Posted by : Posted on : 15-Mar-2020

Conservation and biodiversity management in the Solomon Islands

An article in today’s Solomon Star newspaper told the story of Lake Tenago in East Rennell having been put on the danger list by UNESCO due to logging practices, invasive species of rats, over-exploitation of coconut crabs and marine resources, climate change and administration of the properties.

East Rennell, was declared a World Heritage site in 1998, and is the largest raised coral atoll in the world and its original dense forest had a canopy averaging 20 metres in height.

The World Heritage site makes up the south-eastern half of Rennell Island, the southernmost island in the Solomon Islands in the western Pacific.

In actual fact, according to an IUCN report in 2013, then ongoing logging on the western part of Rennel Islands, only 12 km from the World Heritage site was threatening major damage to the forest’s ecology.

The introduction of invasive species by logging and container ships was also seen as constituting a serious danger to endemic wildlife.

The IUCN came up with an emergency action plan and the then Solomon Islands government committed to deliver an urgent study on the impacts of logging on Rennell Island.

Given the latest concerns of UNESCO about Lake Tenago having been put on its danger list over logging practices and over-exploitation of resources, is it to be assumed nothing materialised from an IUCN reported action plan which the Solomon Islands government committed to study.

The Solomon Islands government fully understands that the predominantly subsistence lifestyle that characterises the Solomon Islands economy is underpinned by the country’s heavy reliance on its biological diversity or biodiversity.

The importance of biodiversity as the basis for the people’s livelihood and wellbeing was recognised by the Solomon Island Government in its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) 2016 to 2020, from which I quote:

Beyond just the direct benefits such as provision of food, fresh water and revenue generation gained from the use of biodiversity, the regulating services provided by the country’s biodiversity helps us by protecting us from natural disasters and enable us to adapt to an ever challenging environment under today’s changing climate.

Without biodiversity the country also loses its aesthetic, spiritual and educational values and significance, which are integral to our well being and traditional way of life. Nonetheless, there is growing realisation that the country’s biodiversity is also under increasing pressure from multiple sources of threats, for example, from habitat loss, overexploitation and climate change. These pressures can be devastating for the health of the country’s biodiversity and, therefore our livelihood and wellbeing.”

“The review and subsequent production of this National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) 2016 to 2020 constitutes intensified and concerted efforts by the Government to respond to the challenges facing the country’s biodiversity. As a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 1995, the Government is committed to implementing the decisions of the Conference of Parties to the CBD.”

Given the SIG’s understanding of biodiversity is there a lack of funding for conservation from international aid sources to support conservation management and sustainability, or is biodiversity still to be valued more in business and national policy instruments at home?

Should it be the case that international aid funding to assist the Solomon Island government’s efforts to support conservation management at home is inadequate or lacking, then I hope the latest concerns by UNESCO about Lake Tenago will bring about a change of policy by international aid partners.

 In conclusion I ask whether there is a Biodiversity Trust Fund in operation in the Solomon Islands?  The provision for trust funds is provided by local Acts.

Learning from worldwide lessons, national environmental trust funds have proven effective in complementing international and regional trust funds initiatives, particularly within the need to create and generate internal revenues to fill possible financial gaps.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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