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Property rights and environmental management on Pacific atolls.

The nature of ownership of resources, that is the nature of ownership of property, can have important consequences for the conservation of resources and the economic efficiency with which resources are used, protected and developed (Tisdell, 1991, p. 107).

The Pacific atoll nations face a daunting task to bring their natural resources under management regimes that will yield sustainable livelihoods for their growing populations. A majority of the population in the "low island" states still depends on inshore waters for its staple diet, and on the land for tree crops, garden crops and for a host of inputs to the manufacture of traditional goods. On atolls the only sources of water, apart from rainwater, are the fresh water lenses; their good management is therefore very important.

The limited export potential of small Pacific islands based on atolls means that the replacement by imports of more than a small proportion of the goods and services provided directly by environmental resources is out of the question. Evidence suggests, however, that resources are not being managed to provide a sustainable stream of benefits. On the contrary, renewable resources are suffering from degradation and pollution. This is leading directly to health problems as well as putting a question mark over the source of livelihoods for future generations.

There are two main economic factors which are contributing to the unsustainability of present resource use on the atolls. The first is the lack of designated rights over the use of resources, resulting in "open access".

The second factor is the lack of enforcement of rights, both of government-created rights, for example, on lands leased by government from traditional owners, and of traditional rights, for example concerning local fish resources. The regulations that have been put in place by governments to cope with the environmental abuse are not being enforced. The full costs of mismanagement are passed on to the public. These costs include an increase in disease incidence and a reduction in aesthetic values.

The re-establishment and enforcement of traditional rights over marine resources tends to receive inadequate support form the central government. But there is also a third factor - the adoption of technology within existing rights - which allows intensive exploitation of resources, such as outboard motors for fishing.

Two Pacific Island countries, Kiribati and Tuvalu, are taken as examples to illustrate the issues involved. Kiribati covers a total area of almost three million [km.sup.2] but a land area of only 719[km.sup.2]. Its sea area stretches 3,870km from east to west and 2,050km from north to south in the central Pacific. The 33 atolls and coral islands comprising Kiribati are low and narrow with the exception of Kirimitati (or Christmas Island), which is the world's largest atoll, and Banaba (or Ocean Island) a depleted phosphate island.

The nation is divided into three main groups of islands. The Gilbert group contains 68,000 people, mainly Micronesian in origin, of which South Tarawa, the seat of government, contains 29,000. The islands of the Phoenix group and the Line Islands support a total population of 5,000 (South Pacific Commission, 1995, p. 35). The population depends heavily on the meager land resources and the lagoons and ocean for sustenance. Major sources of income are the licensing of foreign vessels to fish Kiribati's vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the crewing of foreign ships and the earnings of miners in Nauru. Foreign aid is also a very important source of national income.

The majority of the 9,000 people of Tuvalu are Polynesian. Half the population is concentrated on Funafuti atoll, and the other half is spread over the other eight atolls stretching 560km from north to south in the central Pacific. The total land area is 26[km.sup.2]. As for Kiribati, remittances and aid form important sources of income, but Tuvalu's income from fishing licences is relatively modest. The limited land and abundant marine resources provide the basis for subsistence for the majority of the population.

The first section of this article reviews resource use and its environmental impacts in the two Pacific island states. The second section looks at the role of the establishment of property rights over the common access areas, while section three deals with the internalization of the costs of using resources.

Unsustainable use of resources

Fresh water lenses

A characteristic of many atolls is the presence of a fresh water lens just below ground level. These are tapped for use by means of wells. As the density of the human population above a lens increases, the supply of potable water is jeopardized by both over-exploitation and sewage pollution via the very permeable soils.

The average density of the population throughout the islands of Tuvalu is relatively high, for example it is four times higher than the average in Kiribati, at 347 per [km.sup.2] compared with 85 per [km.sup.2]. As a consequence there is greater average propensity for lens pollution in Tuvalu. However, the majority of households have access to rainwater through roof collection, reducing their reliance on the underground lenses.

