Nono lagoon, people and development, Decision making and survival in the midst of conflicting interests

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People and the natural environment

According to Edward Hviding (2005), Nono Land consists of a small subsidiary lagoon on the south eastern-end of New Georgia Island in Marovo Lagoon in the Western Province. Traditionally, Nono Lagoon was communally used by the Choe and Nono people for multiple purposes.

Strong customary knowledge sources repeated that somewhere in the lower part of Choe River estuary is where traditional ceremony and celebrations are performed.

For centuries past, Nono Lagoon is life to the local inhabitants; the permanent users of its natural environment. Subsistence economy, maintenance of lifestyles and recently commercial development were largely practiced in the area. People collect food including the regular diet of ‘riki choe ’ or ‘riki peno’ and mangrove fruits (ure petu ), fish, mud crabs and other marine food types from the lagoon.

On land, people collect bush materials for housing from the local famous rich sago palm forest along the dense sides of Choe River. The river bed is where people collect a popular local food shell or mollusk, called ‘deo choe ’ (deo davala).

Its abundance is well known in Choe River.

Additionally, people use the natural forest ecosystems for hunting and gathering. Gardening is little affecting the region; however, some nearby villagers were frequently visiting their ancestral places in Choe and Nono lands; in what should be known today as one of the wildlife nests of terrestrial and marine lives in Marovo Lagoon.

Only Zaira village or Dokoso Land Protected Area (Zaira Resource Management Area), which is located on the southern weather coast of Vangunu Island is the largest remaining thickest canopy in the beautiful lagoon. Its land and sea resources were managed under traditional practices called; “Hope or taboo”.

Nono Lagoon is faced with numerous challenges regarding its natural resources. On the management level, there is evidence of reluctance to adopt conservation initiatives.

This needs more awareness through education-environmental programs. If resource management and conservation plans have to be actualized; community resource owners and leaders must understand the core value of their natural resources in the long run (not to undermine thoughtful effective management in the short-term).

The resource management utilization strategies therefore were crucial workable plans that must be grounded at the very heart of any societal development; if sustainable development is to be fully realized.

The Marine Protected Area (MPA) previously set up in the small-enclosed coastal lagoon of Nazareth village is signaling opportunities for conservation initiative in the region.

Challenges however, include disorientation by illegal poaching and continuous community unregulated influences. Lack of serious attention by the community leaders aggravates its ineffectiveness. Disloyalty to the initiative is obvious.

In the past years, the first unsustainable commercial operation is logging. Within this period, mining prospecting is covering Mt.Tiroa in the dense interior of Nono Land.

Evidence of division between the once happy Choe and Nono people is awakening.

As observed, some parts of Choe and Nono lands were heavily disturbed by logging activities. Buffer zones or areas close to the rivers which are illegal for logging activities must be monitored in infinity.

Long term impacts from unsustainable commercial logging is an issue to life-time local dwellers who depend on their environment for their daily survival.

The natural environment and its biodiversity would be losing their ecological capacity functions in trying to compete against the harsh environment soon to expose.

These were serious environmental issues in years to come.

Unsustainable practices of harvesting natural resources must be controlled or eliminated in the region. While there are rural people relying on their environment, some educated people must assist in drawing attention towards creating sustainable resource use policies and resource management plans for better and regulated utilization purposes.

Resources management and sustainable development were important concepts in our contemporary society. Development aspirations must begin where and how these concepts are indispensable. At the rural level, management and sustainable utilization of both terrestrial and marine resources are the central attitude of daily survival behavior.

This doesn’t mean a change of resource use preference; it though integrates conscientious awareness about the importance of the natural environment for future use. In that, it would mean sustainability and management are regulated practices in the ever changing society; an emphasis of parallel latitude. People’s responsibility today is to secure the horizon of their future generation’s survival.

For those resource management actions employed; natural resources utilization must be the testimony of contentment otherwise mere ignorance adds to a gross problem of resource scarcity and competition which would become the ordeal of distress.

Besides, mining prospect is targeted on some parts of Choe and Nono lands. Therefore, a sustainable future will also consider a committed sacrifice, integrity and responsible stewardship in decision making. The powerful and prevailing conduits would be through law-abiding leadership qualities.
Mining and Logging

Although mining would bring a ‘million-dollar dream’ to its frontier; it can also leave behind ‘millions worth of environmental issues,’ conflicts, reconciliation processes and damages, which are all (in unforeseen dilemma or at times) beyond people’s capacity.

Let’s not forget the Bougainville Crisis of Paguna Mining, OK Tedi Mining in PNG, the aftermath of Nauru Phosphate Mining and Gold Ridge Mining leakage issues in Solomon Islands.

Consider the sizes of the islands, the freshwater bodies, the fresh air and the seas. They were the limited aggregate resources people are made part of and responsible for. People depend on them and they depend on people for their better caring, management and sustainability.

The land and ocean is where people make most of their living. The natural environment is where people derive natural resources to meet their immediate needs, for example income and school fees.

Therefore, commercial interests surrounding the sea and land would require practicing sustainable utilization behaviors and management.

All activities carried out on land would consider the wider impacts that will be triggered in the ocean or sea and freshwater bodies. Pollution and destruction in the environment would mean the biodiversity is affected. People are also affected. The balance of biological and ecological interconnectivity will certainly decline or diminish; causing instability and changes to the biomass structure, food links and generally instability to the ecological interconnectivity within the natural environment.

