From 2016-2020 Displacement Solutions is implementing its Climate Displacement Land Initiative (CDLI) in five frontline countries presently grappling with the very real effects of climate change. Building on our more than a decade of field experience working on climate displacement issues, during the Initiative we are working with groups in Bangladesh, Colombia, Fiji, Panama and the Solomon Islands to identify areas vulnerable to climate displacement and land sites near these threatened areas that could serve as viable relocation sites for communities no longer able to remain in their current homes. Our new report focuses on one of the first places in the Solomon Islands facing climate displacement and the quest to find new land resources for those needing to move from their present homes. In late 2016, DS sent photo-journalist Beni Knight to Lau Lagoon on the island of Malaita to document the challenges facing island dwellers in the area. This report builds on earlier efforts of the Initiative in the country, most notably our groundbreaking work on Ontong Java Atoll, which were also spearheaded by Beni. Our report Climate Displacement in Ontong Java Atoll, Solomon Islands and our film on the same theme were some of the first efforts to draw international attention to the very dire circumstances facing the 3000 people who call Ontong Java home.
The Solomon Islands is at the frontlines of global climate displacement, with a growing proportion of the 560,000 people who call the country home threatened with involuntary displacement due to the consequences of climate change. A series of internal planned relocation measures have already been undertaken across the country, with further relocation plans to be implemented in the coming five-year period. Most of the relocation undertaken thus far has been in the provinces of Malaita and Temotu. Low-lying coastal areas on the mainland, notably Lilisiana on Auki Harbour, as well as the entire atoll of Ontong Java – which is one of the world’s largest atolls – are also slated for relocation due to continually worsening conditions. Planned relocation because of climate change is always complex and fraught with countless challenges, and this is also the case in the Solomon Islands, due to potentially explosive land disputes relating to often distinct cultural practices between different groups that will increasingly be forced to live in close proximity to one another as a result of climate relocation.
The photographs graphically showing the challenges facing the people of Lau Lagoon can be viewed here: Climate Displacement in Lau Lagoon, Solomon Islands – A Photo Essay