IAS Hosts Local Biodiversity Experts to Help Strengthen Fiji’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Guidelines

Local Biodiversity Experts at the IAS led Focus Group Discussion on Mainstreaming Biodiversity into the EIA Guidelines for Fiji

As part of a project called “Evaluation and Review of the Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines for Fiji” the Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS), at the University of the South Pacific (USP) hosted a Focus Group Discussion on “Mainstreaming Biodiversity into the EIA Guidelines for Fiji”.  Participants of the workshop were local biodiversity experts with extensive experience in Environmental Impact Assessments in Fiji and the region.

Workshop participants in whole group discussions

An output of the project is to make recommendations to the Fiji government in the form of a policy brief on how to up-scale biodiversity and sustainable development in the current EIA Guidelines.  The Focus Group discussion goal  was to deliberate on how biodiversity mainstreaming could be scaled up in the current EIA Guidelines for Fiji.

According to Lavenie Tawake, the leader of the GDN research project and IAS project manager, “the EIA guidelines are critical to ensuring that Fiji’s biodiversity conservation and human development are in balance to create positive outcomes for all sectors”.  To ensure that Fiji’s EIA Guidelines are biodiversity inclusive, the project will obtain feedback from local biodiversity experts on some of the challenges they faced in ensuring that Fiji’s biodiversity remains protected while carrying out EIAs for new developments in Fiji.

Ms Nunia Thomas Director of Nature Fiji – Mareqeti Viti facilitating the Terrestrial experts’ group discussion feedback after breakout group session

“The Focus Group Discussion was crucial to verify and validate the challenges faced by EIA consultants who are biodiversity experts then agreeing as a group as to what the most important and urgent challenges are and how the solutions to these challenges can be integrated into the current EIA Guidelines.”

Aquatic expert participants in workshop breakout group discussion

In welcoming the participants to IAS, Acting Director, Dr Isoa Korovulavula highlighted “the expert focus group discussions are important for marrying biodiversity conservation and development and for achieving recommendations for best practice guidelines that will allow for new development as well as conserve the environment and biodiversity”.   “The University has an important role to play in facilitating networking between consultants and local experts to maintain respectful relationships and also so that students and staff can learn first-hand about the realities of sustainable development practices,” he added.

Ms Helen Sykes of Marine Ecology Consulting representing the Aquatic experts group reporting back on breakout discussions

This is the first focus group workshop for the 2-year project and a similar workshop is planned for members of government agencies who are involved in the EIA process before the end of the year. The Agence Française de Développement – Global Development Network (AFD-GDN) Biodiversity Development Program, funds the 2-year research project.

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