While the average population density of Kiribati is relatively low, the main populated group of islands of the Tarawa atoll, South Tarawa, has a higher density than the comparable island in Tuvalu, Funafuti - 1,600 per [km.sup.2] compared with 1,137 per [km.sup.2]. Moreover, in Betio district, on Tarawa, the density is great at 6,000 per [km.sup.2]. While most of the land in Kiribati is freehold native title, on the main Tarawa atoll the Government leases most of the land from the traditional owners and thus, in theory, has control over the land and the underlying water lenses (Baitika, 1987). The fresh water lenses are tapped by the Government and presently provide an extraction rate of 1,250 cubic metres per day to some 3,500 connections, but the supply is only available for a maximum of six hours per day over three periods (Ministry of Home Affairs and Rural Development, 1995, p. 14). The Government has power to declare any area a water reserve. However, squatters construct toilets and put down wells in reserves with impunity. The main source of household water (49 per cent) is wells that directly tap the lenses. Rainwater tanks contribute the balance of supplies on South Tarawa (35 per cent).

The unsustainability of exploitation of the fresh water lenses in Tarawa is illustrated by the following:

* the supply of reticulated water from some lenses was discontinued due to their pollution;

* the estimated sustainable yield of the Betio and Bairiki lenses of 1,000 [m.sup.3] per day is currently exceeded by the drawdown of 1,250 [m.sup.3] per day; and

* the water lenses leased by Government are subject to uncontrolled access by squatters.

The Public Utilities Board is responsible for the operation and management of the reticulated water supply on South Tarawa. There is a charge of $1.00 per [m.sup.3], but orderly supply and cost recovery is hampered by a failure to read meters, tampering with meters, and illegal connections and leakages. Moreover, the fact that half the households use wells is a likely result of the charge on reticulated water together with the lack of enforcement of restrictions on access.

The supply of potable water to the increasing population of South Tarawa, and to islands with growing populations such as Kirimitati, is a major development issue. While untapped lenses can be utilized, in the long run there will probably need to be greater reliance on direct rainwater collection (Ministry of Home Affairs and Rural Development, 1995).


The safety and productivity of inshore waters, as with freshwater lenses, is dependent on prevention of contamination by sewage and other land-based pollutants. On Tarawa, Kiribati, a reticulated sewage system serves permanent housing, government buildings and community blocks in the suburbs Betio, Bairiki, and Bikenibeau. However, the reticulated system is in a state of near collapse. Frequent mainline blockages are accompanied by vandalism and the disrepair of community toilet blocks. While two-thirds of householders use the reticulated system to some extent, almost the same proportion regard the foreshore, which is public land, as an open access latrine.

Management problems of the sewerage system are exacerbated by the failure of local councils to accept responsibility for public toilets, or to oversee the siting of pit latrines and septic toilets (Ministry of Home Affairs and Rural Development, 1995). Samples of lagoon waters were found to contain high faecal coliform counts (Gangaiya, 1994) and a study of land-based pollutants for Tarawa suggests that nutrient loadings derived from sewage amount to about 80,000kg of nitrogen and 10,000kg of phosphorous (Conrad, 1993, p. 109); nutrient leakages into the lagoon pose a threat of eutrophication and algal bloom in the poorly flushed parts.

Despite the limited land area and the high water table in densely populated Fongafale on Funafuti, Tuvalu, the containment of sewage by septic tanks and pit latrines seems to be complete enough, at this stage, to reduce faecal contamination of the lagoon to levels that can be assimilated by dilution which is facilitated by tidal flushing of the lagoon. While the foreshore is public land and is still used as an open latrine, septic tanks are now mandatory for each new residence according to Island Council by-law. As mentioned above, the problem of sewage contamination of the fresh water lens on Fongafale and outer islands has been overcome by the provision of household rainwater tanks. However, the practice of penning pigs on the lagoon shore in both Funafuti and South Tarawa is incompatible with sustainable lagoon management.

Solid waste

Population density, together with the consequential dependence of the urban populations on imported food, has exacerbated solid waste disposal problems. There is a build-up of waste at random sites throughout urban Fongafale, but particularly near the runway, on the beaches, and in "borrow pits" (a legacy of the Second World War) which occupy about 35 per cent of Fongafale's land. Solid waste is deposited by the council and residents in the water-filled borrow pits. Dwellings are sited over the dumps in borrow pits.

On urban South Tarawa there are official dump sites on the foreshore. Old dump sites are now being used for residential purposes. Organic matter, principally leaves, constitutes the bulk of the solid waste in South Tarawa and observation suggests the same situation applies on Funafuti. Drink cans constitute the second most important type of waste by volume, even on Tarawa where there is a can recycling scheme in operation. Car and truck bodies take up significant areas of land and pose a potential hazardous waste problem.

