BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home June news

"Current environmental issues are inextricably related to environmental management in the previous era. For this reason, current environmental management cannot be divorced from the need to change community perspectives, which have become unconsciously caught up in environmentally damaging ways of exploiting natural resources. ... These challenges require holistic and multi-sectoral approaches to environmental management, where environmental issues are viewed as interdependent with other types of issues, including how policy is formulated." Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e / The East Timor National NGO Forum

Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e
The East Timor National NGO Forum
 

Kaikoli Street,  Dili-East Timor  telephone 322772/  etngocentre@hotmail.com


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AND MANAGEMENT
 

BRIEFING PAPER TO DONORS MEETING
CANBERRA June 2001
 

1. Background

Current environmental issues are inextricably related to environmental management in the previous era. For this reason, current environmental management cannot be divorced from the need to change community perspectives, which have become unconsciously caught up in environmentally damaging ways of exploiting natural resources.

In addition, current economic hardships have led to uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources. For example, in communities around Dili there has been a big increase in clearing of trees to sell for firewood because people in these communities have no alternative sources of income.

It has become a general pattern among newly-independent countries in the Third World to enter a development phase in which environmental management is given low priority, not only because it is seen to be expensive, but also because of ineffective development planning and a neglect of environmental policy among Third World leaders.

These challenges require holistic and multi-sectoral approaches to environmental management, where environmental issues are viewed as interdependent with other types of issues, including how policy is formulated.

1.1 Urban Problems

The population of Dili grew from 139,875 in 1992 to around 200,000 in 1999 . This urban migration has accelerated since the referendum of 30 August 1999 as public services such as health, education, transport and retail infrastructure became almost exclusively concentrated in Dili. Farmers have been forced to become petty traders and day labourers in Dili for returns and wages that do not meet minimum requirements in Dili. This has led to increased environmental pressure upon the Dili hinterland, as people are forced to supplement other meagre sources of income just to subsist. Furthermore, the increased population concentration in and around Dili has also led to high levels of waste production, and the absence of a waste collection and management system is leading to the degradation of water, soil and air quality, as well as being unsightly.

The absence of an overall urban planning scheme will lead to social as well as environmental problems, such as increasing crime rates and the rapid emergence of protection rackets with demarcated turf. Transportation and the traffic system have also become problems. Increased traffic in Dili has led to increasing numbers of traffic accidents and a concentration of carbon monoxide emissions and dust is producing a morning haze.

Marine resources offer a potential contribution to urban inhabitants. Indeed the island of Timor is blessed with marine riches of great biodiversity, whose conservation requires effective and integrated coastal management in the first instance.

1.2. Rural Problems

Common environmental problems in rural areas relate to the uses and methods of exploiting natural resources, such as those in the following table:

No. Environmental Issues        Causes/Explanations

1. Forest burning     Due to lack of awareness and/or environmentally unfriendly land-management practices.
2. Landslides, erosion etc.    Human and natural causes.
3. Livestock grazing      Damages grasses and other plants.
4. Cultivation of steep slopes   Makes land unstable, which causes landslides and erosion
5. Changes in land use      Market instability for certain commodities such as pepper, cloves and rubber forces farmers to convert land to food crops.
6. Water and sanitation      Communities complain about quality of these in several areas.
7. Hunting and trading in wild animals       Routine hunting has led to many species in danger of extinction.
8. Dependence of some farmers on chemical fertilizers and pesticides       This is usual in communities adjacent to former Indonesian transmigration areas.
9. Environmentally-damaging fishing practices       Use of explosives, cyanide, drift nets and other damaging equipment.
10. Damage and desecration of sacred sites       These include traditionally protected tree species, forests, mountains, and caves.

In addition to the above problems, some among many other issues related to environmental problems include a weak legal system and inadequate law enforcement, the hegemony of formal over customary law, lack of awareness, lack of institutional clarity in environmental management structures, together with a lack of environmental funding and a neglect of environmental perspectives in planning.
 

2. Recommendations to address environmental problems

Overcoming environmental problems is both a financial and a human resources problem, and priorities need to be set when implementing solutions. The following are some of the important needs for current environmental policy and management in East Timor.

No. Recommended solutions                                                               Level of urgency

  1.  Environmental education                                                                           Urgent
  2.  Environmental legislation and strengthening of customary law                     Urgent
  3.  Watershed management and rehabilitation (reforestation)                           Urgent
  4.  Waste management                                                                                 Urgent
  5.  Clearly structured Office/Department of Environment                                     Urgent
  6.  Coastal management                                                                                 Urgent
  7.  Town planning                                                                                            Urgent
  8.  Natural resource management                                                                 Urgent
  9.  Pollution control and improved sanitation                                                Urgent
10.  Appropriate agricultural land use                                                              Urgent
11.  Environmental Impact Assessments                                                         Urgent
12.  Establishment of protected reserves                                                        Urgent
13.  Management of eco-tourism                                                                     Urgent
14.  Biodiversity research                                                                              Not yet urgent


See also:

Boletim Lao Hamutuk: [Tetum PDF format]
Vol. 1, No. 2, 17 Julho 2000 Protesaun ba meio ambiente iha TL: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/bulletin02tetum.pdf

The La'o Hamutuk Bulletin:
Vol. 1, No. 2: 17 July 2000 Focus on the Environment:
http://www.etan.org/lh/bulletin02.html


East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e  Updated June 14
Umbrella agency for East Timorese Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
VISION: To contribute to the building of a pluralist, democratic, just and sustainable East Timor through the development of a strong, independent and responsible civil society committed to upholding and making real in the daily life of the community, both village and urban, the full range of human rights so that all East Timorese, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, can enjoy the fruits of liberation and development in an East Timor forever free.
MISSION: To realise its vision by promoting a culture of learning, cooperation, partnership with the community and respect for human rights and good practice amongst East Timorese NGOs and between them and other development actors, both domestic and international, and by serving as a collective, independent voice for the rights and needs of the community.
VALUES AND PRINCIPLES: a rights approach to development; inclusiveness, participation; accountability; gender balance; respect for the environment; non-party political; non-sectarian; good governance; volunteerism.
Kaikoli Street, Dili-East Timor  Telephone +670(390)322772
E-mail: etngocentre@hotmail.com  Homepage: http://www.geocities.com/etngoforum/index.html
Jun 7 ETNGO Forum: Donors Meeting must be for Rural People: http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood/01junrural.htm
Jun 13 ETNGO Forum: The voice of Civil Society calls the Donors: http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood/01jundonors.htm


BD: East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e - A collection of recent media releases, position-statements, speeches, petitions, reports, and news


BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home June news
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