BY KHAMA LINCOLN in Gizo
LITTLE innocent children of Nusa Baruku in Gizo Western Solomons, play in the murky saline pools between and under their own houses, as sea-level rise brings new challenges for the coastal community in the new year.
A couple of minutes’ ride by motorized canoe from Gizo town market to Nusa Baruku costs a passenger three dollars one-way fare.
As I stepped out from the community’s fiberglass canoe transport, little children seem to wait to welcome passengers.
If you hold a sweet or something they’re interested in, they would not hesitate to beg for it, even though you’re new to them.
They love to play in the water at the boat’s landing point every day, now they begin the New Year with the sea at their doorstep.
That is only another environmental challenge for the coastal dwellers, as clean drinking water has always been the usual concern throughout the years.
Mr. Robert Tuen, one of the elders and village business-man at Nusa Baruku said, he regretted that he had chosen and acquired the piece of land he and his family now living in.
He came from Wagina in the Choiseul Province in 2012 and decided to settle with his relatives. Now he recalled and wish he would have chosen a different area, or further from the coastline, in a much high ground
“When I purchase this place, it was not like this” he recalled. If I knew it, I would have not taken it.” He said.
Mr. Tuen acquired the area he occupied through the government’s common Temporary Occupation License (TOL), an urban land dealing system by the government for settlers.
“I came to Nusa Baruku as most people who live here are from Wagina, he said, “the sea use to break on the reef at the front and this place was dry.”
“People said changes started after the Tsunami (2007), the sea started to rise in 2016. Sea rises in three to four days then back to normal, now it’s higher than 2016.” Tuen observes. “I think a seawall would cut it down.”
This week, his family steps into the seawater all day as the living room and trade store is on the ground floor.
His customers closed by walks to his shop with water to their knees while other neighbors in the coastline would use canoes straight to his door, as he and his daughter are waiting to serve customers, standing in the dirty saltwater that flows into their house.
Tuen pointed out that, his family will now not be able to plant vegetables in the backyard as the soil becomes brackish due to the rising seas. He said, in the evening the water goes down and at night the place remains creepy, the water comes in early in the morning and covered the place whole day.
“The best thing is to move inland to higher places,” he said, “Friends told me there are a lot of spaces on top of the hill. “Another plan is to go back home to Wagina,” He added.
Another challenge the community is now facing is the state of its water supply.
Water pipes are exposed to the environmental health risk of contamination when covered with seawater the whole of the day.
Little children are also vulnerable to environmental health risks as they play in the murky saline water and drink from standpipes standing between their houses.
The water supply project was recently handed over to the community by the Gizo/Kolobangara constituency member of Parliament Mrs. Lanelle Tanangada.
The Water supply was meant only for cooking, washing, or bath but not safe for drinking. The elder said they’re using rainwater from tanks for drinking, however, by an eyewitness, little innocent children are also drinking from the water supply and so, the ongoing sea-level rise is added to the already existing challenge of accessing enough clean drinking water.