Fiji Moves Toward Systematic Coastal PlanningCatch of the Week
The Republic of Fiji will soon put in place its first comprehensive coastal resource planning system to address some of the country’s challenges to sustainable coastal development.
Most government departments in Fiji currently lack the capacity to utilize coastal and marine assets while simultaneously protecting them from degradation. Although the success of coastal resource management in Fiji is progressive on the community-based management front, there still continues to be huge gaps in balancing the pressures for short-term development needs with long-term sustainability.
This challenge is echoed in the province of Ra on the northeast corner of Viti-Levu, the largest island of the Fijian archipelago. The province’s fisheries, agriculture, tourism, and forestry sectors remain the major contributors to coastal livelihood of more than 29,464 people in Ra Province and to Fiji’s national economy, according to Senior Assistant Roko Tui Ra Mosese Nakoroi, chair of the Ra Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) committee.
While the province has benefited from various government development initiatives in forms of primary industry development and tourism, the sustainability of these economic activities depend, above all, on the protection and beneficial management and planning from ridge to reef. Such an approach is currently being piloted in Ra, leading Fiji toward a systematic and improved coastal development planning process.
The Ra Provincial Office in collaboration with the Department of Environment, Department of Fisheries, Department of Agriculture, Departments of Lands, i Taukei Affairs Board, Academic Institute, nongovernment organizations, and the private sector have come together to prioritize sustainable development challenges in Ra. These challenges include weakness in current gravel extraction approval process, poaching of marine resources, unsustainable farming practices, and uncontrolled burning, said Nakoroi.
The cumulative impact of these issues on coastal resource and planning may threaten the sustainability of livelihood and food security of the people of Ra if nothing is done, said Isikeli Naitura, Rakiraki community representative and member of the ICM committee.
However, a list of strategies have been designed, with the combined effort of the government, development partners, conservation organizations, local communities, and the private sector. Susana Tuisawau of Conservation International said that involving local communities as wardens to police and report on some of Ra’s environmental challenges would be a step in the right direction, particularly with the low cost involved and building ownership of the project. Steps are currently being taken at the provincial and village levels to reduce challenges in the Ra province. These steps include more targeted research and capacity building for communities and government representatives, and building knowledge for informed decision making at the provincial level, said Nakoroi.
The challenges faced by integrated coastal management can be complex. However, through this initiative, barriers to integrated planning are slowly being removed and the partnership toward a systematic planning process is becoming foreseeable in the near future. All this is being made possible through the Asian Development Bank’s Coral Triangle Pacific Program which is supporting Fiji and five other Pacific island countries to better manage its marine resources.
With contributions from Sanivalati Navuku (SEAWEB)