The ‘Happy Isles’ is geographically found in the east of Papua New Guinea. It is a very tiny nation that is made up of a group of islands with incredibly diverse cultures that behave in incredibly unique ways - as revealed by their people’s appearance. It is a beautiful and attractive place, with people that are welcoming to all people from any other parts of the world. Way back, Spain in 1567, commanded Alvaro De Mendana who discovered these groups of islands in the South Pacific Island Region. He then happily found so much gold laying around the black sandy beach on the coast of Naghoniara (Honiara) along the riverbank of Matanako (Mataniko) river during his exploration. This Spanish explorer biblically believed that this is where King Solomon brought gold to build the Temple of Jerusalem. Without hesitation, he announced the name of this group of islands as the Solomon Islands. Later the British navigator John Scotland anchored in the northern coast in 1788, followed by English traders who annexed the island in 1893.
The battle of Guadalcanal between the US and Japanese during WWII (1942-1945) saw both sides experience bloodshed along the Tetere beach. More buried, but active bombshells still remain beneath the grounds of Guadalcanal today. But the extent of the environmental damage caused by the war does not end there. More than one warship sank releasing oil and toxic fuels on the ocean floor of the famous Iron Bottom Sound Sea. The seafloor is full of shipwrecks and war planes that crash landed there. Generally, this is the birth of pollution in the surrounding marine, freshwater and other terrestrial land-based ecosystems within Guadalcanal. We have seen all manner of toxic materials, waste, burning of fuels and fuel and oil spills occur all over the surface of the island. It is sad to see all the endangered species slowly fade away day by day.
Furthermore, combating climate change is something Solomon Islanders desperately need if we are to protect our beautiful islands. This struggle defines environmental sustainability as the way of living on our planet responsibly, treating it with fairness, respect to all the species’ survival and our ability to breathe happily is all related to climate change. Our nature depends on us and ecosystems need our actions to survive. Most importantly, combating climate change is also for future generations to breathe the same fresh air we inhale freely and give them the chance to cultivate the same fertile soil we yield today.
This struggle for environmental sustainability led to the creation of the Adetao Association last year. The organization has operations in the Northeast Highlands region of Guadalcanal and they successfully organized a land forum where all clans respectively come together and discuss all the missing parts of their ancestral signs, symbols and genealogy. They also discussed their land blocks of which they owned and were then formally registered after each tribesman confirmed all the documents with valid proof of ownership. All this happened due to an increase in tribal arguments over land boundaries and done for the purpose of human development and to stop large-scale destruction of land and water for logging activities.
With all this in mind, many Solomon Islanders are raising grave concerns for their survival, the survival of the untouched tropical green rainforest of Guadalcanal Province and the health of all their people for a better future. The aforementioned therefore invites the term ‘environmental sustainability’ to this conversation to describe the needs of Northeast Guadalcanal. This term also applies similarly to all other provinces in Solomon Island. Increasing the amount of emissions from factories, mining activities and heavy machines all contribute to global warming and therefore results in sea level rises, as experienced by the parts of Solomon Island (see below for pictures taken in Malaita Province at Falua Village).
Another hugely significant fear that we have in the Solomon Islands is a concern about deforestation, impeding natural resources to both human beings and organisms. See the images below to get a glimpse of the highlands of Guadalcanal, the waterfalls and fogs flying over the mountains every morning. The pictures below those are of the freshwater in Upper Paripao along Bokokimbo river.
Due to the increase of fuel and oil spills into the surrounding environment, there has been an increase of cutting trees by logging companies. This all results in an increase of rainfalls that leads to soil erosions flowing through clean rivers and natural drink waters. Below are pictures taken along the ridge where logging destroys the forest and where I fear all the living organisms and natural water sources will become extinct and turn into dry land.
I am concerned about the non-stop emission of greenhouse gasses in the capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara, the surrounding factories in the plains of Guadalcanal and the mining factories in the upper highlands of Guadalcanal Province result in depletion of ozone layer that leads to sea level rise. Nonstop rainfall gives off acid rain to people that store rainy-water in tanks for cooking and drinking - all resulting in an increasing number of sick patients in clinics and hospitals every day.
The people of Northeast Highlands, upper Paripao area used their resources responsibly but due to road accessibility to their home (see right), they have become economically incentivised to use some of their rainforest resources for long term growth. Furthermore, they harvested a few logs so that they could make the road to their village in the first place. But they do so without harming the environmental aspects, and protecting social and cultural inhabitants.
A good example of social sustainability shown in the pictures below; people at Kolosulu village live happily without needing too much money, enjoy eating local foods then breathe fresh air and drink from natural spring water.
Finally, the importance of environmental sustainability has been shown in the above pictures. It is clear that in order to live longer and have healthy lives, people must eat more local foods, drink more clean water, and breathe unpolluted air from the surrounding environment. Note that almost one quarter of global human deaths cause those factors mentioned above.
To conclude, the environmental sustainability of the Solomon Islands is becoming an increasingly unresolved issue. It is caused by increasing contamination and pollution in the land, air, water and marine ecosystems. Since the government remains so unsettled from all the previous political issues, policy-makers are distracted from addressing these real issues.
We must keep in mind that the unsolved problem of environmental issues like sea level rise which is experienced by other parts of Solomon Islands today, was not for fun and is a real thing happening today. Hence the Solomon Island government and other environmental sectors should act on it.
The birth of pollution in Solomon Islands, especially in the Guadalcanal Province, started during the beginning of WWII 1942. But the major worries of the people of Northeast highlands of Guadalcanal are the pollution from loggers that may cause the extinctions of all the natural rainforest ecosystems that have been there naturally which allows people to hunt and yield foods from.
Last year the Adetao Indigenous Association organized a remarkable gathering where all tribes came together to straighten all their genealogies and land blocks within the highland's region to avoid confusion and arguments in the near future. Most importantly, since development is moving very fast nowadays, people need to be sure of their land to protect from over harvesting of resources. Most of the people agreed on harvesting their resources in a sustainable way for their upcoming generations to still be able to survive. They have brilliant minds to preserve some of the untouched forests and to build a conservation site where people can visit and study in the jungle. Clearly, the three pillars of sustainability (economic, social and environmental) have been illustrated in the pictures above of how the people of the Northeast Highlands evolved to survive.
Environmental Sustainability of the Solomon Islands, Specifically In Guadalcanal Province
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Kelvin Kelo Neleta and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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