The Tuvalu Department of Environment was established when Tuvalu gained independence from the British colonial rule on October 1st, 1978. The new Government was formed thereafter and established Ministries and Departments including the Tuvalu Department of Environment to govern the newly independent nation of Tuvalu. The Department is current housed under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour (MFATELL).
The purpose of the Department is to protect the fragile environment of Tuvalu and manage and conserve its already scarce resources, especially island biodiversity. The national goal stipulated in the National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2016-2020 “Te Kakeega III” is to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, halt and reverse land degradation, and prevent biodiversity loss.
The Department’s mandate for its operations is described in the Environmental Protection Act 2008 as:
- Coordinating the role of government in relation to environmental protection and sustainable development;
- provide a mechanism for the development of environmental policy and law;
- promote a clean and healthy environment for all Tuvaluans;
- prevent, control, monitor and respond to pollution;
- promote public awareness and involvement in environmental issues and the preservation of Iloga (traditional knowledge) as it relates to the environment;
- facilitate compliance and implementation of obligations under any regional and international environmental or natural resource agreements or conventions to which the Government of Tuvalu has ratified or acceded to;
- facilitate sustainable development with respect to management of the environment and natural resources;
- facilitate the assessment and regulation of environmental impacts of certain activities;
- promote the conservation and, where appropriate, sustainable use of biological diversity and the protection and conservation of natural resources, on the land, in air and in the sea;
- reduce the production of wastes, and to promote the environmentally sound management and disposal of all wastes.
From this comprehensive legislative directive and supported by the Environment Protection (EIA) Regulations 2014 and the EIA Amendment Regulations 2017, the Department of Environment is required to operate in a way that must achieve positive conservation and social outcomes, including benefits for Tuvalu communities that depend on very limited and fragile natural resources.
The Department works together with relevant partners to implement activities that protect the environment as well those that conserve marine as well as terrestrial resources. These include:
- Renewing setback guidelines for buildings, including geo-technical investigations for large structures
- Planting vegetation close to shorelines (on-going)
- Protecting existing shoreline vegetation (on-going)
- Requiring EIAs for all large public and private works projects (on-going)
- Limiting or forbidding extraction of raw building materials from shoreline (on-going)
- Increasing fresh water storage (on-going)
- Increasing community awareness (on-going)
- Monitoring sea levels (on-going).
The Director of Environment and staff run the department under the guidance of the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry as well as the Minister. An advisory group, called the “Development Coordinating Committee” also advises Cabinet.