By EDDIE OSIFELO
THE Solomon Islands 2019 national census showed average annual population growth since 2009 at 2.7 percent.
This is one of the fastest rates in the Pacific.
Honiara, the capital, grew by 5.8 percent, taking population density to 5,950 people per square kilometer, higher than any other urban area in the Pacific.
Asian Development Bank’s Solomon Islands Country Office Unit Head Elmar Elbling stated this when he presented the Asian Development Outlook (ADB) 2021 at Heritage Park Hotel yesterday.
Elbling said rapid population growth and urbanization have brought myriad social and economic challenges such as unplanned settlements, heavy traffic, and inadequate infrastructure and public services.
He said combined with habits such as sharing betel nut, urban congestion can speed the transmission of disease.
“Risk from COVID-19 prompted the authorities to try to ease decongestion in Honiara in the early months of the pandemic by encouraging people to return to their provinces.
“Urban agglomerations can catalyze growth and innovation, creating synergies across sectors, industries, and social groups,” he said.
Elbling said with proper planning, they facilitate economies of scale, in the delivery of public services.
He said achieving this requires human capital development, especially through education and health care, and expansion of infrastructure to support mobility and delivery of food, energy, and water supply and sanitation services.
“These issues are partly addressed in the 2018 Greater Honiara Urban Development Strategy and Action Plan.
“With support from development partners, large infrastructure projects are under way, though delayed by the pandemic,” he said.
Elbling said tremendous challenges outside the main urban areas through improved agricultural productivity.
He said higher investments in transport and communications are also needed.
“However, real impact and benefits to people will depend on fiscal strengthening, budget prioritization, and enhancing implementation capacity,” he said.