To get the depiction, scientific evidences proved that deforestation rate in Solomon Islands is beyond sustainable harvest limit.
Furthermore, consider the case of fishery death toll in Central Marovo Lagoon in early June in year 2011.

The first alarming instance is spotted as a small fish was struggling to its death on the sea surface at the river estuary of Gepae and Cheara villages while few minutes departing from Cheara on ‘M.V. UTA Princess’ (previously ‘Atoll Way’) (about 7am, Monday 6th June 2011).

There are two possible scenarios over the cause; and they are worth taken on-board. First, it is a natural occurrence (algal bloom) that associates with changes of climate and weather patterns. Secondly, it may link to high concentration of sediments at the sea bed of the river estuary. This may associate with excessive human activities on land. The obvious activity is logging. Know that there are five river bodies sourcing the estuary in this location, and so as in Nono Lagoon.

Hence, the responsibility of rural dwellers and guardians of Nono Lagoon is to maintain the sustainability of their natural resources and oppose all development that are involved in unsustainable practices. Let alone the past experiences are lessons to achieve a better and fair Nono and Choe sustainable way of life in the future.

Together, a future way of life can be protected and managed. That means, sustainable development must be prioritized.
Conservation, management and sustainability
Conservation development includes understanding managing the uses of natural resources; consider their interconnectivity and maintaining their sustainability for future use.

On the other hand, it would also mean considering other life forms from our intents or plans.

These understandings were considerably envisaged in global considerations like that of Agenda 21 Chapter 17: 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the 1982 Third United Nations Conference of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) – Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC).

Conservation, sustainability and management concerns with regards to the natural resources and environment were common with these international instruments. However, for instance, the implementation of UNCED at the regional level is a challenge generally by lack of domestic (national) aptitude for environmental management. But such incapacity would not be overlooked (or simply ignored) as we are already facing serious environmental issues like coral bleaching (e.g. Fiji 2002; Marovo Lagoon 1997), sedimentation (e.g. Marovo Lagoon) and coastal erosion (e.g. South American coastal villages).

Regional organizations like the University of the South Pacific (USP), South Pacific Applied Geosciences Commission (SOPAC), and the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) were crucial towards the sustainability, conservation and management of our environment with regards to the resources found there; for example, fisheries. However, they have specific roles within their own objectives over the natural environment. Sub regional organization like Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) is an example of conservation and management of tuna stocks within specific Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and the adjacent High Seas.

Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) have their stronger support and aim to the management of tuna resources in our national waters. As a sole simple pacifying sentiment generally echoes as “tuna is as significant to the Pacific just like oil is to the Arab nations.” No wonder tuna has been referred to as the “oil” in the Pacific region. Therefore, it is reasonable to recognize that this commercial offshore fishery has its linkage of survival from the coastal environment. Regulated policies and instruments must be upheld as always maintained in the model of integrated coastal zone management.

It would be reflective then to state that Marovo Lagoon is home to some of the richest bait fishing grounds in the world. In the past, Solomon Taiyo Limited (STL) depended on these fishing grounds for bait-fish catch during its operation (pole-and-line fishing). An experience was correct with their presence (fishing fleets) in Nono Lagoon. The closest anchorage that can be recalled was about fifty meters from the reef slope of Tupaerenge Island. These were evidences that the seas (or lagoons) were home-breeder to all kind of fish species which some are vital for commercial development in the country.

Therefore, the local communities were the foundational actors towards stewardship, conservation and management of the natural resources, as they are the owners of their places. And that assistance and support must transpire in all worthy aspects of development in order for them to act from where they were instead of where they can’t go.

Historically, conservation initiatives were already practiced in Marovo Lagoon; however, significant actors like the owners of the area, NGOs and the responsible government-departmental sectors must maintain their commitment and support. The development goals upheld must be clear and achieved provided that the objectives, strategy actions and the implementation process are functional. Monitoring and evaluation were crucial parts. This is where feedbacks are essential for review and changes necessary to avoid flaw functioning of the development process. Conservation initiative has resource management use plans in its context and output.

Generally, sustainable development with regards to natural resources would require understanding of resource use patterns and the installment of policy framework while carrying out competent management tasks. The implementation of monitoring programs is a priority to monitor the goals of development. Conservation and sustainable development were vital to achieve employment proliferation and economic growth. However, in all aspect of sustainable development, it prompt challenging indefinite calls like political will, moral will, compromises and a lot of hard thinking to contemplate upon.

Decision making: the choice

Undeniably, conflict of interests regarding natural resources utilization is one major problem faced consistently today, however, successful development is hardly achieved otherwise sustainable. The sustainability of natural resources is people’s responsibility through effective management. In a deeper understanding, people’s local effort is to harmonize sustainable management for the sake of their natural resources continuous supply for future survival. And that reiterates incorporating sustainable development and efficient management in all activity that concerns the natural environment.

More so, making decision for sustainable future through development aspirations requires deeper understanding over the cultural aspects of the communities concerned (custodians or owners of the resources). The underlying notion here is whether the transcending of any model of management structure appear horizontal, vertical and/or parallel in its integration in all sectors or institutions, the obligation is still at large.

Decision making therefore should not undermine the conscience of choosing the better future from a solitary short-sighted cell, in contrast to the omniscience lens.

Finally, choice is the most powerful intrinsic art of making decision; for better or sloppier.

By Vaera Talilotu Pulekera and Emmanuel Mangale.


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