The Palau Environmental Quality Protection Board is calling for Koror and Airai State Governments to conduct Environmental Assessments (“EAs”) on the cumulative effects of water leases that have been issued in their respective states.

EQPB has received numerous applications for development on water leases, but has not been able to issue permits to the applicants because the state governments have not submitted their cumulative EAs.

In Koror, there are several areas where water leases have been issued which are awaiting cumulative EAs. These water leases include areas between Icebox Park and Riptide, between Ace Hardware and Jing Ping Hotel around T-Dock, the M-Dock area, and the Ngesaol-Ngetmeduch area.

In Airai, applications have been received for the mangrove area across True Value as well as the mangroves in Ochelochel that have been leased out. In all of these locations, there are important environmental considerations, such as the site access, utilities, storm water drainage, marine water flow/circulation, and social impacts that must be addressed on a cumulative basis as they cannot be properly identified and mitigated through individual assessments.

Title 24, Section 142(c) of the Palau National Code requires state governments to consider the environmental impacts of state actions which significantly affect the environment. As the environmental regulatory agency, EQPB is mandated to enforce this statutory requirement.

A cumulative EA will determine what environmental impacts may result from state actions, such as leasing water areas, and will identify options to mitigate those environmental impacts. This will help the states determine if the cumulative use of the water leases would impact the surrounding areas.

Although an individual assessment could show that the impacts may not be significant, the cumulative impacts of multiple water leases may be significant. By conducting an EA of the cumulative impacts of the water leases, Koror and Airai State Governments can ensure preventative action against the various issues that can come about.

EQPB commends the States for their proactive efforts in ensuring the health of  the people and environment. EQPB also encourages them to submit their respective cumulative environmental assessments.

While leaseholders may be frustrated, the states can ensure further progress by providing the required cumulative environmental assessment as soon as possible. In addressing the synergistic nature of development, ecosystem, and planning through a cumulative assessment, the states can help protect the livelihoods of their people who depend on the ecosystem while allowing for economic growth.  (PR)