(Phase I)

Prepared by
Arthur Lyon Dahl
on behalf of the
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
for the
Environment Unit
Ministry of Lands, Minerals and Fisheries
Republic of Vanuatu
19 September 1988


This prospectus was prepared for the Environment Unit, Ministry of Lands, Minerals and Fisheries, Republic of Vanuatu, by Arthur Lyon Dahl, consulting ecologist, on behalf of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canadian High Commission in Canberra, Australia.

The concept of a National Conservation Strategy as proposed here differs from many that have been undertaken around the world in its emphasis on public education and participation, and local-level conservation planning. The small population of Pacific Island nations makes such an approach possible; the people's strong attachment to their limited land scattered over many small islands makes it necessary. It is hoped that the Vanuatu National Conservation Strategy will serve as a model for others to be prepared throughout the region with the assistance of IUCN and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.


   Existing policy for environment and conservation in Vanuatu
   The concept of a National Conservation Strategy
   The content of a National Conservation Strategy
   Present environmental management activities in government

Environmental profile of Vanuatu
   Fauna and flora

Major conservation-development interactions and problems
   Land use planning
   Consultation in planning development projects
   Trade-offs in land use
   Long-range planning
   Project assessment
   Soil management
   Forest management
   Water resource management
   Tourism planning
   Effects of climate change
   Toxic chemicals and pollution
   Monitoring and enforcement
   The international dimension

Principles for the Vanuatu National Conservation Strategy

Preparation of the National Conservation Strategy
  Governmental activities
    Regional environmental planning basemaps
    Educational materials
    Training for the NCS
  Public activities
    NCS public information campaign
    Development of local conservation strategies
  Implementation and updating

Workplan - phase 2

Annex 1 - Persons and organizations consulted in Vanuatu
Annex 2 - References
Annex 3 - Terms of reference for consultants


All around the world, it has become apparent in the last 20 years that there are serious problems with the management of the human environment and the natural resources on which we depend for life. Some of these problems come from development and the use of technologies without understanding all their side effects; others come from a lack of development and the pressures from the increasing numbers of the poor on the limited resources available to them.

The response to these problems at the world level has been marked by the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972), the subsequent creation of the United Nations Environment Programme, the adoption of the World Conservation Strategy in 1980, and the recent report of the UN-sponsored World Commission on Environment and Development, which emphasized that sustainable development was essential to our common future.

In the South Pacific, regional environmental activities began at the South Pacific Commission in 1974, included the signing of the Convention on the Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific at Apia in 1976, and led to the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The SPREP Action Plan was adopted at the Rarotonga Conference on the Human Environment in 1982, and the SPREP Convention was signed in 1986. Today SPREP provides technical and educational support to a wide variety of environmental and conservation activities in the region.

Many countries have created governmental structures responsible for the environment, and these have been helpful in responding to immediate environmental problems. However, responding to problems is more expensive and less effective than avoiding them. It has been harder for governments to take a broad view of environmental requirements as they touch all areas of government activity, and to adjust development programmes to insure that they bring sustainable benefits without creating environmental problems. This is the goal of a national conservation strategy.

Vanuatu became independent in 1980, and it has thus been able to incorporate environmental concerns from the beginning in the foundations of its national life. It has made great progress given the limited resources available, and a desire to go further is apparent throughout the government. The development of a national conservation strategy for Vanuatu was the next logical step to take, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade officially requested technical assistance from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in November 1986 for the preparation of a Vanuatu National Conservation Strategy. It has taken some time to arrange the funding to respond to that request, but the project is now underway.

The present prospectus describes the concept of a national conservation strategy as adapted to the special conditions of a small developing island nation such as Vanuatu, and the process by which the strategy will be developed and implemented as soon as the additional resources necessary become available. It is hoped that this strategy will serve as a model for the many other countries of the South Pacific who have expressed the need for similar comprehensive planning for sustainable development.


The Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu spells out the guiding principles for the nation. Article 7(d) states:

"Every person has the following fundamental duties to himself and his descendants and to others:

"(d) to protect Vanuatu and to safeguard the national wealth, resources and environment in the interests of the present generation and of future generations."

The Second National Development Plan (1987-1991) aims to achieve sustainable development for Vanuatu. Two of the six National Development Objectives are specifically directed to this end.

The third objective is to:

- "increase productive utilisation of the country's natural resource base as a means of generating viable and sustained economic growth."

This is explained to mean the exploitation of land, fishery, forestry and mineral resources "at a pace and in a manner which neither compromises development in the future nor leaves present opportunities untouched. Resources such as the forest cover, which is only renewable in the long- term, will be carefully planned to ensure that benefits are not only maximised, but also equitably distributed as between generations. Other resources, such as the natural scenic beauty, the marine resources, and the land, are not over-exploited to ensure that they are not destroyed in the process of their exploitation."

The sixth objective is to:

- "ensure that Vanuatu's unique environmental and cultural heritage is not damaged in the process of economic development and change."

"The process of economic development will generate new aspirations, attitudes and values be inculcated. In pursuing development the environmental and cultural effects will be considered to avoid any detrimental effects. The objective will be to conserve all that which is positive in the many diverse cultural traditions of Vanuatu, and to ensure that the environment of the country is not damaged in the pursuit of growth and development."

The aim of the Vanuatu National Conservation Strategy is to help to implement these objectives.


Conservation has been defined in the World Conservation Strategy to mean "the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations." Thus conservation is positive, aiming at the renewable use of living resources. Conservation, like development, is for people. We develop resources to meet human goals; we conserve them to ensure that such use can continue. These are the same objectives spelled out in DP2.

A National Conservation Strategy (NCS) is a way for a country to spell out how it is going to meet its objectives for sustainable development. Since conservation concerns everyone, it should be developed through consultation with all parts of the community, from school children to Ministers, from village councils of chiefs to central government departments. Decisions affecting the environment are made at many levels, from the individual farmer clearing land for a garden to the Council of Ministers. The NCS will only be effective if everyone understands and supports it, which can best be achieved if everyone participates in its formulation.

The NCS should represent a national consensus on how the people want their country to be in the future. This consensus should be recorded in a document, the National Conservation Strategy, that should be endorsed at the highest levels of government. It should serve as a guide for planning and development in the same way as a national development plan or a physical plan. It is complementary to these plans in that it takes a long-term view of the requirements for sustainable national development. It sets a framework for the continuing series of government development plans.


A National Conservation Strategy usually contains the following parts:

A statement of policy on conservation and development;

Information about the country and environment necessary for conservation planning, including:
- physical characteristics and resources, with summaries of those resources in each region requiring conservation action;
- human modifications of the environment;
- human population parameters;
- development characteristics, both general and sectoral (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, water, tourism, etc.);
- traditions and culture, including important traditional sites;
- means available for implementation (planning mechanisms, organizations, personnel, legislation, education, etc.);

A definition of conservation priorities, spelling out the limits within which sustainable development must take place;

A reassessment of development priorities wherever there may be conflicts with the objective of sustainable development, as a basis for preparing future national development plans;

Options for better integrating conservation and development, giving choices between different courses of action;

Recommendations for the implementation of the National Conservation Strategy;

A discussion of the international dimension, including responsibility for wide-ranging resources, and relations with international conventions, organizations and programmes such as the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme; and

Proposed pilot projects and action programmes.


General responsibility for environment and conservation in Vanuatu is vested in the Environment Unit within the Ministry of Lands, Minerals and Fisheries. The unit is presently staffed by an expatriate environmental adviser and two graduate level ni-Vanuatu. It advises government on the environmental impacts of development projects, prepares environmental legislation, undertakes environmental surveys and monitoring, initiates environmental awareness and education programmes, identifies and establishes protected areas, and serves as the national focal point for Vanuatu's participation in international environmental programmes and organizations. It has central responsibility for the National Conservation Strategy.

The National Advisory Committee on Environment is made up of representatives of all the concerned ministries. It reviews the environmental impacts of major development projects and makes recommendations to the National Planning Office.

There is presently a "voluntary" procedure for environmental impact assessment, shown in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1 - Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure

             Project submission by sectoral agencies
 |                                          |
 |                                          |                                  Assessment by
 |                                  PROJECT _________ Environment Unit
 |                                   REVIEW                 for environmental impacts
 |                                         / \
 |                                        /   \
 |                                       /     \
 |      Potentially major  /       \  Minimal or no
 |        env. impacts      /          \ environmental impacts
 |                                   /             \
 |Recommendations /               \
 |submitted to            /                 \
 |                    PREPARE     NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
 |                          EIS                  COMMISSION (NDC)
 |                            /                      /        \
 |             Submit /                      /           \
 |                    to  /              Rejection      \ Approval
 |                        /                                        \
 |                       /                                           \
 |______ NATIONAL ADVISORY             Funding sought

Projects over 20 million Vatu go to the Council of Ministers for approval.

Procedures for physical or land use planning have been adopted under the Physical Planning Act (1986), involving a Physical Planning Unit in the Ministry of Home Affairs (Figure 2).

