ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY FAVORS PEARL FARMING ON SUWARROW ATOLL, COOK ISLANDS

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By Alex Sword

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (February 25, 1999 - Cook Islands News)---No construction of an airstrip on Suwarrow Atoll is among the recommendations of the just publicly released draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the proposed opening up of the atoll for pearl farming development.

The report, made available for public scrutiny yesterday by the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC), in supporting controlled pearl farming development of the atoll as opposed to no action, says seaplanes or ships should be used instead.

It recommends, during initial development, the confinement of construction to the areas of human settlement on Anchorage Islet, the lagoon side of motus Tou and Manu, and one lagoon kaoa.

All that withstanding, "Minimal pollution will occur during construction, barring accidents," says the report.

Hawai‘i's Black Pearls, Inc. prepared the EIA for the Cook Islands Government through the CIIC subsidiary, the Suwarrow Development Corporation. Hawai‘i's Michael J. Wilder Company and Analytical Laboratories also assisted. The draft EIA report is not "an exhaustive study of the Suwarrow Atoll" as its drafters explain, but is under terms of the Phase I EIA required by government. Yet to be carried out, is the Phase II scope of work which will deal with an in-depth (baseline) study of Suwarrow's marine and land life.

During operation of the pearl farm development, the report says residence on the atoll should be restricted to a maximum of 100 farm workers and required National Park staff.

It says that economic impacts from the farm operation will be significant, with 100 persons directly employed and possibly another 100 secondary employment positions created.

As Crown property, lease or royalty payment would accrue to the Cook Islands Government, along with applicable taxes on payroll and corporate profits, and goods and services tax (GST), says the report.

Among its other recommendations and findings are that:

The draft EIA report can be viewed at the Cook Islands Library, Takamoa, until March 5 1999, and public comments on it in writing should be delivered to the CIIC no later than that final date.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands New Online.

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