The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Solomon Islands:
- Oil Spill
MV Solomon Trader ran aground on a reef in February 2019, spilling about 80 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. The vessel was there to load bauxite from the island’s mining operations, which lies on the doorstep of a world heritage site in the island’s east. Now dead fish float in the bay. The tide is black. A thick oily blanket of tar covers the surface of the water and coats beaches, rockpools, logs and leaves. Due to this oil spill local people are suffering the most; there is a shortage of food as they cannot use the sea and reef to do fishing and find shells to eat. The oil slick affects the corals and marine life too. It also contaminates the water which comes out from the stones on the land near the beach. So now people have run out of clean water to drink as well. It is also affecting the UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO calls the site a “true natural laboratory for scientific study.” It contains many species that exist only in this area. The site contains thick forest and the brackish Lake Tegano, which contains many unique limestone formations.
- Road Safety
Road safety in the Solomon Islands is impacted by a number of factors; most are in common with other countries, but some are impacted more by Solomon Islands conditions, including the state of roads, compliance to wearing of seatbelts, road-worthiness of vehicles, drunk driving and complacency about vehicle overloading. The Kukum Traffic Police Department has recorded a total of 1583 traffic related incidents that led to 7 deaths in Honiara in 2017. Cases reported due to careless driving were 341, driving under the influence of liquor – 342, 94 for unlicensed drivers and the use of an unlicensed motor vehicle totalled to 259 cases. Permitting unlicensed motor vehicles was 82, dangerous loading was 2, causing death by dangerous driving had resulted in 7 cases, while the number of injuries were 29. These incidents have been caused through the drivers’ own carelessness, pedestrian carelessness or owners’ negligence for allowing their vehicles to be used on the road with defective parts or been unlicensed. In March 2017, Inspector Brian Surimalefo, also then with the ZIPF’s Traffic Branch, told the media that there were more than 300 road traffic accidents in 2016 causing injury to a hundred plus victims and 5 accident fatalities.
- Water and sanitation
Only 76 percent of urban households and 18 percent of rural households in Solomon Islands have access to basic sanitation, and sewerage is currently discharged through ocean and river outfalls, causing heavy coastal pollution. More than half the population is connected to reticulated water supply, with frequent water outages during power failure and water bores vulnerable to contamination from human and solid waste, particularly in communities without formal drainage and septic systems. The impact of poor water and sanitation services falls disproportionately on women, who bear responsibility for cleaning, cooking, washing and caring for children and the sick. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $28 million loan and a $9 million grant for the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project, which will provide better access to safe water and improve sanitation in urban areas of Solomon Islands.
- Youth Issues
Youth in Solomon Islands face similar challenges to their counterparts across the region, such as lack of access to quality and affordable education and health services, unemployment and various types of discrimination. Although youth make up a substantial part of the population, their involvement in Solomon Islands’ society is limited. The Commonwealth’s Youth Development Index ranks Solomon Islands 76th globally for youth political participation and 70th in terms of youth civic participation. The entire national annual budget for youth development is only 35 percent of the discretionary funding allocated to just one Member of Parliament, and there is poor transparency around expenditure.
In 2016 and 2017, around 65% of the county’s export earnings came from forestry, mainly through sale of round logs, which accounts for 20% of the state revenue (CBSI, 2017). But at the current harvesting rate, timber resources are expected to last only 1-2 more decades before exhaustion (RAMSI, 2012). On a positive note, logging activities in the rural areas give rise to employment opportunities, royalties and spin-off benefits to resource owners and surrounding communities that improve rural livelihood at least during the lifetime of the logging developments. Observing the historical and current trend of the logging industry, increased growth in commercial agriculture, mining and hydro electricity generation as per sector ministries’ plans and expected expansion of gardening areas and settlements due to population growth, it can be expected that deforestation and forest degradation activities will continue to increase in the short and mid-term.
Effects of Deforestation: River bank bursting, soil erosion, due to logging roads sensitive habitats face potential degradation and destruction from the new roads, flooding on the flatland etc.