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By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, Oct. 20) – The head of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Micronesian Asterio Takesy, has arrived in New Caledonia on Wednesday for a three-day visit aimed at assessing the French Pacific territory's participation in regional environment-related initiatives.

During his three-day visit, Samoa-based Takesy, who was re-elected last month for a second three-year term at the helm of SPREP, is scheduled to meet high officials from the French government's High Commission, local government, Congress and the three provinces of New Caledonia.

In a technical mode, he is also to hold talks with the local antenna of French research institute IRD, the local agronomic research institute and French Météo France, New Caledonia's government said in a release.

One of the objectives of the visit was to coordinate SPREP's currently-drafted five-year action plan with regional initiatives that could see the participation of New Caledonia's scientific authorities, including on the protection of the Pacific's coral reefs and ecosystems.

Other aspects included issues related to biodiversity, waste management, especially in highly-populated environments, as well as responsive measures to climate change (which is believed to cause a rise in the Ocean's level).

New Caledonia has recently installed new state-of-the-art equipment to monitor changes in ea temperature, as part of a global network initiative.

On a more general level, the visit is also believed to be part of a regional reflection on how New Caledonia and its institutions are perceived by neighbouring countries and how it could best increase its participation to such regional organisations as SPREP, the government release said.

SPREP, which used to be part of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), became a single entity in 1993 and currently has some 26 member countries and territories. Its annual general assembly, last year, was hosted for the first time in Pape'ete (French Polynesia).

New Caledonia's government also intends to host next year's SPREP 17th annual meeting, as well as the back-to-back Pacific environment ministers' meeting, the local government said.

October 21, 2005

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