Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands: Vella Lavella communities opt for relocation

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By George Siapu in Gizo

The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and Provincial Disaster Council (PDC) combined team of assessors that had carried out field assessment survey of households on disaster stricken areas in North Vella Lavella arrived in the Western provincial capital of Gizo yesterday after a grueling weeklong assignment.

There were about five assessment teams comprising of Volunteer Public Officers from Honiara and provincial officers that have been dispatched, last week, by the NDMO/PDC to cover Vella Lavella, Kolombangara, Simbo, Ranonga, and Gizo Island.

The team leader for the North Vella assessment team, Mr. Chris Akosawa confirmed that most of the people in the stricken communities that they visited are still residing in makeshift shelters and tents in the hilltops away from their villages.

"The people have suffered psychologically and are still fearful of the sea because of the unusual high-tide experienced in some of the coastal villages which indicate a rise in sea-level," Mr. Akosawa said.

He reported that in all the 12 village communities that were visited in the North Vella Constituency, the people have all opted to relocate their villages' further inland.

"The plan to relocate is a unanimous decision echoed in all the communities," Mr. Akosawa said.

Mr. Akosawa said that it is encouraging as well to note that the people have remained united, cooperative and supportive of each other in trying to rebuild and redirect their lives in the wake of the harrowing experiences they had been through during the 2nd April earthquake and tsunami that had destroyed villages and claimed lives in Western and Choiseul provinces.

Mr. Akosawa revealed that the chiefs of the communities have all responded positively and unconditionally to the relocation plan.

"The chiefs however have confirmed that they would accommodate their peoples' wishes and identify land areas suitable for relocation but the national government and the province must also help," he added.

Mr. Akosawa said that the relocation scheme is a huge undertaking that would involve a thorough and comprehensive planning but he took delight in the fact that the chiefs of the communities have unconditionally relented on the issue of land.

But, he however, cautioned the people to settle on the idea with thorough consideration, as they would be moving to a new environment with new demands.

"One classic example is that it is all too common for coastal villages to use the sea for sanitation purposes, however, by moving further inland away from the sea they have to take heed of hygienic measures and ensure that proper toilets are built," Mr. Akosawa pointed out.

In light of this issue of relocation, Mr. Akosawa pointed out that the communities would need absolute assistance from the National Government and the Provincial Authorities and possibly the donor partners.

Meanwhile, Mr. Akosawa expressed his profound appreciation to the many communities in North Vella Lavella who have looked after his team well and cooperated in providing information and data on their families and household properties.

He added that the communities visited have acknowledged with great satisfaction the task carried out by his team because it was the first time that any government assessment team had visited their villages, talked with them and spent time to hear from them their views and share in the unique rural setting much talked about in high echelon of government.

Mr. Akosawa concluded that it is only by sharing in the plight of the victims that one could realize the trauma and loss that these people live through night and day, adding that, "it is not proper to work on assumptions but to actually go down and verify what's on the ground."