The program has been designed to provide tangible benefits distributed throughout the life of the project to impacted communities and community members.
Funds will be used to support the development of communities in the project region – improve basis needs such as access to electricity and water, faster and safer road transport, more jobs, training of local people and improvements in education and health facilities.
It is also the first in the country and seen as a pilot project to introduce unique landowner and community participation schemes that promotes sharing of project benefits and foster support and cooperation from communities for the project.
The SIG, along with the World Bank under a USD $2.8M Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) grant is supporting the design and implementation of the CBSP.
“Benefit sharing arrangements as a part of large-scale infrastructure investments, particularly hydro-power, are gaining more attention globally as a good practice for ensuring that host communities benefit from projects hosted in their areas” said Guido Rawanga, World Bank Country Representative for Solomon Islands.
“We are pleased to be partnering with the government to launch this innovative approach, using the Tina River Hydro-power Project to demonstrate how benefit sharing can work and to show the world that Solomon Islands can set an example for others to follow,” he added.
“The launch of this project today is an important step in securing community rights and benefits into the future,” he added.
The CBSP is a result of several years of community consultations that paved way for the idea and design of the pilot project and demonstrates the government and developer’s dedication to involve the communities in the project.
More than 250 meetings were conducted since 2011 where around 5000 people are expected to benefit within the Bahomea-Malango region of Central Guadalcanal under the CBSP.
With the full support of the SIG behind the pilot, the Minister of Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification (MMERE) Bradley Tovosia says the government is excited to officially launch the program.
“It will introduce and test an innovative approach to benefit-sharing that will provide a stream of benefits to the project host communities for the lifetime of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the Development and Solomon Power, and likely beyond,” he said.
For the Solomon Islands and indeed the Pacific region, the success of the Community Benefit Sharing Project will set a precedent for future large-scale infrastructure projects.
It will demonstrate that significant development can occur with the Melanesian people in a way that respects their culture and the past, while benefiting their future.
By GEORGE GWAMANI