III. INSTITUTIONAL COORDINATION MECHANISMS
C. Future mechanisms for coordination
The type and nature of future mechanisms for coordination will depend primarily on the level of priority that government accords the environment. Indications are that as the level of awareness improves, and as the pressures on the environment become more acute and more obvious, and aid donors and the international communities demand that environmental considerations no longer be an option in development, the government will provide the higher priority, greater efforts and more resources to environmental issues. In the immediate future, however, the mechanisms will continue much the same as at present.
But some changes will come about if the proposed Environmental Assessment Planning Bill is enacted. A Land-Use, Natural Resources and Environmental Planning Bill was first drafted in 1982 by the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources; it has since been revised a number of times. In 1995 and 1996, more concerted efforts were made by the government (led by the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources and the Environmental Planning Section) to explore more effective ways of addressing the overall environmental question. The primary aim of those efforts has been the production of comprehensive environmental legislation which integrates the need for greater economic growth with environmental protection; in other words, to formulate appropriate legislation that will allow the achievement of sustainable development. An enactment of the Bill will go a long way in rectifying the many shortcomings of the present situation.
The draft of the Bill states that its objectives are: (a) to promote sustainable development within Tonga; and (b) to establish environment assessment planning procedures in order to ensure that, in achieving the purpose of the Act, proper regard is shown for the values of the existing environment as well as for the foreseeable needs and welfare of existing and future generations. The Bill aims to remove much of the town planning structure that characterized much of the earlier Land-Use, Natural Resources and Environmental Planning Bill, and to focus more on the establishment of implementation mechanisms, in order to ensure that all significant development projects are assessed for their environmental implications and, where necessary, that conditions are imposed on that development (Hill, Young, Cooper, 1995). It empowers the minister responsible to impose regulations governing the process of environmental assessment. It includes provisions for the establishment of an eight-member interdepartmental committee, to be known as the Environmental Assessment Committee which will,inter alia, be responsible for EIAs. One of the legal mandates of the Committee will be to ensure appropriate interdepartmental coordination in all projects submitted for its consideration. The Bill further provides for every development project in Tonga to be supported by an appropriate EIA in one of the two classes of assessment: major project assessment and minor project assessment.
The membership of the Committee will be the Secretary of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources; the Directors of Health, Works, Agriculture, and Central Planning; the Secretaries of Fisheries, Labour, Commerce and Industries; and such other members (including non-government members) that the minister may, from time to time, appoint, co-opt, or otherwise consider appropriate to invite to attend the meetings of the Committee.