BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
ON the 11th of May 2022 a survey team was dispatched to the Ahetaha Conservation area at East Are’ Are in Malaita Province.
Project Coordinator and Solomon Islands Ranger Association General Secretary Edward Huitarau told the Environment Media Solomon Islands.
He said the strategic environmental effort is to support the Ahetaha water conservation association (AWCA) work plans towards its future registration of becoming a Protected Area.
He said the site assessment survey was made possible through the UNDP-Gov4Res Small grants for Solomon Islands where AWCA was also a grant recipient.
Mr. Huitarau said since AWCA has also been involved in marine protection efforts onsite the site assessment has also covered the defined inter tidal zone areas at the coastline of the conservation site.
He stated that apparently, Climate Change impact assessments and other related tasks were also conducted on-site as part of the fulfillment of the rapid site assessment.
He said one of the objectives for this site assessment is to observe the negative impacts of climate change that were affecting the conservation site.
“Observations and technical analysis are done on the current state of the coastal area and the terrestrial areas, the Ahetaha River, Uwea stream, Ro’amaniana stream, the land use practices, and the fauna and flora species within the Ahetaha Conservation area.
“During the onsite environmental survey, physical observations were conducted on the level of climate change impacts that have continued to affect the site from time to time,’’ he said.
He revealed that the impacts of climate change were well-known as was observed from the coastal area towards the uphill areas within the conservation site.
He said that the Ahetaha’s foreshore areas along the coastline are mostly made up of black sandy beaches, coral limestones, a portion of white mixed gravel sandy area, and a portion of mangrove sites.
“With the raging impacts of climate change the foreshore area of Ahetaha Conservation was also affected because the site was directly exposed to the threats of coastal flooding, storm surges, sea level rise, king tides, and cyclones.
“To mitigate the level of coastal erosion, mangrove replanting and rehabilitation exercise was also being conducted with the AWCA’s rangers on site.
“However due to the strong ocean currents and storm surges, the young mangroves cannot withstand the strong ocean currents and therefore it has disrupted this effort by removing most of the young replanted mangroves,’’ said Huitarau.
He stated that for the terrestrial area, field observations were conducted on several locations within the site to identify any climate change issues which might pose a negative impact on the forest areas of the site.
He said from the physical observations all the low-lying forests and uphill forests are still intact and remain original.
According to him, this environment technical assessment was successfully conducted onsite as required by the Ahetaha water conservation association (AWCA) Executives.
The two (2) specific objectives for this assessment were achieved as all the relevant tasks and other technical data were retrieved from the site and correlated to produce this report.
“Based on the findings of this report, there is a minimum level of climate change impacts on the terrestrial areas whilst an increasing level of impacts has continued to be experienced along the foreshore areas of Ahetaha Conservation area.
“With the proper management of the natural resources that within the site, and with the support on the ongoing efforts of providing capacity building by donor agencies to the AWCA local rangers, the Ahetaha Conservation area has been well managed and protected from any form of man-made disturbances which may lead to environmental degradation and losses,’’ said Huitarau.
He told environment media Solomon islands that developments such as new gardening areas have to be strictly monitored especially on the application of the gardening methodologies for greater safeguard purposes of the natural environment.
The survey team consists of Ms. Kenya Kenieroa-Environmental Law (SIELA), Mr. Corzzierrah Posala-Biodiversity and Fauna Specialists, Mr. Albert Kwatelae- Assistant fauna Specialist and President of SIRA, and Mr. Joseph Airahui- GIS and Environment Technical Specialist.