FIGURE 2 - Physical Planning Procedures

                      ___MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
responsible/                               |
              for /                                | responsible for
                  /                                  |
PLANNING  advises                |
  UNIT       \                                 | responsible for
                    \                                |
                     \____ LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILS
                                     and MUNICIPAL COUNCILS
                                                    | can declare
                         PHYSICAL PLANNING AREAS
                             /                           \
                            /                             \
            involves/                                \involves
                         /                                   \
                        /                                     \
         Preparation of a              All developments (land use)
       PHYSICAL PLAN                subject to approval by the
               |                                           Local Government or
               |including                            Municipal Council
  - due regard for custom rules
  - welfare of locality and nation
  - opportunity for consultation

A number of ministries and departments have sectoral responsibilities assigned under law for conservation and environment in their areas of interest. Agriculture is responsible for wildlife protection under the Wildlife Protection (Birds) Regulations, which give total protection to 16 species, provide a closed season for 11 species, and place an export ban on 11 species. Forestry is responsible under the Forestry Act, 1982, for forest plantations and conservation in forest areas (Figure 3). The Fisheries Department implements the Fisheries Act of 1983, with provisions for fisheries management, marine reserves, and species protection (Figure 4). Mining activities are controlled by Geology under the Mines and Minerals Act, 1982 (Figure 5). There are proposals to establish a Water Resources Department, with provisions for an inventory of water resources, establishment of a water resources data base, and development of a water resources management/development plan. There is still no legislation concerning such important matters as control of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, soil conservation and erosion control, nature conservation and protected areas, coastal zone management and protection of critical areas for fisheries, preserving the scenic value of tourist sites, protection of custom sites and features of traditional or historical importance, or liability for damage to subsistence resources.

FIGURE 3 - Management of Forestry Activities

                                                       |responsible for
                            PRINCIPAL FOREST OFFICER
                               (DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY)
                                   /                           |                 \
                                  /                            |                  \
                                 /                             |                   \
                                /                responsible for         \
                               /                               |                      \
                              /                                |                        \
                             /                                 |                          \
                 UTILIZATION        MANAGEMENT          RESEARCH
                /               /      |                       |                                     |       \
               /               /       |                       |                                     |         \
  RESOURCE     /        |                       |                                     |   RESEARCH
INVENTORIES  /         |                   FOREST                         |
                            /   LOGGING     PLANTATIONS      CONSERVATION IN FOREST AREAS
                          /    CONTROL      /           |                               |                    |                     |
                         /                             /require|                               |                    |                     |
                       /                             /               |                     Permission           |                     |
                     /           Agreement with        |                     needed to             |                     |
                   /             customary land         |                     clear trees            |              Species
  INDUSTRY               owners         MANAGEMENT  near streams        |              protection
DEVELOPMENT                                 PLAN                                               |              by special
                                                                     |                                                    |              orders (eg.
                                                          must contain                                          |              sandalwood)
                                                        /        |          |      \                                      |
                                                      /          |          |        \                         Reserves for:
                                                    /            |          |       Protection         soil protection
                                                  / Sylviculture   |       of cultural          ecological values
                                                /    techniques   |          sites                cultural values
                                              /                             |                                  recreation
                               Species to be               Other                               (eg. Kauri National
                                    planted                  permitted                           Park)

FIGURE 4 - Management of Fishing Activities

                                  |responsible for
                      DIRECTOR OF FISHERIES
                        /         |         \
                       /          |          \
                      /    responsible for    \
                     /            |            \
                    /             |             \
Resource assessment                                    |                          Marine mammals
Management objectives                    in consultation               Rock lobsters
Management policies                        with:                                 Slipper lobsters
Management plans                            Owners of                       Coconut crabs
          |                                                   adjoining land,               Green snails
in consultation                                    Local Government         Trochus
with:                                                     Council                            Trumpet shell
Local fishermen                                                                           Coral
Local authorities                                                                          Aquarium fish
Others affected                                                                            Turtles
Government Ministries                                                               Crustaceans
Government Departments                                                         Beche-de-mer
Regional States                                                                         (using size limits
                                                                                                      and/or quotas and/
                                                                                                      or export licenses
                                                                                                      and/or banning

FIGURE 5 - Management of Mining Activities

                                             |responsible for
                          DIRECTOR OF GEOLOGY
                                             |responsible for
                        /                                      \
                       /                                        \
                      /         controlled by           \
                     /                                             \
                    /                                               \
Application for a mining                   Orders under the Act:
license; to include:                             to control pollution
reclamation and rehabilitation
of land and mitigation of effects
on adjoining lands and waters


The Republic of Vanuatu consists of some 80 islands in the tropical waters of the South-West Pacific, spread over a distance of 870 km and including 710,000 square kilometres of ocean. The land area of 12,190 square kilometres is occupied by 140,200 people. The two urban areas of Port Vila and Luganville have a population density of 449 persons per square kilometre, while the rural density is only 9.8 p/ The 790 villages have an average population of 152. The population growth rate is 3.1%, with the urban areas growing at 4.2% per year. The inhabitants are 94% Melanesian (ni-Vanuatu), and speak 105 distinct village languages, Bislama (pidgin) and often English or French. Per capita GDP is about US$ 570, but it is more than 8 times higher in urban than in rural areas, and nearly 10 times higher among expatriates than among ni-Vanuatu. Of the 82% of the population living in rural areas, 89% are in agriculture, much of it at the subsistence level.


Vanuatu is situated in a geologically active area on the edge of the Pacific plate along the New Hebrides Trench, moving south-west at between 8 and 18 cm per year. The islands are mostly of volcanic origin, with some raised reef islands or areas and a few low coral islands or reefs. There are active volcanoes on five islands, and eruptions are a threat to some inhabited areas. Lopevi had to be permanently evacuated about 20 years ago. Ambrym was affected by volcanic acid rain in 1979, and Tanna in 1988, causing severe damage to forests and agriculture. Several submarine volcanoes occur offshore. Earthquakes are also common, and have produced changes in island elevation of up to 2 metres in recent times. Destructive tsunamis (tidal waves) occur occasionally.

Geological mapping of the islands is completed, and a soil capability survey has identified the potentially arable areas. Manganese was formerly mined on Efate, and at least one other deposit is known. There has been active prospecting for gold and other metals in recent years, but no deposits of commercial interest have yet been proven. High quality limestones occur on several islands, and pozzolana for cement manufacture exists on Efate. Potential geothermal resources on Efate are being studied. There are thus reasonable prospects for mining projects on some islands in the medium to long term.


The warm waters of the region breed many cyclones which frequently affect the islands with hurricane winds, torrential rains and storm surges (an average of 2.6 per year). Cyclone Uma in 1987 caused an estimated $40 million in damage, mostly in the Port-Vila area. The tropical climate is marked by mean annual temperatures ranging from lows of 20-23°C to highs of 27-29°C. There is a considerable gradient in average annual rainfall from over 4000 mm in the north to less than 1500 mm in the south.

A project has just begun to computerize the existing scattered climatological data, but the lack of extensive meteorological records will make it difficult to assemble good climate profiles of most islands for some time to come. There are also plans to expand the network of meteorological stations. The lack of adequate climatological data has led to errors in development projects.


Three quarters of the land area is still covered by natural vegetation, including lowland rain forest or limestone forest, with some montane rain forest and even cloud forest on the higher islands. Mangroves are not abundant, covering only about 25 square kilometres. About 1,000 vascular plants have been recorded, including 150 endemic to Vanuatu. More than a third of the 71 butterflies are shared only with the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, while 5 are endemic to Vanuatu. The 76 species of land snails include 57 endemics, with high generic endemicity. There are 4 endemic lizards among the 22 reptiles and amphibians. The 53 species of land birds include 2 endemic genera, the Vanuatu Flycatcher (Neolage banksiana) and the White-bellied Honeyeater (Phylidonyris notabilis) and five other endemic species: Ptilinopus tannensis (Silver-shouldered Fruit Dove), Ducula bakeri (Baker's Pigeon), Halcyon farquhari (Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher), Zosterops flavifrons (Yellow-fronted White-eye) and Aplonis santovestris (Santo Mountain Starling) found only in the high mountains of Santo. There are also endemic bats. There is a biogeographic discontinuity between the northern islands and the five southern islands below 18°S latitude. The islands are still far from being well-known scientifically, and much more work will be needed to complete the inventory of the flora and fauna.

Studies have only recently begun on the 448 square kilometres of inner coral reefs and lagoons, but they appear to be as rich in places as those of the Australian Great Barrier Reef. A recent survey has shown that Dugongs are reasonably common in Vanuatu's waters, and this seems to be one of the rare populations of this species, classed as vulnerable on a world basis, that does not seem to be under any immediate threat.


Vanuatu is fortunate to have had a complete soil survey and analysis of its agronomic potential, so the possibilities for the uses of the land are reasonably well known.

Of the total land area of 12,190 square kilometres, 40% is considered arable, including 3,170 sq. km or 26% with soils with good agricultural potential, and a further 14% with moderate potential. 31% is classed as being unsuitable for agriculture or forestry. The rest has limited potential for shifting cultivation, or in some cases for forestry with suitable erosion controls (Quantin, 1982).

