|Conflict over Natural Resources in South-East Asia and the Pacific (UNU, 1990, 256 pages)|
|6. Conflict over natural resources in the Pacific|
That the islands' marine space constitutes such a large area of the Pacific confers a special responsibility to conserve the resources therein and to protect the ocean ecosystem-another task which requires foresight and careful planning. It is in the vast areas now under the legal jurisdiction of island states that radioactivity has been introduced from American and French nuclear testing in the waters around Micronesia and Tahiti and beyond. There is already evidence of food-chain contamination (Van Dyke, 1985) in this area; there have also been now well-known attempts. to deliberately dump both high- and low-level nuclear wastes.
All Pacific island governments have expressed strong opposition to proposals for both dumping of nuclear wastes and testing of nuclear devices in the region. However, there are dangers that this resistance may falter in the face of enticing aid overtures and other actions designed to soften this stance. The disposition of Pacific island states regarding all forms of marine pollution will be a vital factor in preserving the marine environment and in remedying the damage that has already been done. For this reason, the successful outcome of treaty negotiations for the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP) is significant. The Convention and the two protocols were completed at the Conference and opened for signature on 25 November 1986 at Noumea, New Caledonia (South Pacific Commission, 1987). The Convention will enter into force 30 days after the deposit of at least 10 instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession (5 for the protocols). As of July 1988, this had not yet occurred (Anonymous, 1988). This regional environmental protection treaty is an important step for the islands' environment in general and the marine environment in particular, which is one of the Pacific island nations' principal assets.
The Convention requires parties to take all appropriate steps to prevent, reduce, and control pollution emanating from vessel discharges, land-based sources, seabed activities, discharges into the atmosphere, disposal of wastes, storage of toxic and hazardous wastes, and nuclear testing. Parties are also called upon to prevent environmental damage, specifically coastal erosion, caused by coastal engineering, mining activities, sand removal, and dredging. The first protocol-Protocol Concerning Cooperation in Combatting Pollution Emergencies in the South Pacific Region - mandates the adoption of national contingency plans to be co-ordinated with appropriate bilateral and sub-regional contingency plans. The second protocol - Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution of the South Pacific by Dumping - creates a regional agreement consistent with the London Dumping Convention and establishes lists of substances, the dumping of which is prohibited, and lists of substances requiring special or general permits. The 'Convention Area' is defined as comprising the 200-nmi zones of twenty-three self-governing island nations (including Australia's East Coast and eastward islands) and island territories and enclaves of high seas enclosed by these 200-nmi zones (Figure 6.1).
There were two controversial issues during the
(1) inclusion of nuclear weapons testing and
(2) inclusion of areas of high seas within the Convention area. A carefully worded provision made it possible for France to become a party to the Convention and yet made it clear that the environmental effects of nuclear testing were of considerable concern to the island nations of the region. The United States was against the inclusion of extensive areas beyond the 200-nmi zones of the participating island nations and territories. However, it eventually agreed to the inclusion of enclaves but not fingers or corridors of high seas.