Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a tool that is used to assess and manage individual development projects, with an aim of maximising positive benefits and minimising negative impacts for local communities and their environment. When used effectively, EIA can help to support the achievement of green growth targets, climate change resilience, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Across the Pacific, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has been promoting the use of EIA and delivering EIA capacity-building for more than twenty five years. In 2015 SPREP member countries endorsed new regional EIA guidelines, titled, Strengthening environmental impact assessment: Guidelines for Pacific island countries and territories. The regional EIA guidelines provide a detailed overview of EIA and offer practical tips and tools to support government officers with managing the EIA process.
SPREP has now partnered with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) to produce these EIA guidelines for coastal tourism development, which is defined as any physical tourism development that occurs in the area from the upland forest out to the reef edge. Based on this definition, en tire islands may be in the coastal zone, especially if they
are small low-lying islands and atolls.
Both SPREP and SPTO recognise that coastal environments are biologically productive and ecologically diverse; they supply valuable resources to support Pacific island lifestyles, livelihoods and cultural practices; and they provide critical natural defences against storms, cyclones, flooding and erosion. SPREP and SPTO also recognise the importance of EIA for responsible planning, development and management of coastal tourism, to help ensure the sector does not degrade important coastal areas, and that it makes a positive overall contribution to Pacific island countries and territories.
The coastal tourism EIA guidelines have been developed to provide sector-specific information and guidance and to complement SPREP’s over-arching regional EIA guidelines. The coastal tourism EIA guidelines were originally proposed and endorsed at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention for the Protection of Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region (Noumea Convention), where Parties noted the relevance of the guidelines to the following Convention articles:
Article 7: Pollution from land-based sources;
Article 13: Mining and coastal erosion;
Article 14: Specially protected areas and protection of wild flora and fauna; and
Article 16: Environmental impact assessment.