There are large discrepancies between the ORSTOM Agronomic Potential and Land Use Map of 1982 and the Agricultural Census of 1983 in the statistics for arable land and the amount of land under cultivation. Part of the difference may come from different interpretations as to what land is suitable for commercial agriculture as opposed to traditional subsistence gardens. Good soils on steep slopes may be considered arable for small- scale shifting cultivation with long fallows, but clearing such land for commercial crops or mechanized agriculture would lead to disastrous erosion. Future statistics should distinguish these two types of "arable" land to avoid confusion in development planning.

Such differences produce widely varying figures for the percentage of arable land under cultivation. The Agricultural Census shows only 27% of the arable land in use. On the other hand Quantin gives 43% as the amount of the arable land (2114 sq. km) under agricultural production. Such discrepancies make reliable planning very difficult. If Quantin is correct and the amount has since increased with the growing population and new agricultural development projects, the country is getting close to an agricultural crisis, particularly given the unequal distribution of arable land. If the agricultural census is more accurate, there is still room for considerable agricultural development. Further studies are obviously needed to clarify the situation.

There are 160 aging plantations and 21,000 smallholder households cultivating an average garden area of one quarter of a hectare. A large part of the smallholder agriculture is still shifting subsistence cultivation. This means that some of the unused arable land is probably actually in long-term fallow or will be required for short-term garden use. If this land is developed, the shifting agricultural system will collapse.

Commercial agriculture, mostly copra and cocoa, accounts for 95% by value of domestic exports and 29.5% of GDP. Plantation agriculture, mostly copra with a little coffee and cocoa, was established on some islands by European colonists, with some development of pasture land for beef production in the years immediately prior to independence. The sector was set back with the departure of many plantation owners upon independence. There have been recent efforts to replant aging copra plantations, and to expand coffee and cocoa production. The present development plan (DP2) calls for increased smallholder production, re-establishment of a strong plantation sector, and the establishment of a major 8200 ha cattle project on South Santo.

The big commercial agricultural developments are bringing environmental problems. Developers find it more interesting to clear more primary forest for pasture rather that to rejuvinate old pasture or to manage existing pasture on a sustainable basis. Poor pasture management has led to problems of erosion and soil degradation. The government lacks the means to enforce the existing regulations for good management. This sector is thus using new land faster than is necessary or sustainable. The big commercial plantation developers are also making increasingly heavy use of pesticides and herbicides. These may be as expensive as hand labour for such activities as weed control, but it is simpler to spray poison than to hire workers. Thus scarce foreign exchange is used for imported chemicals when local employment could be created and long-term environmental problems avoided by the use of hand labour.

Some islands have experienced serious conflicts between commercial and subsistence use of land. On these islands, the most accessible coastal land was taken for plantations or cash crops, requiring the villagers to walk long distances to find land for subsistence gardens.

The general impression that Vanuatu still has abundant undeveloped agricultural land masks great differences between islands. In Paama and the Shepherds, the good land has long since been developed, forcing the cultivation of land with very limited agricultural potential. Much of this is on steep slopes highly susceptible to erosion, which both endangers the future of the land and can damage or destroy water supplies and coastal subsistence fishery resources. Overstocking with cattle has also led to some erosion and soil degradation. Ambrym is also using all its good agricultural land. In Ambae/Maewo, Pentecost, Epi and Tafea LGC regions, more than half the arable land is already under cultivation, and in Tafea there is potential for agricultural development only on Erromango. There are thus only a few islands with considerable potential for agricultural development.


While much of the country is still covered by forest, much of this is on land too steep for logging, or contains little timber of commercial value because of frequent cyclone damage. A forest inventory is now planned which will for the first time permit an estimate of the overall forest resource base. Perhaps the most valuable timber tree, kauri (Agathis), was nearly logged out under the colonial administration; one small primary stand remains in central Erromango. Annual forest cut has ranged from 19,500 to 36,500 cubic metres over the last few years, with up to two thirds being exported, but according to DP2, export logging permits will be phased out by 1990. Many timber products have also had to be imported. Self-sufficiency will only be possible from plantation forestry.

Over 1000 ha of local supply plantations have been planted in recent years, together with four industrial forestry plantations totaling 850 ha. Planting is expected to continue at 300 ha per year. An additional 6000 ha industrial plantation is projected on Santo, and feasibility studies are planned for plantations on Efate and Malakula. Research is continuing into types of agroforestry which can be integrated into the smallholder system.


The village fishery from the inner reefs and lagoons is estimated to produce 2400 tonnes of fish and other organisms per year, mostly for subsistence use. This amounts to over 5 tonnes per square kilometre, and is probably already the maximum sustainable level for these resources. There is some evidence to suggest that this catch is being affected by pollution in areas where development is taking place.

Fisheries development is concentrating on the deep bottom fishery between 80 and 300 metres depth, which can probably sustain an annual harvest of 740 tonnes of high-quality fish suitable for export, involving up to 200 small artisanal fishing boats. This catch level should be reached within ten years, and care will have to be taken to ensure that local areas of this vulnerable resource are not overfished. The seasonal offshore tuna and skipjack resources were exploited by a fleet based at Palekula on Espirito Santo, but that base closed in 1986 when the fleet moved to other waters, and the only fishing at present for this resource is by foreign fishing fleets licensed to fish in Vanuatu waters.


Water is often the most limited resource on islands, and in spite of the high rainfall in much of Vanuatu, water resources will have to be managed carefully if they are not to limit development in the future. Much effort is going into the provision of safe water supplies in rural areas. By the end of 1986, 70,000 rural people were served by adequate water supplies, leaving 61,000 yet to be supplied by the target date of 1990. For this effort to be sustainable, it is essential that the water catchment areas that furnish these water supplies be protected from any damaging development, such as forest clearing or house construction. Where ground water is used, it must be protected from pollution.

The water supplies for the urban areas of Port-Vila and Luganville are a particular problem because of the quantities of water required, and because urban growth has a natural tendency to encroach on water catchment and groundwater recharge areas. The Luganville groundwater supply is already contaminated and must be changed; in Port-Vila, housebuilding has begun in the protected water catchment. The strict enforcement of protective measures is essential if these water supplies are not to be endangered, with serious consequences for public health.

The lagoons and coastal waters near Port-Vila are becoming seriously polluted, with evident health risks for the urban population. Funding is now being sought for the first stage of a planned sewerage scheme which is becoming increasingly urgent.


Vanuatu is dependent on expensive imported petroleum products for energy in the modern sector. Wood is still the principal energy source in the rural areas. Consideration is being given to wood-fueled electricity generation for Port-Vila and Luganville, using eventual waste products from the industrial forestry plantations. Geothermal potential is also being investigated on Efate.

A variety of studies are underway or planned on appropriate energy technologies for rural areas, including wood gasifiers, wood-fired steam power, micro-hydropower and solar energy. However little work has been done on sustainable supplies of rural fuels.



On any island, one resource is inherently limited: the land. The strong attachment of the people of Vanuatu to their land is evident in the Constitution and in the system of land ownership. The use of land is thus both a critical and sensitive issue that must be faced in planning a sustainable future for the country. Approaches to this problem cannot be copied from elsewhere, but must be developed within the system of custom ownership and use of land.

The problem lies in the fact that the land has resources which may be of little or no importance to the land owner, but which may be of great importance to other land owners or to the nation as a whole. For example, the rain falls on the mountainsides, where it is caught by the forest and flows into streams and finally to the sea. The stream keeps flowing after the rain has stopped because the water is held by the forest and the ground and flows out gradually. If the forest is all cut down, the rainwater runs off the land in a muddy flood, and then the stream may dry up because less water is held by the bare land. Suppose one group of land owners owns the mountain slope and another group a village by the sea that uses the stream for its water. The owners of the mountain slope may see only the vatu that they can earn by logging the mountain. The water that comes from the land may not seem important to them, even if it is critical to the survival of the other village. One of the functions of government is to balance the rights and responsibilities of all citizens and to ensure the respect both of individual liberties and of the common good.

In earlier times, there was little land owners could do on their land that would affect anyone elsewhere, but there were complex custom systems to ensure that the common good of the tribe was respected, as for instance in the placing of taboos on certain resources. Today, development means that the effects of land use are bigger and go much further, so the custom principles for the respect of the common good must be extended accordingly. This will require careful thought as to how to identify the overriding common good, how to educate the people to accept some constraints as to what they can do with their land in the common interest, and what form those constraints should take. The problem is basically no different from imposing taxes or other obligations on citizens; no one likes it, but eventually almost everyone accepts it.

One solution would be something akin to the traditional taboo system. Legislation could be passed allowing government, whether national or local, to place a kind of taboo on certain areas of land limiting the kinds of development that can take place on it, apart from traditional custom uses, where that limitation is necessary to protect the common interest. A similar protection could be placed on specific resources, say a grove of trees providing seed for forestry projects, or a stream supplying a microhydroelectric generator for a village or school. There should obviously be safeguards in such legislation, such as the need for the consent of the custom chiefs, the requirement of prior consultation with the land owners concerned, and the possibility of appeal through the courts, but there should not be an automatic right to compensation except where the resource concerned was previously producing income or products that would be lost.


