I. STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT IN TONGA
A. Current environmental policy
The current environmental policy was outlined in the Sixth Development Plan, 1991-1996 (Central Planning Department, 1991), which stated as Objective 7 that one of the national economic and social objectives was to:"...ensure the continued protection and management of natural resources for sustainable development".
The sixth Development Plan listed seven national development objectives as the underlying principles within which the various sectors were to formulate their planning decisions. The national development objectives included:
In its chapter dealing with land, natural resources and the environment, the Sixth Development Plan set out three environmental objectives to be pursued during the Plan period. The objectives were:
As a means of advancing the national environmental objectives outlined above, the Sixth Development Plan identified seven environmental programmes: (a) a biological diversity study of the outer islands; (b) surveying and monitoring climate-sensitive terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; (c) coral reef database studies; (d) a Land-Use and Environmental Planning Act; (e) environmental awareness and education material development; (f) national environmental awareness and education; and (g) a Tropical Marine Workshop.
Although, at the time of preparing this paper the Seventh Development Plan, 1997-2002, had not been released to the public, informed sources indicated that the environmental policy would remain much the same as that under the Sixth Development Plan, and that the priority national issues would continue to focus on greater economic growth, employment generation, health and education.
Unfortunately, the tendency to date has been to regard faster economic growth and ecologically sustainable development as being mutually exclusive. But given the limited availability of land and water resources in Tonga, assured and lasting economic growth cannot be attained without integrating environmental considerations into the planning and economic decision-making processes. Therefore it is imperative that environmental protection and conservation and sustainable development be made an integral part of the functions and responsibilities of all the government agencies.