The creation of a "sanitary land fill", involving inserting a lining below the waste and compacting and layering the waste with soil as is often practised where land is more plentiful, appears to be impossible on atolls because of the high water table. Meanwhile, the present solid waste disposal practices impose the following social costs on communities:

* dumps provide breeding grounds for vermin, flies and mosquitos, thus adding to public health risks;

* uncontained leachate from the decaying organic matter and any toxic substances can pose a threat to both the lens water and in-shore waters adjacent to the dumps;

* dumps take up valuable land space that could be used for productive and aesthetic purposes; and

* the aesthetic appeal for both the urban and village landscape is severely reduced.

Public health and the environment

The foregoing sections highlight the present unsustainable use of resources and waste assimilative capacity, particularly on Tarawa. The strength of the linkage between resource abuse and public health risks cannot be overemphasized.

The supplementation of ground-water supplies, which are - or may be in the future - polluted, is one of the keys to the prevention of water-borne disease and other health threats caused by the infiltration of bacteria, viruses, dissolved nitrogen and other toxins. While methods of water testing presently employed do not indicate the pathogenic micro-organism loadings of the Tarawa lagoon, recent studies have confirmed that approved standards for coliform contamination of both water and shellfish are being exceeded (Bio-Systems, 1995; Gangaiya, 1994). Risks to human health posed by faecal contamination and risks of environmental degradation are exacerbated by causeways joining islands which reduce tidal flushing of the lagoon adjacent to South Tarawa.

Indicators of health trends on South Tarawa are the prevalence of diarrhoea - at 700-800 reported cases per month and constituting the major cause of death of infants and children throughout Kiribati - and the rise in respiratory infections, which is a function of the overcrowding in squatter areas. The diseases linked to faecal contamination on South Tarawa are listed in a recent report (Australian International Development Assistance Bureau, 1993). Funafuti also suffers from a "high incidence of communicable pest and water borne diseases" (Government of Tuvalu, 1995, p. 67).

Population growth and the environment

The rate of natural increase in Kiribati was 2.3 per cent between the 1985 and the 1990 censuses. While there are consequences for the environment of such a high total population growth rate, the trends of most concern are the rates of urban population growth. The growth rate on densely-populated South Tarawa, boosted by immigration from the outer islands, averaged 3.1 per cent. The population of the urbanized island of Funafuti, Tuvalu, grew at 4.8 per cent. However, the outer islands of Tuvalu maintained a constant population (South Pacific Commission, 1995, p. 40, 42).

While the rates of population growth are not high by developing country standards the consequences of such rates of growth and the uneven distribution of growth are likely to be more severe in the case of the atolls because space is very limited and the assimilative capacity of the environment, with respect to pollution, is already being exceeded.

Marine resources

Tuvalu and Kiribati are both well endowed with marine resources. The latter has one of the largest EEZ zones in the Pacific. Resources consist essentially of shellfish and lagoon and reef fish which are readily exploitable for local consumption, demersal or bottom fish which are only now being assessed and exploited, and the pelagic, migratory tuna species (yellowfin and skipjack) that cross the EEZ and are exploited mainly by distant water fishing nations (DWFNs) such as the USA, Japan, and Korea (Kiribati's purse seine joint venture with Japan and its own fishing fleet catch a small proportion of the total).

Both Kiribati and Tuvalu face severe impediments to successful development of their own export fisheries; namely, distance to markets, and competition with efficient, capital intensive DWFNs. The failure rate of domestic fishing industry initiatives has been high and the cost to government considerable (AusAID, 1995; Government of Tuvalu, 1995).

The prospects for earning foreign exchange by direct exploitation of marine resources lie mainly in the high-value niche markets, such as beche-de-mere and products of aquaculture (such as seaweed and pearls). The deep-water snapper fishery being trialed in Tuvalu reportedly has a sustainable yield of 75-95 tonnes per annum[1]. Such a catch, if it can continue to be successfully marketed to the Marshall Islands, contributes in a useful, but minor way, to the export income of the country.

While the fish stocks of the Funafuti lagoon still provide for subsistence, the formerly abundant fish stocks of the Tarawa Lagoon have been depleted[2], depriving the local population of an important source of subsistence. However, cheap and plentiful supplies of local tuna are often available at markets on South Tarawa, augmented by a variety of fish available from a retail outlet in the urban area, established by the Outer Island Fish Project.