Both government and the private sector plan development projects to improve local incomes and living standards, to build the economy, and to earn foreign exchange, but those development projects can only go ahead if land owners agree to the use of their land. Planning for the use of land must thus involve both the government and the custom land owners. Too often at present, projects seem to be planned by the government or a developer, and then the land owners are asked to agree. There is little opportunity to discuss what kind of project, or what changes to the project, might better fit with the land owners needs or desires. The pressure to take a project or to leave it has led land owners to make decisions that they have later regretted. Often land owners are informed only of the potential benefits of a project and not of its disadvantages. They must be given more complete information in order to be able to make sound decisions Consultation before projects are formulated in detail would help to avoid this.

In developed countries, environmental impact assessment procedures are widely used to ensure that decision-makers are informed about all the effects of a development, including long-term costs to the environment and to the society, before making a decision about it. In Vanuatu, where the land tenure system means that development decisions are made as much at the local as the national level, a similar procedure is needed reaching to the local level. Land owners have a right to be informed about the social and environmental impacts of a project before agreeing to a land lease. Initially this could be a role of the Environment Unit, to meet with land owners and to discuss the environmental dimension of projects with them. Eventually this role could be devolved to the local government councils when they have staff trained to do this, with the Environment Unit just providing technical advice and assistance.


While Vanuatu may seem underpopulated, land is rapidly becoming short for many potential uses, and increasing attention will need to be paid to the trade-offs between conflicting uses. Part of the problem in a nation of islands is that each island must be planned as a self-reliant unit; excess water catchment area on one island will not make up for its lack on another. National averages should not cover up the serious choices to be made on many islands.

For instance, many islands have little or no good land available for commercial agricultural development, which requires both good soil and little slope. What land they have will be needed to provide the subsistence requirements of a growing population. Other kinds of development will need to be found to provide their inhabitants with cash incomes. Any large expansion of commercial agriculture on these islands will take land away from subsistence cultivation, reducing local self-sufficiency and increasing nutritional problems. As the steeper erosion-prone slopes and more fragile soils are cleared for gardens, the effects of agriculture on other resources will increase. Water supply catchments will be damaged or polluted, streams will be muddied, and the sediment will smother nearshore coral reefs, further reducing the ability of the island to provide for the subsistence needs of its population.

Each island has some maximum carrying capacity, which is the largest number of people its resources can support, determined by the amount of food its land and waters can produce, or sometimes by the amount of fresh water available. Any attempt to overextend that capacity will damage resources and result in a reduction of the number of people the island can support. Instead of developing, the island will be going backwards and getting poorer. This is the case in many parts of Africa today. There are kinds of sophisticated development that can increase the carrying capacity of an area, but they are very expensive and usually depend on heavy outside subsidies. They also involve great social and cultural changes.

There is not presently enough information available to determine the carrying capacity of any island in Vanuatu. The discrepancies in the agricultural statistics make any projections on the basis of existing data risky. However, some of the smaller islands clearly show signs of getting very close to their resource limits. It will be necessary to look for land for their excess population elsewhere in the country. If not addressed in time, this problem can lead to serious social conflict.

It will also be necessary to fit together on each island the land requirements for water catchment, production of fuel wood and forest products, subsistence agriculture, commercial developments, infrastructure, cultural and nature conservation, etc. This will require better data on land uses, and co-ordinated planning for the island as a whole, bringing together the interests of all the land owners and lease holders. Much can probably be done in this direction through education of the people concerned and wide discussion of the issues to reach a local consensus on the needs and requirements. One of the aims of the National Conservation Strategy will be to begin this process.


A unique feature of Vanuatu has been the total change in the land ownership system on independence. Many leases are being signed at approximately the same time, most of them for 75 years. This means that many decisions about the use of land are being locked in for 75 years before they can be reconsidered, and at that time almost everything will be up for reconsideration. Such synchronization in land use decisions has not occurred elsewhere.

One worrying feature concerning the 75 year lease system is that few land owners are planning for their own land requirements 75 years into the future. At present rates of growth, a family of 10 will have 90 members in 75 years time, a village of 100 will need land then to meet the needs of nearly 1,000 inhabitants. How many people are reserving land for these requirements? If these factors are not considered now, pressures will inevitably build up that will bring fundamental changes to the culture and lifestyle of the people and make self-sufficiency as a national goal increasingly difficult.


There is ample expertise and information within the government to evaluate most development projects quite thoroughly. However this expertise is spread across many departments where it is not always readily available. There have been some cases where serious flaws in development projects have not been discovered until too late because there was not adequate discussion between departments about the project's technical aspects. Project screening procedures may need to be strengthened to ensure that all technical aspects of a project are reviewed by all the departments concerned and not just the originating department.

A more formalized environmental impact assessment procedure may need to be instituted for all projects involving industrial development, employing toxic chemicals, producing significant quantities of wastes or pollutants, requiring construction in the coastal zone, or affecting more than 500 hectares of land. These procedures should apply to all such projects in Vanuatu, and not just to those initiated by the government, to prevent outside developers arranging projects directly with custom owners without adequate information being provided to land owners about their impacts.


The soil is arguably the most important resource in Vanuatu after the people, yet no section of government is directly responsible for its protection and management. Soil erosion is only beginning to become a problem in some areas. but in a country with steep terrain and heavy rainfall it is bound to get worse if special efforts are not made to apply erosion controls across all sectors of government activity (agriculture, forestry, public works, mining, etc.). The soil survey of Vanuatu shows that land use in many areas is limited primarily by the susceptibility of the soil to erosion. Improper development of these lands will rapidly destroy their potential. Landowners in such areas should be educated to the limitations of their land and the precautions needed for its development.

Erosion not only degrades the land, it is probably the most important single cause of damage to coastal fisheries resources in the tropics. The high productivity of the coastal subsistence fishery highlights the importance of protecting it for sustainable development. It may be necessary to identify the most important coastal fisheries areas, and to limit the kinds of development permitted in adjacent land areas and watersheds to activities with no danger of erosion or pollution.

It is important to develop the kinds of agriculture most appropriate to Vanuatu, and the Department of Agriculture seems to be doing good work in this area. More intensive agricultural systems on the best soils will help to reduce pressure on the land. Agroforestry may be the best approach on poorer soils and in erosion-prone areas. The emphasis on finding biological controls is excellent as long as proposed introductions are adequately tested for potential effects on the local flora and fauna. The tragedy of the use of the carnivorous snail Euglandina for control of the Giant African Snail has been its elimination of many rare native snails across the Pacific. No one has looked at the effects on the unique snail fauna of Vanuatu.


The forest is a primary resource for the islands. It regulates the water supply, regenerates the fertility of the soil, provides protection against cyclone damage, furnishes the main energy supply for rural areas, supplies building materials, medicinal plants, food and other products, and has some potential for commercial development. Not all of these benefits are possible at the same time. Logging in particular excludes most of the others, yet it is rare that they are all considered when a decision to log is being made. Comprehensive forest management means ensuring that there is adequate forest on each island and near each village to meet all their different forest needs.

Most forestry programmes to date have concentrated on the forest as a source of timber, and this sector seems to be well planned. The decision to phase out the export of unprocessed logs was particularly wise and should be maintained. In the absence of a detailed forest inventory on which to base a sustainable yield, there is a particular risk of overexploitation through such exports.

An area where more work is needed is on the forest as a rural subsistence energy source. If studies in other Pacific Islands are any indication, firewood is the most important energy supply in the country, yet no studies have been done on the supplies or requirements. In those areas where land is getting scarce, or where extensive areas have been cleared for plantations or pasture, shortages of firewood can be expected to become a real hardship for local people. Forest planning should include adequate fuel wood supplies close to all villages.

Given the frequency of cyclones in the country, tree planting programmes should select species resistant to wind damage, or at least a mix of species that can provide shelter from high winds and those with greater commercial potential. Windbreaks may also be necessary in forest plantation areas to ensure that the investment is sustainable.

The effects of selective logging on subsequent cyclone damage in logged forest also needs to be examined, as the removal of some trees could make the others more liable to windthrow.


The Government has been aware for some time of the need for water resource management, and a consultant has already prepared draft legislation that addresses all the issues. This draft may need some modification to simplify the provisions for implementation.

It is essential to begin as soon as possible to inventory the important water catchment and ground water recharge areas of each island so that they will receive adequate protection as development proceeds. Too many Pacific islands have discovered too late that they have damaged or polluted essential water supplies, requiring expensive treatment measures that could have been avoided with some wise planning. The problems with the Luganville and Port-Vila water supplies demonstrate that it is not too early to take action here.

Hydroelectricity is an important potential energy source for some parts of the country, involving both mini-hydro plants of some major rivers near urban areas, and micro-hydro plants for cheap and reliable supplies in rural centres. However, this potential can be lost if the watersheds with hydroelectric potential are not managed carefully to maintain adequate water flows. Once facilities are built, any erosion in the catchments can reduce their useful life. Again these areas should be identified now and damaging development projects avoided in them.


Tourism is one use of Vanuatu's resources that is easily sustainable with some careful planning. The tourism physical master plan called for in DP2 will be an important step forward. The good diving sites, beaches and scenic areas which attract tourists must be inventoried and then protected from types of development that would destroy their essential values. A recent case in the Philippines is instructive. A luxury diving resort in an attractive bay brought valuable foreign exchange into the country. The bay was also an important fishing area. A logging concession was granted for the hills around the bay, and as the forest was cut, the bay filled with muddy water, destroying the fishery and the diving areas. An economic analysis showed that, over 10 years, the tourism and the fishery would have been worth several times more that the income earned from the logging operation, as well as creating more employment. Careful planning and some land use controls would ensure that such shortsighted unsustainable development does not happen here.

