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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 20) - Members of the Marovo Lagoon Tourism Operators (MLTO) in the Western Solomon Islands have urged the government to more the Environment Division to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The operators said this is important because the success of tourism in the future depends upon highly professional management and maintenance of the environment.

In light of the derelict situation that is evident in Marovo Lagoon and elsewhere, the vice-chairman MLTO Grant Kelly said it is imperative that the responsibility for the environment is quickly transferred to the Ministry of Culture & Tourism.

"If properly administered, the existing Environment Act can help ensure that as unsustainable logging income inevitably dwindles away, tourism becomes a major if not the major income earner for the Solomon Islands," said Kelly, who is also the owner and operator of Uepi Island Resort.

Kelly added that tourism has many desirable advantages not associated with resource destructive industries.

"But if the environment is not adequately protected by enforcing the current Environment Act and other environmental considerate legislation like the Logging Code of Practice, then the natural, economic, cultural and social heritage and future of the Solomons will continue to be severely degraded."

He said the Minister of Forestry, Commerce & Environment must be asked why the Director of Environment has not published the drafted Regulations or seemingly undertaken the other duties prescribed by the Act.

MLTO urges the Prime Minister and his cabinet to address this matter immediately.

"There is still an opportunity to counter this deteriorating situation with prompt action. But as the environment degrades further and the population rapidly grows, time is running out," MLTO said.

The World Heritage Commission has identified tourism as the best financial means to exploit the environmental resources of the Solomons and have strongly resumed interest in this approach.

Listing of the Marovo Lagoon as a World Heritage site is still very much on the World Heritage agenda and most importantly is included in the SIG Recovery Plan.

He said transferring the responsibility for the Environment Act to the Ministry of Culture & Tourism would be a very positive sign to World Heritage, Aid Donors and many non-government organizations.

"It would act as a strong catalyst to them to provide environment capacity building and tourism development support like never before.

"With recent developments including the strengthened administration of Aviation, an actively developing customer service approach by Solomon Airlines, the appointment of an AusAID Tourism Consultant to the Division of Tourism, a rapidly improving performance by SIVB, the future looks positive.

"The assigning of the Environment Division to Culture & Tourism would be timely and intelligent," he said.

July 21, 2005

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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