Due to economic restraints on development, the contribution of in-shore fisheries will be confined to subsistence fishing, an activity of most households, and commercial supply to the suburban population. Local supplies of tuna have been threatened by the licensed purse seiners which have been able to fish in the EEZ to within 12 miles of islands. As a result, the Government of Kiribati has now requested DWFNs to refrain from fishing within 60 miles of Tarawa.

The contribution of fishing licences to Kiribati's income (from both purse seine boats and long liners of the DWFN) has been particularly impressive in recent years: royalties and fees are expected to total approximately $A20 million in fiscal 1995. (However, the unpredictable El Nino effect, whose presence increases tuna catch in Kiribati's EEZ, is expected by the Kiribati Government to lead to a reduction in revenue in 1996 and to continue to cause a significant volatility in fishing income[3].) Under international agreements, via the Forum Fishing Agency, Kiribati receives a percentage of the value of the tuna catch of US, Japanese and Korean vessels. The number of purse sein boats that can exploit Kiribati waters is limited through agreements while the number of long-liners, mainly Korean and Japanese, is limited through vessel licences.

Property rights and renewable resource management

The key to the management of a common resource is in an entity (whether individual, group or government having the exclusive rights to its use. Because an entity with exclusive rights of access can appropriate the benefits of the resource for the foreseeable future, there is an incentive for the entity to manage the resource so that it continues to yield services over time at a sustainable or even increasing level (Bromley, 1991).

The potential for the allocation of property rights with respect to the management of renewable resources is illustrated in the Appendix, [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE A1 OMITTED]. This depicts the ability to maximize the rent from a resource by right holders enforcing their local property rights. In contrast, open access leads to an erosion of rents and the total effort applied to the resource is greater.

If a sustainable potable water supply to the whole population is to be the goal in Kiribati then open access to lenses through wells must be phased out, drawdowns from safe lenses must be managed to avoid salinity problems and a plan for supplementary rainwater collection developed. In the case of the lenses it is probably administratively most efficient to vest all rights to water lenses in the Government, or local councils, and to compensate any private owners. Governments would need to enforce bans on all unofficial wells. For bans on wells to be successful, however, there would need to be provision of adequate reticulated supply or rainwater tanks to those now reliant on wells.

A "user pays" policy, as advocated by McMaster and Pollard (1993), with respect to water supply would, in theory, enable the recoupment of capital and operation costs of the universal provision of reticulated and tank water. But given that it appears that one of the main reasons for people resorting to wells is the cost of reticulated water, full cost recovery through pro rata charges, would deter households from closing their now-illegal wells. A preferable recoupment policy may be a two-part tariff in the form of an annual rate charged to households to cover capital costs, accompanied by a modest pro rata charge for water delivered. Detailed water policies will vary depending on particular endowments of atolls, size, rainfall, and actual and projected population density and distribution.

In the case of the reef and lagoon fisheries of outer atolls and islands, the logical entity for the vesting of fishing rights is the local community which exploits the resource. It is argued that even though there are collective action problems associated with community management this arrangement would be superior to the holding of rights by a central government, which faces prohibitive costs of enforcement. The island council or body could exercise its control over marine resources using a variety of methods. It could limit the numbers of fishers, or restrict the time of fishing, the weight or volume of catch or the equipment used. In the latter case it could, for example, restrict the use of outboard motors on fishing vessels. Fish nursery areas and other areas of great significance for the maintenance of fish stocks would come under the purview of the groups holding the rights to the inshore fisheries. In practice, the management system adopted by councils would be influenced by considerations of culture, equity and pragmatism. (See Ostrom (1990) for examples of successful self-government of common property resources.)

In Kiribati, the ownership of all marine resources is vested in the state. This means, in practice, that effort in island fisheries is uncontrolled - a situation in contrast with the strict regimes exercised under traditional management. The transition from careful management under strongly-held traditional property rights, to open access fisheries in Oceania is described by Johannes (1978), and in Kiribati in particular by Teiwaki (1988, p. 41).