Conflicts between different development options are particularly frequent in coastal areas. Careful coastal zone planning will be required in the most desirable areas to partition the resource for different essential uses. For instance, sites are needed on Efate for fuel offloading and storage, and possibly for a cement industry as well as for tourist facilities. No one wants to invest in a tourist hotel, only to discover that an oil storage tank or cement factory is to be built next door.

There seems to be some problem with tourists not respecting custom in the use of beaches and other areas under custom ownership. In most instances this seems to be through ignorance. A greater effort is needed to integrate tourism and custom, particularly through better education of arriving tourists about custom, and simpler and more evident ways for tourists visiting an area to obtain the necessary custom permission, and perhaps to make a financial contribution to the land owners. Tourism can in fact be an important economic justification for the conservation of resources and sites, giving people a sustainable economic return without exploitation of the resources. There is no reason why tourism and custom cannot go together, but if antagonism develops it is harmful for both.


There is now consensus in the international scientific community that man's impact on the global atmosphere is causing the earth's temperature to increase, with potentially serious consequences even for countries like Vanuatu far from industrial pollution.

One probable effect of the rise in temperature will be an increase in the number and severity of cyclones in the region. Cyclones are already a major environmental limit to the country's development. They probably explain why there is so little merchantable timber in the forests. They damage agricultural production and limit what can be produced. The need to repair damage to buildings and infrastructure is a brake on development. Yet there is no cure for cyclones, only the possibility of planning to minimize their effects.

Much more can be done to make Vanuatu more cyclone-resistant. The wider use of cyclone-resistant trees such as kauri and casuarina as windbreaks might reduce damage to agriculture and forestry. The western practice of clearing large land areas should be abandoned in favour of smaller parcels separated by bands of forest or trees. Land areas that are naturally sheltered should be identified and selected for the more vulnerable types of development. Exposed coastal areas subject to storm surge should be avoided. Natural defenses such as coastal vegetation, mangroves and coral reefs should be preserved as much as possible. Building standards should be raised, particularly for roofing. Storm drainage works should be sized to cope with very heavy rainfall. Meteorological monitoring should be increased as resources permit to get better measures of the parameters that need to be planned for. In all these instances, good planning is much cheaper than reconstruction.

Another probable effect of the changing climate will be a rise in sea level. The best present estimates predict a rise of between 20 and 140 centimetres over the next 40 years, although some estimates go as high as 3 metres by the end of the next century. No coastal construction should be planned today without taking this possibility into account. The effects of sea level rise will first become apparent in increasing coastal damage during storms, with higher waves and more coastal erosion. Since the country cannot afford expensive coastal protective works, the only alternative is to build away from vulnerable areas. This may mean having to move the villages on some low-lying offshore islands. A rising sea level will also contaminate the fresh water lens that supplies water on low islands, which could be a problem in some areas. Planning now for a possible increase of 1 metre would seem to be a reasonable option.

Other effects of natural disasters should be similarly planned for. Major earthquakes are a constant possibility, with the associated risk of tsunamis. Extensive development should be discouraged in areas known to be vulnerable to tsunami damage. Similar development controls should be applied where there are hazards from volcanic eruptions.


There are relatively few toxic chemicals presently used in Vanuatu, but this is changing rapidly. There have been many deaths and serious pollution accidents in the Pacific due to pesticides and other toxic materials, and some suggestions of contaminated seafoods in Vanuatu. Legislation is needed to give the government the power to control the import, storage and use of potential pollutants. The particular risks are to ground water supplies, to coastal subsistence fisheries, and to export products which could lose their markets if residues are found in them.

It is important that the government know what is being imported, where it is being stored, and how it is being used. It would be wise to limit the storage sites of dangerous chemicals to secure buildings in areas where ground water and coastal fisheries are not at risk. Too often in the Pacific, barrel of pesticide has rusted through and drained into the ground water, or an agricultural store has been washed into the lagoon during a cyclone. At present, no special precautions are being taken during the transport and storage of these dangerous materials.

Some spot checks should be made of pesticide residues in foodstuffs and other environmental samples from areas where pesticides and herbicides are being used, particularly near large plantations and in areas sprayed for malaria control, to ensure that there are no developing health risks.

It should go without saying that the Government should refuse any lucrative offers from overseas to dispose of toxic industrial wastes in Vanuatu. A number of developing countries have recently been approached by unethical companies with such propositions. The islands of Vanuatu are too vulnerable and too subject to natural disasters to have any safe place for such wastes.


While Vanuatu does not have as rich a fauna and flora as its neighbors to the north and south because of the relative youth of the islands, it does have some important species and genetic resources that must be conserved for future generations.

An obvious example is the remaining kauri stand on Erromango. The seeds from these trees grow better than any others known, and are thus a unique genetic resource. The species is important both because of the high value of its wood, and because of its cyclone resistance, and it should be planted widely. The logging of those trees would be an enormous loss to the future of the country. The area also has important archaeological sites, and there is no immediate requirement of the land for other uses. It is thus the perfect candidate for Vanuatu's first national park, and proposals by Forestry along these lines are already well developed. The site could be developed with trails, educational exhibits and nearby guest cottages, providing a continuing source of income for the land owners to compensate for the value of the timber.

A survey should be made to identify the parts of Vanuatu with endemic species, unique habitats and representative ecosystems which should receive some kind of protection for their conservation interest as part of Vanuatu's natural heritage. In the first instance development projects should simply not be approved for these areas, but eventually they should be included, with the agreement of the custom owners, in some kind of a system of parks and protected areas. Many of these sites will not have other development potential in any case, or they may coincide with areas requiring protection for watershed management or because of their custom importance. Where the sites have tourist interest, they can contribute through having park status to the national income.

Important tourism dive sites should also be protected in marine reserves. Studies on Caribbean islands have shown that the cost-benefit ratio of investments in protected areas is very high; the money they bring in through tourism and recreation far exceeds the costs of establishment and management. Marine protected areas can also be important as breeding areas for sustainable fisheries management. On one small island in the Philippines, the creation of a marine reserve on one side of the island actually increased the fish catch for the local village from the remaining reef.

The conservation of nature and culture are closely related. The cultures of Vanuatu evolved in the natural environment, and many customs relate to native plants and animals. The medicinal plants are only one example. Everywhere there are taboo areas, cemeteries, old village sites, important rocks and other custom places that need to be protected against damage from development. The planned archaeological inventory will eventually identify where these sites are, but a start can be made now by consulting with local people during the preparation of the National Conservation Strategy. This heritage of Vanuatu must receive adequate protection from both accidental and willful destruction, if necessary through legislation.

There are many aspects of custom that involve good environmental management. There were highly evolved systems of agriculture, of weather prediction, of fisheries management, of land use, of protective taboos, that made it possible for large populations to live successfully on these islands for perhaps 4,000 years. That is much longer than European civilization has survived. Too often this rich store of knowledge has been forgotten with Christianization, education and development, yet much of it would be useful as a guide to sustainable development. Every effort should be made to salvage what traditional knowledge is left and to draw inspiration from it in planning for the future. Development plans for an area should always be discussed with the chiefs and other holders of traditional knowledge, as they are often aware of factors and requirements that others (particularly outside experts) overlook.


No amount of plans or regulations will be of any use if they are not enforced, and this is a particular weakness in Vanuatu at present. There is a serious lack of trained manpower and resources throughout government to apply what is decided. It will take time to build up the Government's capacity in this respect. The Environment Unit is fortunate to have two highly trained and capable ni-Vanuatu staff plus an expatriate adviser at present. There is thus a core capacity both to prepare a National Conservation Strategy and to implement it. It is important that any legislation, regulations and procedures be as simple as possible, with a minimum of bureaucracy, so that the essential matters can be taken care of by the limited staff available.

The most effective kind of enforcement is through education. When people understand the reasons for protective measures or a certain course of action, they will support them. The weight of public opinion is often the most effective way to control recalcitrant members of the community, particularly in a small village. Resort to legal measures should only be a last resort in extreme cases; it is often necessary as an ultimate deterrent, but it should seldom be used. As decentralization is strengthened in Vanuatu, much conservation action should be done at the local government level, and plans should be made for continuing education of LGC members and staff, and eventually area councils, in the basic principles of conservation and sustainable development. Again the National Conservation Strategy will give a start to this process.

It is necessary to monitor what is happening to the environment in order to determine whether Government policy and procedures are being applied successfully. In the past this has been difficult, since little information has been available about the environment and resources in Vanuatu, and a study at a single point in time gives no information about how things are changing. Is forest cover decreasing? Are degraded lands increasing? How much development is taking place on steep slopes? Is any undeveloped arable land left on Ambrym? To answer such questions which are essential to development planning, Government must have some means of regular monitoring of natural resources. Comparisons of different sets of aerial photographs are one possibility, but this requires time and trained manpower.

