III. INSTITUTIONAL COORDINATION MECHANISMS
A. Current mechanisms of coordination
As noted in chapter I, environmental considerations are not a high priority in government planning and decision-making processes, and the resultant neglect of the environment and its ramifications make it extremely difficult to devise coherent and integrated coordination mechanisms among government establishments.
In the early days of centralized, formal development planning, the responsibility for environmental planning and management was vested in two government establishments: the Central Planning Department and the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources. The modality then was that the Central Planning Department would first assess the potential environmental risk of development project proposals. If the potential risks were not perceived as significant, the environmental concerns would then be dealt with by the Central Planning Department and the institution responsible for sponsorship and implementation of the project. But, when the potential environmental risks were deemed to be significant, then those projects would be passed on to the Environmental Planning Section for EIAs. In undertaking an EIA, the Environmental Planning Section consulted and coordinated action with the institution(s) responsible for sponsoring and implementing the project.
Then, in 1985, the government decided that henceforth all new physical projects would be subject to EIAs. That was done by way of Cabinet Directive 217, dated 13 February 1985, requiring the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources to prepare EIAs for all new major physical developments prior to final approval. In the case of projects with minor environmental risks, in-house EIAs were to be undertaken either by the Environmental Planning Section or by approaching SPREP or any other overseas environmental organization for technical assistance. The purpose of the new procedure was to ensure that:
Unfortunately, that mechanism has not proved to be effective, since very few projects have been subjected to EIAs. For example, in 1993, only two proposals were referred to the Environmental Planning Section for assessment (Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources, 1994). That was not an encouraging record as far as management of the policy was concerned, according to the Ministry, which also noted that the Environmental Planning Section was aware of many proposals which bypassed the process. The requirement for environmental considerations, as set out in the Central Planning Department Project Preparation Handbook published in October 1995, represents continuing efforts on the part of the Central Planning Department to ensure that new public projects are actually assessed for their environmental impact.