Each island had its own fishing rules: when to fish, how to fish and where to fish, and what should be done before, during and after each fishing expedition. Fishing was very much a regulated activity and required observance to ensure maximum productivity and equitable sharing in the community. The Island Regulations were abolished in 1967 when the local government councils were set up. Councils were given the responsibility to control all kinds of fishing activities on the island, but any Council fishing by-law must be approved by the central government.

The central government has not been very receptive to Island Councils' requests to pass certain fishing by-laws to protect the inshore fisheries and the traditional fishing rights. Some Island Councils felt that unless they had the necessary by-laws there would be poaching, overfishing and conflict among the sea users. The Island Councils were sensitive about the depletion of fishery resources in their vicinity because of the needs of their own people. There was no subscription to the government's argument that the fisheries resources was for the benefit of the public, and not for the exclusive use of the people who were indigenous to a particular Council area.

The Kiribati government's motivation here can be seen to be the development of its ocean fishing industry. It had encountered difficulties in fishing for bait in the islands to supply its own tuna vessels. However, Teiwaki (1988) insists that if the fish stocks are to be managed, these development objectives of the central government must accommodate an increased responsibility and autonomy of the island council with respect to marine resources.

In Tuvalu the conservation ethic remains strong among people who seem to have traditionally managed their marine resources on a sustainable basis. The means of exclusion, and effort management, are described by The South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) (1992, p. 21):

Some of the main mechanisms included secrecy about fishing grounds and techniques and seasonal taboos or bans on species or fishing grounds, restrictions on the consumption of certain species (e.g. some species such as turtles or giant clams were reserved for chiefs or priests), fines and penalties for resource abuses, and clan tenure or limited access to reef and lagoon areas.

SPREP (1992, p. 47) continues:

The lack of regulation of the traditional reef, lagoon and inshore or freshwater fisheries, and of the EEZ and international waters, is of particular concern. Localised exploitation of crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, prawns, etc.) and other marine foods in these zones, for rapidly expanding local urban markets and growing rural populations, has led to the depletion of these resources. Of particular concern is the commercial over-exploitation of lagoonal fisheries which could undermine the sustainability of important subsistence and local artisanal fisheries. The abandonment of traditional taboos, marine tenure systems, and fishing regulations, which have been responsible for relatively sustained production over thousands of years, coupled with widespread use of dynamite, pesticides, other fish poisons and stupefacients, and small mesh gillnets, are also rapidly degrading important fisheries resources.

At the present time no effort restrictions or management plans are being applied anywhere to any fishery by the Fisheries Department of Kiribati, except through size of nets used on Tarawa lagoon[4]. On the densely populated atolls, such as Tarawa, the fishing effort is high and regulations of the central government will be required to ensure the enforcement of controls within inshore management strategies. Meanwhile, islands are developing their commercial fishing to supply the urban areas. There is bound to be competition between subsistence fishers and commercial fishers. The risk of resource depletion and potential conflict can only be resolved by island councils exercising their rights to control total fishing effort in their waters.

While the rights to the resources of open ocean waters have been effectively vested in nations through the creation of exclusive economic zones (EEZs), the management of these stocks is contingent on control of the effort exerted by the Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs). While licences are issued by Pacific island nations to the DWFNs, the cost of effective enforcement of licence conditions and exclusion of unlicensed vessels is presently prohibitive for each nation. From both perspectives therefore - enforcement and effort management - there is a requirement for co-operation between Pacific islands and between the Pacific islands as a group and the DWFNs.

The establishment of sustainable ocean fisheries in the Pacific, therefore, has three essential components: the management of effort through the licensing of vessels, the exclusion of illegal fishing, and the provision of information concerning the effort levels that will efficiently and sustainably exploit stocks.

Pollution - internalizing the externalities

In the absence of industrialization of any significance on atolls, pollution is mainly a result of poor disposal methods for sewage and household wastes. This takes two main forms:

(1) the faecal contamination of water lenses and lagoon waters;

(2) the solid waste contamination of official and unofficial rubbish pits, dumps and open areas.

The polluter derives benefit from the environment in being able to dispose of waste but the costs are borne by the community in health costs, the degradation of renewable resources, a diminution in the already scarce land area available for other uses and a reduction in the scenic qualities of atolls

When atolls are lightly populated, and subsistence is the main activity, the amount and kinds of pollution are such as to be easily assimilated by the environment. However, when the density of population increases, so does the waste stream. Moreover, because of the heavier reliance on imports of the dense urban populations, the character of the waste stream changes to include a higher percentage of non-biodegradable wastes.

