VI. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Papua New Guinea, the largest country in the South Pacific region, is well endowed with abundant renewable and non-renewable natural resources. The minerals sector is playing an increasingly vital role in the national economy as the other sectors continue to show sluggish growth. Environmental concerns have been enshrined in the Constitution of Papua New Guinea in the form of the five goals and Directive Principles. Following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, Papua New Guinea adopted the concept of a national sustainable development strategy.
Papua New Guinea has a fairly comprehensive range of environmental legislation which includes the Mining and Petroleum Acts, the Environmental Planning Act, the Water Resources Act, the Environmental Contaminants Act, the Dumping of Wastes at Sea Act and the Conservation Areas Act. The environmental legislation in Papua New Guinea is considered to be superior to the legislation of its neighbours in the South Pacific. Since independence, a number of institutions have been established to enforce that legislation. The government agencies responsible for enforcing legislation and monitoring compliance are the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Department of Mining and Petroleum and the Bureau of Water Resources.
However, considerable difficulty has been experienced in effectively implementing the legislation as a result of four major factors: constraints in manpower, finance and information, and conflicts of interest arising from the role of the State as a developer and protector of the environment. EPA is in full operation, although many of its provisions have yet to be utilized (e.g., participation by provincial and local governments). The Environmental Contaminants Act is also operational, but only regulations governing pesticides and a pesticide register have been developed. Mechanisms for a meaningful involvement of local communities need to be strengthened.
The effectiveness of environmental legislation in Papua New Guinea has also been compromised by the penalties for infringement which are too low to be a serious deterrent. In fact, the environmental legislation needs to be strengthened. At the same time, the lack of coordination in the monitoring functions of the different agencies as well as, in the environmental approval process, needs to be addressed. Existing regulatory systems need to be streamlined and integrated into a unified framework. The current Department of Environment and Conservation proposal for a new regulatory framework, if well implemented, will go a long way in addressing the issue. However, the proposal is based exclusively on command and control measures which are easily understood by legislators and developers; such measures tend to be inflexible and are not cost-effective. The Department of Environment and Conservation should consider combining those measures with market-based incentive mechanisms such as fees and charges.
Increased participation by the local communities, landowners, the private sector and NGOs in the environmental approval and project development process is required. In view of the limited resources of government agencies, the government should consider involving NGOs in the monitoring of the environmental regulations.
In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental considerations need to be integrated into policy analysis and policy-making. But at present there are no systems in place in Papua New Guinea government departments and no qualified staff to allow those tasks to be undertaken. To achieve sustainable development and to comply with environmentally-related treaties and multilateral agreements, the government needs to pursue appropriate policies at the national level, including the removal of the price distortions while ensuring that the prices of natural resources reflect the environmental costs. The government, through its economic agencies, needs to establish a system for appraising investments that have impacts on the environment.
The findings of this study suggest that there is a severe information constraint which prevents the government agencies from effectively carrying out their mandates. The lack of information is intertwined with the issue of insufficient financial resources. Therefore environmental and socio-economic data should be collected and compiled on a regular basis. That data would form the foundation of databases to be housed in the Department of Environment and Conservation and NPO or NSO, and linked to other databases such as Papua New GuineaRIS in order to provide timely information for environmental and development planning. The current mechanism for information dissemination is inadequate. A regular flow of information between the government agencies, developers and the general public, which would be very beneficial, could be achieved by establishing a newsletter or by hosting regular columns in the national and provincial newspapers.
Based on the assessment of this study of the training needs, the allocation of more resources is recommended for capacity-building within the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Mining and Petroleum. That could be done either through regular budgetary allocations or external development assistance. Both the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Mining and Petroleum have, in the past, benefited from various forms of capacity-building through ADB and usAID">AusAID. However, additional assistance is required. Capacity-building is also required within the Ministry of Finance (NPO and NSO) to enable the staff to carry out the functions related to environmental and natural resource accounting and environmental-economic modelling.