Tonga Postpones Enforcement Of Environmental Management Regulations

Education about new dumping, burning rules to happen before fines

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 8, 2016) – The Environment Management Regulation 2016 that was passed in May, will not be enforced until 2017, the Acting Director of Environment, Mafile’o Masi confirmed yesterday, 7 September.

Mafile’o said that between now and 2017 the ministry would launch a public awareness program to further clarify the Regulation, and to remind the public of their responsibilities to secure a healthy environment.

The Regulation listed a range of waste dumping and burning offenses and their penalties. From just any waste to hazardous waste, and to waste that caused pollution. The fines range from $500 [US$221] to $10,000 [US$4,426].

The enforcement of the Regulation is the responsibility of a committee that is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Health, Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Police, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Nuku'alofa Urban Development Sector. This committee is responsible for the appointment of police officers, environment officers, health inspectors and designated officers with the authority to issue notifications to offenders to clean up dumped waste or cease burning waste. They can also issue on-the-spot fines to offenders.

Tongans habit of dumping and burning rubbish in private homes, and public places, such as beaches and roadsides is a behavior that the Tongan authority has been trying to change for years.

The situation has become more urgent because the rubbish is not just perishable banana skins and coconut husks, but are plastic wrappers, empty cans, diapers, bottles, mobile phones, phone cards and all sorts of non-perishable products.

To change a national habit, and to counter an invasive consumer lifestyle has been a real struggle for Tonga. During the past years legislations have been enacted, but unfortunately, the problems appear to get worse.

The Waste Management Act 2005 was introduced, followed by the Environment Management Act 2010, a Waste Management Regulations 2013, and then this Environment Management Regulation 2016 which came into force on May 2016.

Sonia Chirgwin, a specialist adviser on solid waste and sanitation for the Nuku’alofa Urban Development Sector and the member of a Working Committee to implement the Regulation is optimistic with the decision to introduce the Regulation.

Sonia believed that the most important role of the Committee between now and 2017 is the Awareness Program. She said that the task is enormous; the Regulation is only for Tongatapu. Only Tongatapu has a public dump and a rubbish collection service.

There is a rubbish dump in Vava’u but they don’t have a public rubbish collection service. The rest of Tonga, Ha'apai, 'Eua and the Niuas don't have such public services.

She stressed that the important of the Awareness Program is for people to be conscious of what they do with their rubbish.

There are many other issues that need to be clarified such as farmers clearing their land by setting fire to it; the Sunday ‘umus, and the households that have to light a fire to cook their daily meals.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2016 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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