It would appear that the neglect of the reticulated sewage system in South Tarawa has administrative and financial causes. Also, given that there is no cost to traditional disposal of faecal waste on beaches, because of the failure of the authorities to exact penalties on polluters, this remains an easy option for the majority of the population. Faecal pollution of the lagoon is the result. In the case of fresh water lenses, faecal and other contamination - and high dissolved nitrogen levels - can be attributed to pit latrines and household waste-water outlets being sited above or adjacent to them.

The imposition of penalties for inappropriate disposal of waste are suggested. However, in the case of faecal disposal to beaches or inappropriately sited pit latrines, penalties will only be an effective deterrent where there is universal and easy access to alternative sewage systems. The inherent difficulty of policing illegal waste disposal suggests that education and public awareness campaigns on waste disposal must be combined with the provision of waste disposal facilities.

[ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE A2 OMITTED] in the Appendix depicts the propensity to pollute where there is no enforced penalty on polluters with one where an enforced penalty is in operation. The penalty increases the marginal cost of each unit of pollution, encouraging the polluter to reduce the units of pollution to a point where the marginal benefits of each unit of pollution equal marginal costs.

Much of the waste stream on both Funafuti and in South Tarawa is organic: matter, principally leaves of breadfruit trees. Where subsistence agriculture is practised the leaves are used for composting root crops. However, in the densely populated areas, where leaves constitute rubbish, they are put out for council collection or disposed of informally, along with other household waste. There is open access to borrow pits, foreshore or vacant land for this purpose. The installation of upgraded, centralized recycling and compaction systems could well be accompanied by enforced penalties for improper disposal of garbage.

An option for the control of non-biodegradable waste is to tax offending imports. The purchaser bears the costs of government waste management and of subsidies to recyclers. The recycling of beer and soft drink cans appears to be on a financially viable footing in Tarawa despite the high costs of freight to markets, but in Funafuti no such scheme is operative. The remains of vehicles also pose a pollution risk. All car batteries and oil should be collected for recycling or safe disposal. Again, a policy option is for governments to impose a tax on imported vehicles to fund their recycling and/or disposal at the end of their lives.

Summary and conclusions

Major problems concerning the unsustainable use of environmental resources, particularly in Kiribati but also in Tuvalu, stem from the open access to resources. The resources in question do not suffer from the problem of non-excludability of public goods. Access can, in fact, be controlled.

Open access results from a lack of clear property rights or failure to exclude resource exploiters who are not holders of property rights.

The human health problems on atolls are linked directly to the abuse of local environments. Penalties for pollution are only part of the solution, however. Facilities for proper waste disposal need to be provided if the enforcement of regulations is to be politically feasible. In addition, public awareness campaigns by government and non-government organizations, targeting public health issues, suggest themselves.

The method of recoupment of costs of facilities needs to be considered carefully. Direct charges for services can force people to continue to use the low-cost methods of waste disposal and the damaging methods of resource use that are the causes of health problems.

Central Governments should recognize that the interests of the whole community, as well as the individual island communities concerned, are enhanced when exploitation of local fisheries' other natural resources is on a sustainable footing. Agreements between island councils and central Government - that legitimize the property rights to the councils and which also centrally reinforce by-laws and therefore bolster enforcement - appear to be good vehicles for sustainable resource management.

While access rights in respect of the tuna resources are vested in the Pacific island nations, the exclusion of illegal fishing and containment of effort are the issues that must be solved if sustainable incomes are to be generated from the tuna stocks.


1. Personal communication with Mr Karin Belhadjali, Fisheries Research Adviser, Fisheries Department, Government of Tuvalu, Funafuti, 9 August 1995.

2. Personal communication with Mr Teekabu Tiskai, Secretary for Natural Resources, Government of Kiribati, Tarawa, 11 August 1995.

3. Personal communication with Mr Teekabu Tiskai, Secretary for Natural Resources, Government of Kiribati, Tarawa, 11 August 1995.

4. Personal communication, Senior Fisheries Officer, Department of Fisheries, Government of Kiribati, South Tarawa, 11 August 1995.


AusAID, (1995), The Kiribati Economy: A Draft Report, Canberra, Australia.

Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (1993), Kiribati-South Tarawa Sanitation Project Report, Canberra, Australia.

