Tonga attends hazardous waste meet in Samoa

NUKU’ALOFA-September 19: 4.15pm (R2R Media/SPREP): Tonga was able to have inputs into plans to have a long term strategic framework for the controlling of hazardous waste in the Pacific, as was highlighted as a priority in Friday’s opening of the Ninth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Waigani Convention held in Apia, Samoa.

Tonga was represented at the meeting with the Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of MEIDECC Mr Paula Ma’u and Chief Environmentalist Mafile’o Masi.

Fomer MEIDECC staff and now SPREP legal adviser Ofa Ma’asi Kaisamy also attended in her new role.

Speaking at the event, Chief Environmentalist and Head of Waste in Tonga, Ms Masi said it is important to have a list of common hazardous waste for the Pacific available.

Ms Mafile’o Masi and Ms Ofa Ma’asi Kaisamy, the SPREP Legal Adviser, at the Samoa meeting.

”Developing a regional list of common hazardous wastes for the Pacific based on available information will assist countries to provide information that can be used not only to lessen the burden of reporting and duplication of efforts by the Parties,it will also help the Secretariat better assist countries by adopting a more pro-active approach,” she said.

The Waigani Convention is similar to the Basel Convention, which is the primary international instrument governing the transboundary movement and the environmental management of hazardous waste.

Importantly, however, the Waigani Convention also includes radioactive waste, and applies only to the Pacific islands region.

The key objectives of the Waigani Convention are:

• to reduce or eliminate transboundary movement of hazardous and radioactive waste in the Pacific region and to minimise the production of hazardous and toxic waste in the Pacific region;

• to ensure that disposal of such waste is completed in an environmentally sound manner and as close to the source as possible; and

to assist Pacific island countries that are Parties to the Convention in the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste they generate.

Nine of the 13 Members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) who are Parties to the Waigani Convention were present at the meeting.

SPREP Director General Mr Kosi Latu said hazardous waste is a particularly acute problem for small island countries.

“We all import significant quantities of hazardous materials, and many SPREP Members, especially low-lying atoll nations, have only very limited space for safe storage or disposal of wastes. Additionally, with so many hazardous materials transported by sea through our region on major trade routes, there is always the potential for accidents and pollution,” Mr Latu said.

“Our region is slowly embracing the concepts of integrated waste management and the user-pays principles to fund the improvement of waste management. There are new opportunities on the horizon that would provide a platform to continue the good work in the Pacific such as the PacWaste Plus project funded by the European Union and other similar projects.”

Delegates at the Samoa meeting.

The Secretariat was able to address these challenges through the regional projects that have been implemented to address the issues of hazardous waste management which included the AgenceFrancais De Developpment (AFD) waste project, PACWaste and the GEFPAS uPOPs project.

“These have had some wonderful success in upskilling our capacity through the various training events and workshops, and the removal of certain legacy wastes such as asbestos, but they have either ended or are coming to an end soon,” Mr Latu added.

SPREP highlighted that strong partnerships are needed to improve the implementation and coordination of the Waigani Convention and this is reflected through the relationships established with organisations such as the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, Ocean Customs Organisations (OCO), Minamata Convention and Tsinghua University to name a few.

The 13 Parties to the Waigani Convention are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

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