a major investment of public funds is not what is required, although the Department of the Environment will need a significant increase in financial and human resources if it is to undertake what will be required of it under the Sustainable Development Act. What is required is a better allocation of existing resources and the focusing and coordination of efforts if sustainable development goals are to be achieved.
One clear area that the Sustainable Development Act will address is the currently inadequate penalties for environmental offences, at least in the area of pollution. As noted above, the 1990 Ports Authority of Fiji Regulations provide for a maximum fine of only F$ 400 for pollution offences. Under the Sustainable Development Act, a first offender will be liable for a fine of F$ 10,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both. For a second offence those penalties will be doubled. In cases of gross negligence that result in "serious impairment to human health or severe damage to the environment" a fine of F$ 100,000 or five years' imprisonment will apply. It is hoped that the severity of those penalties will act as a significant deterrent. That proved to be the case when the Quarantine Regulations were changed in 1996, in order to raise the then trivial penalties for smuggling fruit and vegetables to significant punitive penalties. In that case the mere thought of spending some time in a Fiji prison appears to have been a sufficient deterrent. Accompanied by a public awareness campaign, the serious penalties under the Sustainable Development Act may go a long way to overcoming the entrenched negative public attitude to enforcement.
Sustainable Development Act will put into place an institutional structure
for promoting sustainable development. Of particular importance are the
umbrella bodies, the National Council for Sustainable Development and the
Sustainable Development Tribunal. The focus has been on improving coordination
and empowering existing entities rather than building new structures requiring
substantial resources. The new arrangements represent significant progress
in integrating environmental considerations into the development planning
process. However, structural weaknesses remain; one notable weakness is
the fact that the Permanent Secretary who heads CPO does not sit on NCSD.