SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, Dec. 17) - Australia has announced an aid package to help Tonga build an environmentally-safe solid waste management system.

The announcement was made during a visit to the Pacific island by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

About two-thirds of Tonga's total population of 106,000 live on Tongatapu and the central lagoon on the island is severely degraded.

An AusAID study has shown that the current method of waste disposal is causing a significant increase in risks to public health.

Mr Downer described the new project as an action plan for tackling serious health and environmental hazards.

Costing $8 million over four years, the new waste management system will improve recycling operations and prevent further degradation of the lagoon.

December 18, 2003

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