27 Oct 2003

Tonga starts a drive to re-establish its forests

5:01 pm on 27 October 2003

The director of forestry in Tonga, Taniela Hoponoa, says the Government needs to act to save the country's dwindling forests.

He says native forestry has been neglected in favour of cash crops to stimulate economic growth.

He says less than 6 percent of Tonga is covered in forest and that is mainly confined to uninhabited outer islands.

Mr Hoponoa says the lack of coverage can intensify damage done in a cyclone and can have a negative effect on soil fertility and water quality.

He says there's been an imbalance in political will with most of it directed towards economic growth and the Forestry Ministry needs to develop better strategies to address environmental concerns.

"We want to highlight the fact that it's not that long term economic benefit that we are worrying about, its the service function of trees like improving soil fertility, water quality protection and aesthetic values. I think it's up to us to come up with a good strategy to convince the policy makers to divert more attention to tree planting."

Mr Hoponoa says his department is conducting village meetings and publishing leaflets to promote planting and conservation and has started nurseries in the main districts.