Baitika, T. (1987), "Leases", in Crocombe, R. (Ed.), Land Tenure in the Atolls, University of South Pacific, Suva, pp. 50-55.

Bio-Systems (1995), Tarawa Lagoon Management Plan, Tiburon, California.

Bromley, D. (1991), Environment and Economy: Property Rights and Public Policy, Blackwell, Oxford.

Conrad, N. (1993), Land-based Pollution Inventory for the South Pacific Region, SPREP, Apia.

Gangaiya, P. (1994), Land-based Pollution Sources in Kiribati: A Case Study, SPREP, Apia.

Government of Tuvalu (1995), Kakeeaga Tuvalu; National Development Strategy; 1995 to 1998, Funafuti, Tuvalu.

Johannes, R. (1978), "Traditional marine conservation methods in Oceania and their demise", Annual Review of Ecological Systems, Vol. 9, pp. 349-64.

McMaster, J. and Pollard, S. (1993), "Managing government for sustainable development", paper to the Fourth Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders on Tahiti, East-West Centre, Hawaii.

Ministry of Home Affairs and Rural Development (1995), Urban Development Plan for South Tarawa, Bairiki, Kiribati.

Ostrom, E. (1990), Governing the Commons, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

South Pacific Commission (1995), Population Statistics - Statistical Bulletin No 42, The South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia.

South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (1992), Country Report on Tuvalu for UNCED, Apia, Western Samoa.

Teiwaki, R. (1988), Management of the Marine Resources in Kiribati, Atoll Research Unit and Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji.

Tisdell, C.A. (1991), Economics of Environmental Conservation, Elsevier, Amsterdam.


In [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE A1 OMITTED], there is a constant marginal cost of exploiting a common property resource. In the case of exploitation of inshore marine resources - hunting and gathering activity - the benefits derived from hunting are reflected in the average product curve (AP). The AP is derived, for each level of hunting activity, by multiplying the constant price of the catch by the amount of catch and dividing by the number of units of hunting activity. The average product curve is downward sloping because of the reduction in the targeted population with increasing effort. Smaller populations support smaller catch or harvests per unit of effort expended. With open access, each hunter and gatherer exploits the resource until average benefit equals average cost. Everyone is worse off because of depleted or even extinguished stocks, and there is a cost to future as well as the present generation. Total effort under open access is Q1.

However, with an allocation of rights to a group to exploit the resource, there is an incentive for the group to maximize the scarcity rent, abcd. If the group develops rules and effectively limits the amount any one individual is allowed to take, the level of effort reduces to Q2. At this lower level of effort, targeted stocks are much more likely to be able to provide a continuous supply of product. Local rules for resource use could well be endorsed and thus reinforced by a central administration.

The same objective of resource conservation can be achieved if open access to underground fresh water lenses is denied. Open access through wells means that individuals have no incentive to regulate their consumption in the common interest. As cumulative effort in drawing water increases the amount of water obtained per unit of effort falls. Marginal benefits will fall as the level of extraction exceeds the level of replenishment of the water lens. But users will continue to draw water until their average costs of accessing the below-ground supply equals their average benefit. However, if the Government enforces a sole right of access to the water lens it can maximize its benefit from the resource and maintain a sustainable rate of extraction.

The foreshores, other government-owned land, fresh water lenses and inshore waters of the atolls are common property resources and subject to open access by polluters. Pollution of beaches and ground water by sewage imposes costs on the community. These external costs, borne by the community, rise per increment of pollution, and are represented by the upward sloping, dotted marginal cost curve in [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE A2 OMITTED].

Pollution is very damaging, hence the marginal cost curve is portrayed as being very steep. In the absence of penalties, or in the presence of penalties that are not enforced, there are zero costs incurred by the individual in polluting. Pollution is therefore unconstrained, at Q1.

However, with enforced penalties the reduction in pollution will be at the point where marginal benefit equals marginal cost to the polluter. In [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE A2], the penalty is such that the optimal level of pollution is achieved at Q2, i.e. marginal private benefit equals marginal external cost. The marginal net benefit to the polluter is lowered by access to alternative methods of disposal of pollutants. Thus the level of penalty that will achieve the desired reduction in pollution can be reduced.
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Author:Hunt, Colin
Publication:International Journal of Social Economics
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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