Another possibility that will soon open up for Vanuatu and that will revolutionize the amount of information available for planning is the coverage of most of Vanuatu with SPOT satellite images, which ORSTOM has ordered as part of its research programmes. These high resolution images can be computer processed to give classifications, maps and quantitative measures of forest cover, the condition of agricultural resources, the different zones of coral reefs, and other resource information. The critical input necessary to use such images successfully is the ground truthing, the studies on the ground to determine what the satellite is seeing at any specific place. For terrestrial vegetation, this should be available through the planned forest inventory. The recent marine resources survey can provide some ground truthing for shallow coastal waters. Thus it should be possible within a few years to have much more complete and useful information about the condition of Vanuatu's resources. There are now satellite image processing facilities in both New Caledonia and Tahiti as well as in Australia. Plans should be made now to have ni-Vanuatu trained at one of these facilities to take advantage of the new information that will be available.

Once a first set of SPOT images is available it will be possible to consider how they can be used to monitor important changes. When a second image is obtained of the same island, the computer can compare the two images and map what has changed. This technique has already been used to show the effects of a cyclone on reef and lagoon resources on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands.


A national conservation strategy has international dimensions. Rare fauna and flora may be threatened through illegal export for international trade. Some birds, butterflies, orchids and shells can bring high prices overseas. Controlling this international trade can be done by listing these species under the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Regional assistance and co-ordination can be obtained by participating actively in the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme and becoming a party to the SPREP convention, as well as to the Apia Convention on the Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific. The various international conventions under the International Maritime Organization (IMO) can provide assistance and legal recourse in cases of marine pollution. The advantages of participating in these and other international agreements and programmes should be examined carefully by the Government.


The key principles widely expressed in Government policy that should underlie the Vanuatu National Conservation Strategy can be summarized in three phrases:

--- sustainable development;

--- conservation of the national heritage; and

--- self-reliance.

All development activities should be judged by the extent to which they contribute to these three goals. Any project that works against any of these goals should be modified or rejected.

Note that these values will not be shared by outside developers, whose principal criterion will be to make a profit while exploiting Vanuatu's resources. For instance, plantation managers find it easier to use expensive herbicides for weed control because, for the same cost, it is less complicated than hiring local people, even though it presents hazards for the environment. Also, pasture development for beef production will give an outside investor the best return for his money, even though it uses large areas of land and creates little employment, thus degrading the land resource and benefiting few people in the country.

The National Conservation Strategy should help the Government and people of Vanuatu to establish procedures and structures that ensure that the important national values are incorporated in every project. This will require discussion and negotiation, since meeting these goals for Vanuatu may mean some reduction in potential profits for the developer. It also requires enforcement mechanisms, since some developers will not respect their commitments unless forced to do so.

Certain unscrupulous developers will attempt unethical means to obtain approval for their projects, particularly if they do not meet national goals. The system of project approval should have sufficient safeguards to prevent approval of such projects in this way without adequate review by the different technical services of the government.

The best mechanisms to achieve these goals are better review and exchange of information between government departments, and better communication between the national and local levels. Information and technical expertise in the national government need to be more widely available at the local level, and local knowledge of resources and desires for the future need to be communicated to the national level. The aims should be widespread consultation and consensus. This is the philosophy underlying the National Conservation Strategy as proposed here.


The preparation of the Vanuatu National Conservation Strategy (NCS) will involve a carefully co-ordinated series of activities designed to achieve the maximum possible participation of the people of Vanuatu in building a consensus for conservation.

The terms of reference for the National Advisory Committee on Environment should be expanded to include oversight and co-ordination of the National Conservation Strategy preparation and implementation. The committee's membership should be expanded to include representatives of the Malvatumauri, the business community, and non-governmental organizations interested in conservation and the environment. The Environment Unit should provide the secretariat for the committee, and should have day-to-day responsibility for the NCS.

It is too early to establish a calendar for these activities, as this will depend in part on how long it takes to obtain the outside funding required for certain components. The general timing is suggested in the workplan below. However, those preparatory activities which do not depend on additional funding could begin immediately. The second and principal phase of NCS preparation will involve three parts: activities within government mostly at the national level, public activities designed to encourage the widest possible participation at national and local levels, and the final compilation of the results into a National Conservation Strategy document and supporting materials for approval and implementation.



Each concerned department and unit will need to prepare a brief sectoral description of their policy and programmes as they relate to conservation and the implementation of the sustainable development objectives of DP2.

These sectoral strategies for conservation should include a description of the resource endowments in the sector, the extent to which they have been modified by man, the potential for development, the interactions between development and conservation including present and anticipated environmental problems, and options or requirements for more sustainable development as called for in DP2. A breakdown of information by region, island or area would be desirable whenever possible. The following sectoral strategies will need to be prepared by the appropriate departments:

Agriculture Agriculture
Forestry Forestry
Fisheries Fisheries
Mining Geology
Water Geology
Energy Energy Unit
Tourism National Tourism Office
Population NPSO
Health Environmental Health Unit
Education Education
Custom Cultural Centre/Malvatumauri

It will be particularly useful in these sectoral reports to bring out information on the following conservation-related problems: change in forest cover, protection of water supplies and water catchments, soil erosion, vulnerability to natural disasters such as cyclones and volcanic eruptions, storage and handling of potential pollutants (petroleum products, pesticides, fertilizers, other toxic chemicals), subsistence versus commercial use of resources, conservation of species and critical habitats, relations with custom and traditional methods, effects of land development on coastal waters and fisheries, and projected development over the next 10 or 20 years. Long-term projections for 75 years (a human life-span and the length of most land leases) would be informative.


In preparation for consultations at the regional and area level, it will be necessary to prepare sketch maps, or overlays for the standard 1:50000 base maps, showing:

--- important water catchments and water supplies;
--- susceptibility to erosion (slope);
--- forest cover, commercial potential, subsistence uses;
--- agricultural areas and crops;
--- land use potential;
--- important coastal fisheries areas or critical habitats;
--- areas of nature conservation interest;
--- villages, facilities, roads; transport infrastructure;
--- tourism areas, scenic sites, recreation potential;
--- custom, cultural and historic sites;
--- sites of known or suspected mineral resources;
--- facilities with potential pollution risk;
--- data on environmentally-related health problems;
--- population size, growth rate, 25/50/75 year projections;
--- leased and alienated land;
--- land available to resettle displaced or excess people;
--- climate, rainfall, vulnerability to cyclones;
--- coastal risks from erosion, flooding, sea-level rise.

Obviously it will not be possible to give too much detail in these overlays, but even general information will be useful. Where data are not available at the national level, it should be possible to refine the maps in discussions at the LGC and area levels. If aerial photo mosaics can be prepared for each area, this would also help people to situate their land on the maps.

Much useful material for these maps now exists or is being collected. Basic documents include the 1983 Agricultural Census, the geological maps, and the land use maps and atlas by ORSTOM. Other information can be gleaned from the 1983 Regional Development Profile, the Marine Resources Survey, the ORSTOM seismic risks survey, the ORSTOM Mangrove study, the Village Fisheries Development Programme Research Reports, and the surveys by the Environmental Health Unit. Particularly useful will be the sketch maps and data on land use being collected by the Agriculture Extension officers as a field exercise for their planning workshop in July 1989.

If the new computer systems for the compilation of climate data and of land records (particularly areas covered by land leases) are completed in time, they should also be able to provide useful input. Preliminary results from the May 1989 Census may also be available.

Other information will probably be too late for the initial NCS preparation but can be integrated into it later as part of ongoing planning, such as the Forest Inventory, the complete analysis of the 1989 census, the National Archaeological Site Survey, and the Tourism Physical Master Plan.


The following educational materials will need to be prepared for use in the NCS campaign and afterwards:

A simple audio-visual programme, poster, and illustrated manual in bislama presenting the basic principles of conservation and sustainable development at the village level, and giving and introduction to local level resource planning. The SPC film "Story of an Island" could be used as a complement to this programme where possible, particularly if a new soundtrack can be prepared in bislama.

Educational materials on the philosophy of conservation and sustainable use, describing basic resource use problems and their solutions, for use in upper primary schools. A poster on the NCS to be put up in all the classrooms would be excellent. The SPREP slide/tape programme, "Problems in the Pacific Islands Environment" with narration in bislama should be useful in upper primary and secondary school as well as with the general public. Educational programmes and materials relating to the National Conservation Strategy for use in secondary schools. Much general material already exists at Malapoa College which could be used around the NCS theme. A set of training materials in rural environmental management can be borrowed from SPREP; many of the units could be easily adapted for secondary school use in Vanuatu.

Basic references on the natural history, geology, fauna, flora, and marine life of Vanuatu for school use and for the general public, with trilingual text and ample illustrations.

Conservation materials for use in radio broadcasts (some materials should be available from SPREP, but they will probably need translation and adaptation).

The educational materials for school use will be distributed through official channels. They will need to be introduced to teachers through the Education Department network of advisers and through short teacher training visits or workshops during Environment Unit trips to the LGC regions, as well as through the Vanuatu Institute of Education.


Since the NCS will require the active participation of many groups of people in and out of government, it will be necessary to ensure that key groups are adequately informed about the basic issues of sustainable development and conservation. Short sessions on the NCS should be given to the meeting of regional planners, the planning workshop of agricultural extension officers, the conference of school principals, and other planned meetings of concerned personnel.

