A collective of indigenous landowners have formed an association that is testing the strength of the Solomon Islands’ environmental law and taking their own national government to court over alleged irregularities in the way it gave the green light to a logging company, writes Dr Kayt Davies.
The cloud forest is in danger and logging companies are part of the problem but, in this case, the fight’s moved on. Now the Solomon Islands government is facing legal questions and work is underway on the real challenge of getting people with genuine developing world needs to find consensus – and that costs money. Kolombangara is just one of many thousands of islands in the South Pacific. Dazed by the beauty of the whole archipelago that is the Solomon Islands, this one may not immediately seem remarkable, but its own people care deeply and the progress they are making in protecting it is slow but groundbreaking. These are not spear-wielding noble savages holding logging trucks at bay. They are a collective of indigenous landowners who formed an association that is testing the strength of the fledgling nation’s environmental law and taking their own national government to court over alleged irregularities in the way it gave the green light to a logging company. Viewed from above, Kolombangara is almost perfectly round and about 30km across. From ground level it towers dark green over 1770m high, with its peak hiding shyly in a veil of cloud.
Only a few intrepid travelers visit. Hikers who tackle the mud and vines find that the vegetation changes at about 400m above sea level, beyond that point they are engulfed by the “cloud forest” – a biodiverse wonderland that is home to several species of birds and frogs found nowhere else in the world. The forest is also home to a network of “Tambu” sites – places important to the history and culture of the people who have lived on the island for more generations than anyone can remember.
Most of the 6000 or so people of Kolombangara live in huts made of timber and leaves hacked from the bush with chainsaws or enormous bush knives. If they have light at night, it comes from kerosene or solar lamps, or the few diesel generators in the larger towns. Most homes have no plumbing, but water is easy to access from the many streams that course down the steep sides of the towering old volcano. Conversations take place in Nduke, the island’s local language, Roviana, a language shared with nearby islands or Solomon Pidgin. English is reserved for talking to visitors. Most children go to school and most people go to church. Read more…
Source: Pacific Media Centre/ Dr Kayt Davies.