Biodiversity and Samoas shallow commitments

18/05/2010 08:58

APIA - Let's talk biodiversity as it is timely with the celebrations of the this week. If you have not heard or seen the word 'biodiversity' this week, then let me enlighten you. To use a definition by the brains at Princeton, biodiversity is the diversity of plant and animal life in a particular habitat or in the world as a whole. But I won't bore you with technicalities because there is a better story to be told.
You see, it all began on the 5th of June 1992 when the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was opened for signatures at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or the Rio "Earth Summit". It remained open for signatures until 4 June 1993, by which time it had received 168 signatures.
According to those who governed the agreement the Convention on Biological Diversity or CBD was inspired by the world community's growing commitment to sustainable development.
There are three aims of the convention, first the conservation of biological diversity, second, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity and third is the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

Samoa signs
With a population where 80% are largely subsistence and directly dependent on the land and marine environments for food, income and general sustenance, biodiversity plays a vital and central role in Samoa’s social and economic development. That's according to Samoas 2009 CBD Report.
Samoa ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in February 1994, signaling its commitment to the three overarching objectives of the convention.
It was simple really, you read the agreement, you sign and then you do your best to adhere to the terms of the agreement.
Unfortunately all the paperwork seemed to be in place, but when it came down to the actual observance of this convention, once again Samoa fell into a not-so-admirable position.

Shallow commitments
Part of Samoas commitment made under the CBD includes the conservation of forests and marine ecosystems, by way of forest preserves and marine protected areas.
Passionate individuals and communities, not to mention Aid Donors invested their time, energy and money in the last few years to make these conservations happen, but initiatives by the Government and overseas investors have threatened two major parts of Samoas commitment under the CBD.
Two such areas are the Aleipata Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the Aopo-Letui-Sasina Coastal Forest.
Samoas 4th National Report clearly notes that the construction of the marine slipway at Aleipata for boat repairs is a cause for concern as a result of pollution and waste related impacts on the MPA.
Somehow I still do not see the logic in committing an area to be protected under an international convention, and then ignoring it for the sake of a tiny little wharf, in the broader scheme of things.
The Aleipata Islands is not just important to Samoa it also has global significance according to the CBD as it is habitat to several endemic birds, these along with marine species will be threatened as a result of the slipway.
But that's not it, in addition to that the Aopo-Letui-Sasina Coastal Forest, also classified as Grade 1 in global significance is also under threat due to a planned hotel development.
Agrodeforestation and logging continue to threaten terestial species as over fishing leads to habitat loss for marine species.

Paper Perfect
There is no doubt that Samoa, given the right documentation, right amount of consultation, alteration of reports and selective hearing by certain Aid Donors, can actually appear perfect on paper.
But it is painfully obvious that some of these commitments are made in vain.Unfortunately it's not the experts, convention makers or the consultants that suffer, it's the people who suffer in the end.
For it is those who depend on the ocean and the land for their livlihoods who end up paying the price for the lack of consideration of the environment in decision making process.
At the end of the day, these sorts of conventions are actually written for our good and for no one else.
I always wonder, if the Aleipata fisherman had a choice, would he opt for a boat cleaning facility on his precious reef, or another fifty years of good fishing?
For some reason, I would go with fifty years of good healthy fishing.