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Monday, October 20, 2008

Relocating atoll islanders in SI an option of last resort: Sore

By Priestly Habru
In Apia, Samoa

Relocating the people of Ontong Java and Sikaiana in the Solomon Islands remains an option, but not the best solution according to Permanent Secretary of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology, Mr Rence Sore.

Mr Sore was speaking to Pacific journalists attending the climate change reporting course in Apia, Samoa this week.

"It is not easy, but (the government) is still discussing how best to do it. We do not want to relocate them, but it’s the last option," said Sore, whose ministry recently established a climate change department for the first time in the history of the Solomon Islands.

Ontong Java and Sikaiana, referred to as the Malaita Outer Islands, are atolls facing the full effects of climate change.

He confirmed that discussions and dialogues are continuing with traditional leaders of the two islands but added that there would be no easy way out.

Traditional leaders of Ontong Java, or Lord Howe Island, which has two villages, have raised the alarm on degradation of the atoll with low fresh water supply and taro crops not growing well.

Mamanawata near China Town on the coast of Honiara city is settlement of Ontong Java people while Red Beach, east of Honiara is where Sikaiana community is currently settling.

But with increased population on the two atoll islands and the rising sea level, the people of Ontong Java have recently alerted the government of Solomon Islands on threats to their livelihoods as a consequence of climate change

Even their Manawata Settlement in Honiara is also overcrowded and cannot cater to more settlers from Ontong Java atoll.

Sore stated that relocating the Ontong Java people to bigger islands in the Solomon Islands in the future will exacerbate complex issues, issues which need to be deliberated on seriously.

"The government recognises the plight of the Ontong Java people and is prioritising this whole issue," said Sore, who is currently attending the fourth Pacific Climate Change Roundtable (PCCR) in Apia. The PCCR ends on Friday.

Source: SPREP

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