BY GEORGINA KEKEA
FUTURE generations in Honiara City will not be able to enjoy a walk along the city’s Mataniko river banks nor enjoy a stroll along the coastline of Honiara if nothing is done about the way we dispose our rubbish and look after our environment.
For a long time, the Mataniko River had been a dumping site for the general public at large. Collection of waste over the years has made the once pristine river now a sight for sore eyes as well as destroying most life under it. How much worst would it be for our children and grandchildren?
Given the close inter-connections between land, water and coastal systems, it is considered very important how we look after, plan and manage our land, water and coast.
In the Pacific, integrated approaches to how we look after our freshwater and coastal area management have been termed ‘Ridge to Reef’ (R2R). The goal of the R2R program is to maintain and enhance Pacific Island countries’ ecosystem goods and services through integrated approaches to land, water, forest, biodiversity and coastal resource management that contribute to poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and climate resilience.
In Honiara, the Mataniko river catchment is a project site of the R2R program in the Solomon Islands.
The GEF/SPC International Waters R2R Solomon Islands project has started in January 2017 and will be implemented along a four year period meaning it will end in 2020.
Speaking to Island Sun, R2R National Project Manager, Sammy Airahui says for 2018, for the first quarter they are set to roll the Mataniko river water quality monitoring which includes collecting of water quality samples and sediments (looking at solid wastes also) along the Mataniko river from Tuvaruhu upstream down to estuary.
“The monitoring will be done on quarterly basis”, Mr. Airahui said.
“We are putting much effort in trying to educate our communities as much as possible to look at ways to manage our Mataniko river”, he said.
“The river is heavily polluted from solid and liquid waste from human settlement, residential areas and shops operating and living adjacent to the river”, he said.
“Currently the project also works with SPREP in carrying out the Honiara coastal survey as well as collecting samples for micro-plastics and results are yet to be presented to the Ministry of Environment Climate Change Disaster Risk Management (MECDRM) for launching”.
Mr. Airuahui said currently the project is reviewing existing literatures for Honiara coast. Later they will be carrying out a baseline study on the coastal environment of Honiara.
“The baseline study will look at pollution and nutrient loads entering the coastal environment. The project is currently designing a Term of Reference (TOR) for the baseline study’, Mr. Airahui revealed.
Meanwhile, also speaking to Island Sun a community elder from Tuvaruhu, Kalisto Kwaru said since last year he had been participating in a number of workshops organized to make awareness on the R2R concept. Appointed as team leader in Tuvaruhu on the ‘clean up’ of Mataniko river, Kalisto Kwaru says he had tried his best in raising awareness on the importance of keeping the river clean but it is quite difficult.
“Especially for the youths, all they need is incentives to keep them happy. We have a lot of youths, almost 150 and they can be able to assist in the campaign to keep Mataniko River clean but you know how it is with youths, they need incentives to drive them forward”, Mr. Kwaru said.
Mr. Kwaru said they understand the need to keep the river clean and in the past they had participated in activities on the Mataniko cleanup campaign as well.
“If we keep our river clean, people wouldn’t have to come upstream for recreational purposes but this looks like it will be a long term project”, Mr. Kwaru said.
He said their community is very keen to be divided into zones so that delegation of work and activities will be done in a timely and orderly way.
“Our second step, we will divide our community into zones so that we will participate in cleaning the river but we really need to strategize in order for us to achieve this goal and it shall all depend on funding as well”, he said.
Apart from the attitude of crude dumping of rubbish and wastes in to the river, R2R is also looking at other alternatives that will enable communities and commercial houses that live along the river help to minimize waste and also to look after the river.
A part of the R2R project was the distribution of rubbish bins amongst other tools to assist communities’ dispose of their rubbish properly.
For Tuvaruhu, Mr. Kwaru said they had also benefitted from rubbish bins including other work tools.
“However, for the bins, slow collection of rubbish from the Honiara City Council (HCC) had caused the bins to ‘slipshod’ into a bad state thus we need new bins”, Mr. Kwaru said.
However Mr. Kwaru said his community is very willing to work with the project and the MECDM. He said these are long term goals for the government more-so for the Tuvaruhu community as well.
The Mataniko Project is an initiative undertaken by different stakeholders to showcase the importance of maintaining a clean river ecosystem through proper waste management practices that includes cleaning the river ecosystem and cleaning the river as practical approach of awareness to the general public on the importance of our environment.
Data used from the river baseline study in 2015 will support the implementation of mitigation measures to reduce pollution levels as well as support implementation of recommendations identified under the Mataniko baseline study.