SQUATTER INCREASE AROUND HONIARA CAUSES CONCERN

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 1)—Squatter settlements around Honiara are expanding deeper into customary land, prompting calls for authorities to intervene.

Customary landowners of Barana, behind Mt Austin, say they are fearful of this illegal and worrying development.

"We are aware of settlers at Gilbert camp, Kobito and other neighbouring settlements entering customary land and building homes.

"Our chief has raised our concern but they never listen.

"Instead, they just went ahead and continue to build illegally on our land," villagers told the Solomon Star yesterday.

Their chief was not available when the Solomon Star called at Barana Village.

But those spoken to say the national Government and Guadalcanal Province must intervene and stop this illegal development.

"Unless authorities step in and stop these illegal settlements, it will result in more problems in the future.

"These illegal settlements must not be allowed to continue," the villagers say.

Visits by the Solomon Star behind Gilbert Camp, Kobito, Mamulele and Adaliua settlements confirmed the expansion into customary land.

This development is posing a serious threat to the main water source that the settlers rely on for washing and drinking.

According to a Kobito resident, who asked not to be named, the long-time residents of these settlements are not happy with the current expansion.

"These new homes that you see being built on customary land are owned by those who have just moved in.

"They originally came in and settled with relatives. Overtime, they moved out and built their separate homes.

"Our main concern is that these new settlers are encroaching into customary land further up to the head of the stream that we all rely on for drinking.

"Already, we are witnessing waste matters floating down the stream," the resident say.

He also confirmed that the number of people residing in the settlements is rapidly increasing.

In the churches last Saturday and Sunday, congregations were told, during church announcements, that there should not be any further expansion of the settlements to the head of the stream.

Those who are currently digging the hillside or clearing the valley for new homes are told to cease their plan.

Most of the homes that were built, or are currently being built, were of bush materials.

Provincial Secretary of Guadalcanal Province Justice Deni says the province is fully aware of the illegal expansion of the settlements into customary land.

"We are in consultation with the national Government’s appropriate authority to address this issue.

"It is a huge concern to us and we are doing all we can to ensure this illegal activity is stopped," Mr Deni told the Solomon Star yesterday.

Illegal settlements in both customary and Government land in and around Honiara is not new.

A recent survey carried out by the Department of Lands has discovered a huge increase in the number of illegal settlements on public land.

It discovered that unauthorised settlement is growing at an unacceptable rate of 26 per cent per annum.

Director of Physical Planning in the Department of Lands, Harry Waitara, says they are embarking on a pilot project to contain the growth of unauthorised settlements.

August 1, 2006

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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