04 Jul 2019 Story Chemicals & waste

Harmonizing flourishing economic development and sound management of chemicals and waste in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is the largest of the Small Island Developing States in the Pacific Region. Consequently, the country has a responsibility to influence and lead on best practices for environmental protection within the region.

Over the last decade, one of the main challenges facing Papua New Guinea is that flourishing economic development and rapid population growth in the island has increased the volume and changed the characteristics of urban and industrial waste. Striking a balance between environmental sustainability and economic development is an ongoing challenge. There are many sectors which form Papua New Guinea’s priorities for development, such as agriculture, fisheries, transportation and trade issues.

The project under the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme aims to strengthen and enhance growth of these sectors by incorporating a thorough and strategic approach in dealing with the risk of chemicals and waste. A key aspect of this project is to ensure the sound life-cycle management within the relevant sectors.

There are three mutually reinforcing measures that the country will undertake to develop long-term institutional capacity for the sound management of chemicals and waste. The first one is to develop a comprehensive national policy and legal framework for chemicals and waste management. The policy will be aligned with the provisions of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and will be consistent with the Cleaner Pacific Regional Strategy 2015–2025.

The second measure consists of establishing a national coordinating body bringing together various stakeholders in chemicals and waste management. The objective is to enhance information exchange among government, academia, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. This will be key to develop the policy recommended by the first measure.

For higher coordination, the third measure consists of the establishment of a specific chemicals and waste management division in the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority. The capacity of the Authority will be further substantiated through the development of regulations under the Environment Act 2000, which serves as a baseline for environmental protection. This is highly encouraging since there seems to have been no distinct strategy other than the Environment Act 2000 focusing on chemicals management.

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency also brings experts offering technical knowledge to municipalities to upgrade the landfills using the Japanese model. The municipalities are financing this cooperation.

Currently, because there is no national policy, municipalities are unable to develop waste management plans. Development of these plans will likely result in better waste management practices and, more importantly, will allow municipal authorities to seek financial and technical support from governments and other donor agencies to address their waste issues.

Once developed, the national policy, combined with a national coordinating body, will provide a legal and institutional basis for municipalities to develop waste management plans and by-laws for provincial and local governments. The project specifically concerns the Alotau municipality, capital of the Milne Bay Province and is considering the Solomon sea in the south-east of the country.

Based on the project’s framework, Alotau will receive guidance and planning for waste management practices from the leading agencies. It will have its Waste Management Plan developed and will see its skills, knowledge awareness and education enhanced. Alotau will be an opportunity to draw lessons and experiences from developing waste management plans. This municipality offers positive conditions to pilot this project which can then be adapted to other municipalities in the future.

Veari Kula, Managing Director at the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority, said that this project will provide a basis to highlight the importance of waste management. Government officials will be sensitized so that this becomes a priority within the national planning and budgetary processes.

The implementation of the project under the Chemicals and Waste Programme is viewed very optimistically, mainly in terms of waste management. Through its concise and well-designed action plan, Papua New Guinea shows a strong commitment in taking further steps towards a cleaner and healthier environment.