I. SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND NATURAL RESOURCE SETTING
B. Resource base
The fundamental basis of national development remains natural resource-basedand is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Around 30 per centof GDP and 70 per cent of exports can be attributed to natural resource-based activities (agriculture, forestry, fisheries and mining). Foreign exchange generated by the tourism sector must also be added to that list. Thus economic planning and policy formulation cannot ignore the need to conserve and manage the national resources in a sustainable manner.
Fiji enjoys a maritime tropical climate that allows for the production of a large range of foods for local consumption and export, as well as providing one of the basic attractions of the tourism industry. However, the generally benign climate of Fiji is punctuated by climatic extremes in the form of hurricanes, floods and, more insidiously, drought. Those extremes of climate have far-reaching impacts on land-use patterns. Because of the serious environmental consequences of such weather extremes, proper land-use planning, watershed management, accompanied by appropriate legislation and effective regulatory enforcement, are required.
Fiji is located in a zone that is subject to frequent tropical cyclones. Some 136 cyclones were recorded in the Fiji island group between 1880 and 1997. The magnitude of the damage caused depends on the intensity of the storm and the path taken (damage caused by 180 kph winds is four times that of 90 kph winds). The rapid upward movement of the spiralling air in a cyclone can cause extremely heavy rain, particularly when the air is forced to rise over mountains. Rainfall of 889 mm in 24 hours was experienced during Hurricane Kina in 1992, which resulted in extreme flooding in all major river systems of the country. The low atmospheric pressure experienced during tropical storms can cause the sea to rise by as much as 2 metres, causing the inundation of low-lying areas as well as foreshore damage. Substantial losses of soil and vegetation, together with damage to foreshore areas and coral reefs, are a normal impact of tropical cyclones; there is evidence that those losses have been accentuated in recent decades by the expansion of non-sustainable agricultural and logging practices.
Fiji has a distinct dry season between May to October. Rainfall during that period can be particularly low on the western and northern sides of the main islands. From time to time, extreme drought conditions occur, resulting in extreme susceptibility to fires, and associated soil erosion and land degradation. Recent decades have seen a disturbing increase in the incidence of wild fires, either through negligence or deliberate fire-setting. Therefore a concerted campaign is urgently needed for educating the population of the dangers of fires to the environment.