Because of the key role of the Local Government Councils in preparing regional conservation strategies, another one week workshop on rural environmental management should be organized for the secretaries of Local Government Councils, similar to that held for them in August 1985.


A project is already in process to review the legislation concerning conservation and environment and to recommend modifications or additions. This legislation should if possible be completed and placed before parliament during the period of NCS preparation to facilitate the implementation of the NCS once it is adopted.


One major piece of legislation needed is a heritage conservation act that would provide for both cultural and natural conservation. The act should provide mechanisms whereby custom leaders and land owners could have sites and objects of special importance registered for protection under the act. Ownership and management would rest with the custom owners, but with the additional support of the law for their protection and specified punishments for the violation of that protection.

Where natural and cultural areas are deemed to have national importance warranting protection as national parks or reserves, these should be established under the act either through leasehold arrangements or through other procedures formalizing their status with the consent and support of the custom owners. Technical assistance with the management (and development, where appropriate) of such areas could be provided to the owners by the appropriate government department. Compensation for the declaration of such areas could be in the form of exclusive rights to development opportunities associated with the protected area.

These provisions should also allow land owners and Local Government Councils to give legal weight to certain protection provisions of their regional conservation strategy plans.

The provisions of Joint Regulation No. 11 of 1965 concerning cultural artifacts could be revised and updated as part of the same legislation. Controls are needed on the export both of cultural artifacts and of rare and endangered species.

The act could also have a section to encourage the transmission of traditional culture, perhaps through the naming of certain highly respected holders of traditional knowledge and arts as "national treasures" as is done in Japan, with provision for apprentices to study with them, or recognizing the right of employees to take a limited amount of "custom leave" to participate in important traditional events or to learn from elders in the family.

Pollution control

A second area where legislation is required is the management of toxic and hazardous materials and other potential pollutants. The heavy reliance in Vanuatu on ground water supplies that are particularly susceptible to pollution, the danger to Vanuatu exports from the risk of undetected pesticide or other residues contaminating beef or other export products, the fact that natural disasters such as cyclones and earthquakes which are frequent in Vanuatu increase the risk of accidental spillages, all argue for rapid action to control the importation, storage and use of such materials.

Environmental controls

Some legislative provisions are needed to provide for environmental assessment of development projects, and for the enforcement of environmental conditions in leases, contracts and development project agreements. For instance, enforcement of leasehold conditions is presently left to the custom owners, who frequently lack the knowledge and technical expertise necessary for enforcement, and for whom the only possible recourse is cancellation of the lease. This is clearly unsatisfactory. Legislation would give better protection to custom owner's interests.



A public information campaign should be launched to make the National Conservation Strategy as widely known as possible and encourage participation in its development.

An opening event should be organized on the radio, with statements from leading personalities, such as the President, the Prime Minister, other concerned Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, the President of the Malvatumauri, the Presidents of the Chamber of Commerce and the Syndicat Agricole on behalf of the business community, church leaders, etc.

This should be followed up with a regular series of weekly 1/2 hour radio broadcasts explaining the NCS, discussing each of the sectoral reviews, describing the process of consultation with the public through LGCs, area councils, and non-governmental organizations, and reporting on significant results as they are developed.

The chiefs, elders and others knowledgeable in the culture and customs of Vanuatu should be invited to consider the ways in which resource management and conservation were achieved under custom, as these can often be the best guides to conservation and development approaches appropriate to Vanuatu.

The religious organizations should be encouraged to make conservation a theme for sermons, discussions, and study of relevant passages in scripture. Conservation involves our stewardship of God's creation, and raises questions about the purpose of our life, the relative importance of material, social and spiritual values, and our responsibility for our fellow men now and in the future, that are best addressed in the churches. The WWF Network on Religion and Conservation and its participating churches (including both Christians and Baha'is) should be able to provide material on this.

Consultations should be held with the Chamber of Commerce, the Syndicat Agricole, the tourist industry, and other representatives of the business community as to how best to achieve sustainable development in a realistic and responsible way, since business failures can often be traced to unwitting unsustainable practices, or environmental damage beyond the control of the developer.

Public hearings should be organized in Port Vila and Luganville where associations, business people, and individuals should be invited to make written or oral submissions and express their views on the NCS.

School class activities can relate the themes of the NCS to lessons in science, social science and other subjects. Where appropriate, field activities could be organized to study specific conservation problems.

Student competitions should be organized. These could include a NCS poster or class mural competition at the primary level, and an essay competition on a theme such as "Conservation for the future of Vanuatu" at the secondary level. Preliminary selections and exhibitions could be made at the school and LGC levels, with the best entries receiving prizes at the national level. This competition would make it possible to collect the views of children and youth on the NCS.

Senior secondary students could be organized over a vacation period to make a survey of sites of conservation interest for their natural or cultural values.


Representatives of the NCS secretariat should visit each Local Government Council, and wherever possible each Area Council in co-operation with LGC staff. Meetings should be held with council members and staffs, chiefs, pastors, local extension workers from different departments and non- governmental organizations, and interested people, to explain the NCS and the requirements for sustainable development (with audiovisual aids where possible), to present the preliminary regional maps and overlays, and to obtain as much local input and refinement as possible. This should particularly include the land-owners' and people's own desires for conservation, resource planning and development in their local area. These visits would also be an opportunity to hold short teacher-training workshops for local teachers.

The input from these local visits should be combined with the sectoral and technical input from the national level to produce consensus plans that can be used by LGCs, Area Councils and local villagers as guides to local development planning. Where plans are subject to significant modifications after being discussed locally, a return visit may be necessary to present and explain the revised plans for local agreement. This process of local education, consultation and consensus will be one of the most effective ways of implementing the objectives of the NCS at the local level.

These local conservation strategies will provide the basis for preparing a national conservation strategy firmly rooted in the wishes and needs of the people.


The sectoral strategies, the regional and area conservation strategies, and the other information collected will need to be compiled into a National Conservation Strategy document laying out the long-term policies of the country for sustainable development and the practical actions and projects necessary to put them into practice. A version with the essential points in bislama should also be prepared for widespread distribution in the country. If the funds are available, a video cassette should be made illustrating the main points of the NCS. This cassette would allow the NCS message to circulate widely to schools and rural areas to reach the large part of the population who would not read a written report.

The completed strategy should be considered by the Council of Ministers for adoption as an official statement of Government policy on sustainable development and conservation.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which assisted Vanuatu with this first phase of NCS preparation, will also help to find the resources necessary to complete the Vanuatu NCS. While implementation of the NCS will obviously be the responsibility of the Government and people of Vanuatu, there will be projects arising from it for which it should be possible to obtain outside support from various international and bilateral sources including IUCN and SPREP.

The National Conservation Strategy will inevitably need to evolve to keep up with Vanuatu's continuing development, and it will therefore need to be revised and updated just like the development plans if it is to continue to serve as a guide to the best long-term interest of the country and its people. The regional plans could be refined and updated under the supervision of the regional planners as part of the regular activities of Local Government Councils. The national strategy will need to be reexamined when the results of the forest inventory and other new sources of information are available.


The following is the workplan and tentative timetable for the preparation of the National Conservation Strategy, assuming that approvals and outside financial support can be obtained rapidly. Some activities will require consultant assistance, but most can be done with resources in Vanuatu either inside government or through subcontracts.

Approval of National Conservation Strategy Prospectus for phase 2 by National Development Committee and Council of Ministers (December 1988)

Pre-phase 2 preparations (October 1988-March 1989)
- Assemble data for planning maps
- Begin development of educational materials
- Prepare sectoral strategies within government

Government activities (April-May 1989)
- Complete and duplicate planning maps
- Draft and publish educational materials
- Produce supporting audio-visual materials in bislama
- Prepare broadcast scripts
- Workshop for LGC secretaries and regional planners
- Survey conservation areas (consultant)
- Prepare environmental legislation (consultant)

Public activities (June-November 1989)
- Public launching of NCS
- Weekly radio proadcasts
- Meetings with all LGCs and Area Councils for development of local strategies and planning maps
- Meeting of Malvatumauri on heritage conservation
- Conference on religion and conservation
- Consultation with representatives of private sector
- School activities on NCS, including competitions
- Public hearings on NCS in Port Vila and Luganville
- National Conservation Day

Compilation (November-December 1989)
- Make copies of agreed planning maps for national and local use
- Prepare final NCS document and annexes
- Make video version of NCS for general circulation
- Submit NCS to Council of Ministers for approval
- Print final NCS

BUDGET (US dollars)

The following budget details the outside support essential to the completion of the Vanuatu National Conservation Strategy. It does not include the considerable contribution in staff time to be provided by the Environment Unit and other government departments, as well as supporting office services.

Consultant for NCS compilation at end of phase 2
  1 m/m (fee, subsistence and travel)
Sub-contracts for drafting school curriculum materials
  (in Vanuatu)
Local travel for local strategy preparation
 (2 trips to each area, airfares and subsistence)
Workshop for LGC secretaries/regional planners  2,000
Drawing and copying of planning maps  5,000
Aerial photos and mosaics     500
Posters  3,000
Production of school curriculum materials  3,000
NCS presentations: flip charts, albums  1,000
Videocassettes of SPREP films (incl. dubbing)  1,000
Outside translating and typing  1,000
Printing of NCS documents  5,000
Miscellaneous & contingency  2,000
TOTAL 50,000

The following additional consultant support and educational activities would speed up the preparation of the second phase, increase the effectiveness of the educational outreach of the NCS among the population, and facilitate its implementation.

