11 Jul 2013

Rising seas flooding homes in Solomons' Malaita

4:39 pm on 11 July 2013

Efforts are underway to relocate about 5,000 people affected by rising sea levels on outlying islands in the Solomon Islands province of Malaita.

The province's deputy premier says the homes of people on the flat islands of Pelau, Luaniua and Sikaiana are being flooded by high tides and seas, forcing them to retreat inland.

Alick Mae'aba told Annell Husband the islands are both low and flat, ruling out a move to higher ground.

ALICK MAE'ABA: The houses are built very low. These are the traditional houses they're used to live in and they're used to building. So they just live on very flat... no flooring, no such thing. They just build the patched roof from the pandanus leaf. So the whole base of the dwelling is on the sand.

ANNELL HUSBAND: And what about their fresh water supply? How is that?

AM: They used to fetch water from water tanks and wells.

AH: And so with the rising sea level, how is the well water? Is it contaminated at all?

AM: Yeah, it's contaminated. It's really affected by salt water. Even some of their food gardens like, for example, in Sikaiana, we have visited the site that the swamp taros were really affected and the saltwater is coming up right in the midst of the taro garden. So it really affects the whole entire garden.

AH: Do you have any idea of exactly where they might move to, and within what timeframe?

AM: In Malaita province, we decided upon two areas in which we will relocate them. One side is just close to Auki and one is next to Afio in South Malaita. So the current situation at the moment now is that we should have a taskforce. And this taskforce will do a study on how to come up with a programme that will get the information of what it will cost the government to permit the relocation package.

AH: And when they move over to near Auki and Afio, will they be able to live in a similar way? In terms of their integration into the existing populations, will that work all right?

AM: Yeah, that is what currently we are deciding on. Because these people, the whole of their life they live close to the sea. So whenever any relocation programmes is taken on board we have to put them near the sea.

AH: Does the national government pay for the relocation or the provincial government or both?

AM: The provincial government has to work very closely with the detailed information, and we'll work with the national government for relocation funding.