The unit’s role is primarily to secure required land for the purpose of the Authority. This is done by entering into negotiations with land owners or any person or group of persons having interest in the land and make arrangements for settlement. In the event of no prospect of the negotiations concluded on an acceptable basis between the parties, the Minister responsible may require the Commissioner of Lands to compulsory acquire the land in the public interest.
The unit is also involved in protecting land from settlement and water catchment areas from environmental damage.
Currently the main focus is on;
1. Securing Solomon Water’s assets.
The common issue here is developments occurring near or on top of SW Assets which interferes with the work of the Authority. The SIWA Act clearly stipulates that Solomon Water has powers to deal with issues of obstruction of works and the Authority. To avoid disappointments all developers are advised to consult local planning and developments authorities including utilities such as Solomon Water.
A major work of the Authority in the same space is its Green Valley area where settlers have occupied for years now. A consultative approach is employed to address how best to protect Solomon Water’s interest in the area.
2. Securing Water Catchment areas.
One of the major undertakings we are currently working with stakeholders on is to properly manage the declared water catchment areas in Honiara and the provinces. The Solomon Islands Water Authority Act 1993 and the Catchment Areas regulations provides for the proper management of catchment areas. A current example is the Panatina and Whiteriver (Kongulai) Catchment Areas.
Panatina Catchment area
The catchment area has a significant number of residential developments including legal and illegal developments. These residential houses use septic tanks and / or pit latrines. Currently Solomon Water only chlorinates water from the borefields, however chlorine disinfection cannot effectively treat water to remove contaminants which may be present in the water. For example it will not remove chemical pollutants or effectively kill cryptosporidium oocytes or giardia from surface water.
The bores regularly test positive for ecoli and total coliforms which are signs of human habitation. To manage these groundwater catchment areas, developments need to be properly managed with appropriate measures for controlling pollution. Proper waste water management is required including provisions of buffer zones and community awareness on restricted activities, as well as sealed septic tanks in some areas to stop sewage effluent from getting into the groundwater below. Currently Solomon Water, Ministry of Lands and other stakeholders, including tittle holders and settlers are engaged in a integrated catchment management systems for this catchment.
Whiteriver (Kongulai) Catchment Area
The Whiteriver Catchment area, also commonly referred to as the “Kongulai Catchment”, is one of the major catchment areas which received much attention in recent years. Since illegal and unmanaged logging and saw milling operations have entered the catchment areas pollution, in particular turbidity (sediment and silt particles in the water), has risen to crisis status. The effect is the shutdown of Honiara Water supply which has affected the majority of the population in Honiara as this source provides water for about 40% of the city.
Continuous engagement by the Authority with responsible authorities for managing logging and saw milling has stopped some of the contamination. However the catchment area has been significantly affected which means turbidity issues will continue for years to come even with comprehensive catchment restoration work. Logging can occur in water catchment areas, but it needs to be properly managed and comply with the license conditions issued by the Ministries of Forestry and Environment.
Solomon Water has been forced to progress work for building the Kongulai Water Treatment Plant which should address the issue of turbidity. This undertaking is massive both in terms of infrastructure and cost to the Authority and country.
3. Securing land for Solomon Water projects.
As Solomon Water grows, new land requirements come up in particular for new projects or infrastructure such as reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants. Mostly land acquisitions work is done with assistance from Solomon Islands Government in negotiating with private individuals/entities including customary land owners.