Locals seek compensation for environmental damages
BY GEORGINA KEKEA
POOR logging practices are again said to cause serious problems for locals in Kolombangara, Western Province. This is less than a month after international not-for-profit organisation Global Witness released a damning report on the wide ranging environmental and social damage being caused by unsustainable logging in the Solomon Islands and poor logging practices.
Speaking to Island Sun last week, village spokesman, Andrew Kubala said, logging activities on neighbouring customary lands which border the Pepele River have caused water in the river to become unusable for human purpose.
“This water pollution is threatening our life and the life of our people and the most affected ones are women and young pikinini,” said Mr Kubala.
Contaminated water run-off from a logging camp on Kolombangara’s Pepele River has led to a health crisis amongst the village of Taghoapa.
Kubala said as a result of the environmental pollution being caused by logging operations in the area, Taghoapa is now dealing with a violent outbreak of diarrhoea and dysentery with half of the adult population of the village falling badly ill to these diseases.
Kubala said many of Taghoapa’s villagers have no other source of water besides the river, forcing them to drink and cook with its contaminated contents.
“Because we do not have water/pipe supply and a proper clean drinking well, we really mainly [rely] on this Pepele River for all our basic need. We also have a shared 600 gallon water tank, but it could not cater for the unbelievable population of 13 households and 95 people, children and adults.”
Both diarrhoea and dysentery are diseases which are commonly caused as a result of people drinking contaminated water.
Of this issue, Member of Parliament for Gizo/Kolombangara, Lanelle Tanangada said she is not aware of any violent outbreak of dysentery and/or diarrhea. She said the people there have requested water tanks, to which one was sent the other week. She said, no one has told her of any serious illness in the community. She assures Island Sun that she will look into this matter.
At the same time, a landowner that was said to allow RIMA, a Malaysian company to carry out operations on their customary land said they are not stupid so as to allow the company to fell trees, close to the river. He said there was an agreement that allow only a certain portion of their land to be logged.
“My goodness, if there is a dysentery outbreak, this will be a state of emergency. Dysentery is an illness not to be taken lightly. Has there been any report from Kukudu clinic about any outbreak of dysentery or diarrhea?” he questioned.
He said they had won two court cases already on issue of land and land ownership and there is nothing more to say about this matter. He said the people should not exaggerate to the media about serious issues of this sort. He further mentioned that the people of Taghoapa are not customary landowners but settlers from Vella la Vella.
“Of course the police are doing their job since we won the court case already. What more do the people want? A third court hearing?” he said.
Meanwhile, what the people want is for the logging company to compensate the environmental damage caused to their land and river. They say a request was made to the health environment division on 29th October 2018 to which they were advised to seek legal advice.
“They promised us to send down inspection team to make assessment to the concern location as soon as possible”, a note from the concerned villagers say.
While Kubala awaits government intervention, he said he has approached the public solicitor’s office to seek assistance in having RIMA Limited logging in the area halted by the courts so that proper environmental assessments can be done.
Kolombangara is not the only island with its woes in logging issues. People from Malaita, Guadalcanal, Ngella, Isabel and Temotu including the Western province but to name a few are faced with similar issues.