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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Using traditional checks and balances in sustainable development / Samoa.

Posted By: Mali Voi
Date: Sunday, 23 May 1999, at 5:38 p.m.

Key words: agriculture, fisheries, industrial standards, stakeholder involvement.


The criteria contained in the document on Wise Practices For Sustainable Coastal Development / Integrated Coastal Management can be used for classifying projects. They have been well thought out in that a wp is recognised and is then assessed against the criteria.

While I do not have a specific project for discussion, I think the principles are there to ensure that communities, either large or small, private companies and the public should be encouraged to be judged on the considerations of the wp criteria. In essence almost any project, be it coastal or otherwise, should use the wp criteria to ensure that a balanced and user-friendly development becomes the ultimate objective for all types of development, in particular those of a physical industrial nature, in which impact on environment would adversely affect human lives.


A brief glance at many of the past industrial undertakings shows they were based on economic considerations alone, simply because the issues of clean environment and conservation of cultural and natural heritage for the benefit of humanity were never considered in many cases. An investor, whose goal is a short-term one, makes an investment with a view to gain maximum benefit in as short a time as possible. In this case, profit-making incentives far outweigh the issues relating to wp for sustainable development, whether on the coast or in the hinterland.


The fact that the lucrative profits were made from the sales of taro export from Samoa prior to 1993 reveal that this industry could not sustain itself for the following reasons: - Maiden forest land that was cleared to grow large plantations of taro became depleted...not enough forest land; - The size of the taro was reduced because of inadequate knowledge about effective land utilisation practices to sustain the large taro sizes; - There were two cyclones that struck Samoa in 1991 and 1992 and crops were devastated and thus there was a decline in economic productivity; - The taro leaf bight disease struck in mid-1993, this affected production and many farmers abandoned their farming.

What this points to is that human activities relating to profit-making incentives should be cautiously checked there needs to be a balanced approach to development both materially and spiritually (humanising development through wp). The farmers, through the disasters, have now become a little wiser, hopefully, to ensure that profiteering should not dominate development.


In the same way, traditional checks and balances were instituted to ensure that the supply of fish was not depleted. This was done, through a practice of the declaration of taboo in some parts of the waters, so that the fish population replenished itself... observations of many years. Only of late has modern Science and Technology recognised such practices. Similarly on the land, periods of time were declared when harvesting of food items were limited, to ensure that the land and plants recovered from over-harvesting. The notion is that human activities were restrained to allow nature to repair itself. Such a notion runs contrary to conducting modern businesses...supply must respond to demand.

These are some examples of wp but they are very hard to impose these days for fear of treading on the freedom of the individual and on individual rights. Thus it raises an important question of social contract...responsibility to collective well-being versus individual responsibility and accountability. Now we are on a very dangerous path...the issues of faith and reason. Where do we draw the line?


It is my humble view that wp should be regarded as an International Instrument against which, either all proposed development or the existing developments should be assessed and evaluated as an attempt to bring reason into play for the faith of human survival. Such an instrument should be pursued as a treaty to bind states and that an international prestigious award could be made to an industry or government that gives humanity the top consideration through wp for development. Such an award could be made every seven years.

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