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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (June 21, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---The 19th Annual Pacific Islands Conference on Environment opened on Tuesday in American Samoa attracting more than 200 environmentalists from throughout the region.

The conference provides an opportunity for various professionals and activists alike to share their experiences and present problems and possible solutions to environmental issues.

The Director of the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) said during the opening session that humans are the worst and most dangerous enemy of the environment.

American Samoa’s Governor Tauese Sunia expressed concern about a number of issues, including the rising population and subsequent water shortages, adding that this conference is "timely, appropriate, and its significance cannot be underestimated."

One unique aspect of this year's program is a youth panel made up of nine students representing the various public high schools and the American Samoa Community College.

These youth, who were selected by their school counselors as among their brightest students, will be attending and participating in the conference over the next three-and-a-half days.

One of the lucky students will be awarded a weeklong trip to New Zealand at the end of the conference. That student will participate in workshops on environmental education awareness and will return to form awareness groups in the local high schools.

Delegates participating in the conference include representatives of government agencies, non-government organizations, and private firms from the CNMI, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Hawai‘i, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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