Consultant assistance for materials preparation
 1 m/m (fee, subsistence and travel)
Outside translating and typing  2,500
National conservation day  2,000
Sub-contracts for preparing natural science guides  3,000
Printing of natural science guides 10,000
T-shirts for school competition awards  1,000
Video cassette on Vanuatu NCS 14,000
Photocopier for map and document production
 (Planning maps, conference proceedings,
 pamphlets for churches, field workers, etc.)
TOTAL 50,000
Information on terrestrial biological resources is sorely lacking, requiring a survey of areas of conservation interest.

Consultant for conservation areas survey
 2 m/m (fee, subsistence and travel)

OVERALL TOTAL                                        


The following persons and organizations were consulted about the National Conservation Strategy between 15 August and 12 September, 1988, during the preparation of this prospectus. Those marked with an asterisk (*) participated in the meeting to review this prospectus on 12 September 1988.

*Dr. Marcus Chambers, Environmental Adviser, Environment Unit, Ministry of Lands, Minerals and Fisheries
*David Esrom, Environment Unit, Ministry of Lands, Minerals and Fisheries
William Mahit, Minister of Lands, Minerals and Fisheries
Abel Kaloris, First Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Minerals and Fisheries
Jack Reuben, Second Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Minerals and Fisheries
Jules Ellis, A/Director, National Planning & Statistics Office
Rusty Russell, Lands Adviser, Ministry of Lands
Larry Hunt, Principal Lands Officer, Ministry of Lands
W. Michael Longworth, Director, Vanuatu Meteorological Service
Wycliff Bakeo, Director, Fisheries Department
Douglas Malosu, Director, Department of Agriculture and Forestry
John Jenks, Forestry Management Officer, Dept. of Agriculture & Forestry
Geordie Mackenzie, Regional Agricultural Officer, Dept. Agriculture
*Bob Weller, Principal Quarantine Officer, Dept. of Agriculture & Forestry
Augustine Garae, Director, Vanuatu Development Bank
*David Blaikie, Adviser, Physical Planning Unit
Martin Tamata, First Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs
Kirk Huffman, Director, Cultural Centre
Mrs. Theresa Hakwe, A/Director, Department of Tourism
Gabriel Bani, Department of Tourism
Robson , National Community Development Trust
Tele Taua, First Secretary, Ministry of Public Works and Water Supply
Sarkath Prakesh, Adviser, Ministry of Public Works and Water Supply
*Colin Cheney, A/Director, Department of Geology
Frank King, Chairman, Vanuatu Natural Science Society and Vice-President, Chamber of Commerce
Dr. Bob Small, Director, Department of Health
Dr. Mark Harris, Principal Epidemiology Officer, Department of Health
*Mrs. Votausi L. Mackenzie, Nutritionist, Department of Health
*Hamlison Bulu, Attorney-General's Department
National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Vanuatu: Alick Soalo, Chairman; Ann Carlo, Secretary; Siel Hady; Thomas Ialuaing; Elison Tari; Charles Pierce; Sera Sablan; Barbara Pierce
Pastor Alan Nafuki, Vanuatu Council of Churches
Claude Riechenfeld, ORSTOM Representative in Vanuatu
Andrew Mitchell, Second Secretary, ADAB, Australian High Commission
Ed Peek, Second Secretary, ADAB, Australian High Commission
Bob Makin, Director, Radio Vanuatu
Ian Fletcher, Second Secretary, New Zealand High Commission
Casimir Runa, Proviseur, Lyc‚e Louis Antoine de Bougainville
Chief Willie Bongmatur, Chairman, Malvatumauri (National Council of Chiefs)
Leo Moli, Energy Unit, Ministry of Civil Aviation
Eldon Warner, Adviser, Energy Unit, Ministry of Civil Aviation
Kali Votoka, Headmaster, Malapoa College
*Joe Hazbun, Technical Adviser, World Health Organization
Elison Sese, Environmental Health Unit, Department of Health
Lewis Hayashi, Chief, South Pacific Regional Office, Asian Development Bank
*Lennox B. Vuti, Census Administrator, NPSO
Pioni Willie, Statistics Office, NPSO
Dr. Gerald Haberkorn, National Planning and Statistics Office
*Tamata Ravo, Second Secretary, Ministry of Education
Jean Tranut, Survey Department
President, Santo/Malo Local Government Council
A/Secretary, Santo/Malo Local Government Council
Regional Planner, Santo/Malo Local Government Council
Keith Mala, Secretary, Malakula Local Government Council
Stan Combs, Regional Planner, Malakula Local Government Council
Lambert Maltok, Assistant Secretary, Malakula Local Government Council
Fisheries Adviser, Lakatoro, Malakula
Agriculture and Health field officers, Malakula
Lions Club of Port-Vila
Scuba Divers Operators Association: Tony Antoniou, Merryl Smith, Betty Page, Richard Page, Peter Brickland
Edwin Anthony Vos, Resident Adviser, European Economic Community
*Jean-Paul Virelala, Chamber of Commerce
*Serge Bourdet, Melanesian Shell Products/Chamber of Commerce
*Robert Monvoisin, Copravi Ltd/Pitt Ltd
*Eileen Nganga, Chamber of Commerce
*Robert M. Bohn, Chamber of Commerce
*Roger Garrido, SIP (Syndicat Agricole)
*Robert L. Bohn, Elcress Agra Products (Syndicat Agricole)
*Toshihide Yasuda, World Health Organization
*Adrian Barrance, Forest Service
*Joseph Wheatley, Forest Service
*Harry Tete, Physical Planning Unit
*P. Willie, National Planning and Statistics Office
*Arthur Lyon Dahl, Consultant, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources


Baines, G. 1981. Environment, Resources and Development in Vanuatu. United Nations Development Advisory Team (UNDAT), Suva, Fiji. November 1981.

Chambers, M.R., E. Bani and B.E.T Hudson. (in preparation, 1988). The status of the dugong (Dugong dugon) in Vanuatu.

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1986. Review of the Protected Areas System in Oceania. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge.

Maheswaran, A. 1986. Interim Assessment Report: Republic of Vanuatu, Environmental Management. United Nations ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre, August 1986.

Quantin, P. 1972-78. Archipel des Nouvelles-Hebrides. Atlas des sols et de quelques donn‚es du milieu naturel. ORSTOM, Paris.

Quantin, P. 1982. Vanuatu Agronomic Potential and Land Use Map. Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, Republic of Vanuatu, and ORSTOM, Paris.

Republic of Vanuatu. 1983. Agricultural Census. National Planning and Statistics Office.

Republic of Vanuatu. 1983. Regional Development Profile. National Planning and Statistics Office.

Republic of Vanuatu. 1987. Second National Development Plan, 1987-1991. Vols. I and II. Draft, 4 September 1987.

South Pacific Regional Environment Programe. 1980. Vanuatu. Country Report 15. SPREP, South Pacific Commission, Noumea. November 1980.


Consultant for NCS compilation (1 m/m)
a) visit the Republic of Vanuatu and, in co-operation with the Environment Unit, compile all of the inputs for the National Conservation Strategy into a draft strategy document and annexes;
b) oversee the preparation of final versions of the local NCS planning maps, in collaboration with the appropriate departments;
c) have the draft NCS document reviewed by the appropriate authorities;
d) prepare a final document incorporating any comments from the review, and initiate the necessary endorsement of the document by the government;
e) assist in the preparation of a video version of the NCS;
f) provide ten copies of the final document within four weeks of departure from Vanuatu.

Consultant for materials preparation (1 m/m)
visit the Republic of Vanuatu and assist the Environment Unit and other government and non-government agencies to prepare materials for the National Conservation Strategy, including:
a) compilations of data necessary for NCS preparation;
b) environmental planning maps and overlays of Local Government Council regions and their area subdivisions;
b) curriculum materials on the NCS for primary and secondary schools, in co-operation with local teachers;
c) radio programme scripts, natural science guides, brochures, posters and other public information materials;
d) plans for the public launching of NCS preparation, a national conservation day, and other events;
e) workshop for Local Government Secretaries and Regional Planners on NCS.

Consultant for conservation areas survey (2 m/m)
a) visit the Republic of Vanuatu and, in consultation with the Environment Unit and other appropriate agencies, compile existing information on the natural areas of Vanuatu;
b) review the aerial photographs to identify primary sites for field checking for conservation interest;
c) make preliminary field surveys on selected islands where development pressures are greatest (Espiritu Santo, Malakula, possibly Efate, Tanna and Erromango, etc.) to identify the natural areas in greatest need of protection over the next decade, possibly using birds or plants as indicator species for conservation interest;
d) on the basis of the above, prepare a draft report on priority conservation areas in Vanuatu, for discussion with local authorities, so that the information will be available rapidly for NCS preparation;
e) submit a final report within four weeks of departure from Vanuatu.