Today, Fr Nigel and Sheila Townshend accompanied me to one of the migrant communities that have settled in Honiara. The Lord Howe settlement, home to the majority of the Ontong Java migrants that come to the capital, is one of the most vulnerable communities in the city.
Currently, around 800 people live in the settlement, which is bordered by the National Referral Hospital in the east, the main street in the south, the river in the west, and the sea in the north. Its location results in significant challenges for the community.
The settlement is constantly growing as more and more people leave Ontong Java, a Polynesian outlier at the northern edge of the Solomon Islands, which has already been significantly impacted by climate change. The majority of new migrants come to live with relatives as space for new houses is scarce.
But overcrowding ist not the only challenge that residents face. Flood risk is present from three sides: the sea, the river and the surface runoff from the adjacent high ground. The settlement has been extensively flooded in the past. Residents have been trying to protect their settlement by raising houses on stilts and stabilizing them with sand as well as building a drainage channel along the southern end of the community. Furthermore, a landfill by a businessman who wanted to store his containers next to the shore has worked out infavour of the community. The landfill acts as a shoreline protection for the settlement. However, the landfill has been eroding by around 10 metres in the past 5 years, with just another 20 to 30 metres remaining, posing the question what will happen to this settlement in the next decade or two.