Kovi/Kongulai Catchment: supplying water for Solomon Islands' capital city

05 March 2013 | Fact sheet

The Kovi/Kongulai catchment is an important freshwater source for the 60,000 people that live in Honiara; the capital city of Solomon Islands. Keeping this ecosystem healthy is critical for the local people, the biodiversity and the nation’s economy.

Background
The uninhabited Kovi/Kongulai catchment lies in the North Western side of Guadalcanal, the largest island in the Solomon Islands, and spans an area of 14 square kilometres.

The catchment contains two water sources, Kovi and Kongulai, and a very intact forest and surrounding watershed system. It is located in an undisturbed area within a unique terrain and landscape. The Kovi River is surrounded by riparian vegetation that includes mosses, herbs, ferns, palms and trees. The river is sourced from ground water that flows out of a limestone rock over a limestone substrate and patches of sand and pebbles before sinking into two underground caverns.

Records show that there are at least 10 species of frogs and reptiles found within the area and more than 20 species of birds, mostly parrots and pigeons. Endemic species found in the area include the herbs Tapeinochilus solomonensis and Spathiphyllum solomonensis.  

The area is also blessed with many archaeological and cultural heritage sites ranging from underwater caves, rock paintings to sacred sacrificial ritual sites.

Importance
Honiara's water supply comes from the Kovi/Kongulai catchment thus it is an extremely valuable ecosystem. At present the water production serves about 50-60% of Honiara’s population which now stands at 60,000 (2009 Census).

Threats
Over harvesting by local communities, who reside outside the catchment area, is a major threat to the species diversity. The recent aquatic fauna survey of the area, coordinated by IUCN, reveals that aquatic fauna is severely depleted.

Agriculture and deforestation occurring on the fringes of the catchment forest may also have huge impacts on water quality and species diversity if not controlled and managed well.

Our work
Healthy and well managed water catchments will provide good quality drinking water. However in most rural settings, the means to support livelihoods often takes precedence over preservation of critical ecosystems such as catchments. The land owners of Kovi/Kongulai catchment face a similar dilemma. Though there is an agreement with government on remittance for the supply of water to Honiara, there is no incentive to encourage the land owners to maintain the health of the catchment itself. In the effort to provide an incentive, IUCN worked with the 15 landowners of Kovi/Kongulai, and other partners, to develop an eco-tourism plan that should generate revenue and motivate the communities to preserve the catchment's natural beauty.

IUCN also coordinated a biodiversity and cultural site assessment of the catchment area between 2011 and 2012. Results from these surveys were promising for an eco-tourism venture and provided a wealth of information for the land owners. Further consultation on the eco-tourism plan was conducted on 4 - 8 February, 2013 and implementation plans were discussed and mapped. IUCN is also assisting in the development of funding proposals to move the eco-tourism venture forward.

Partners
IUCN's work in the Kovi/Kongulai catchment is funded by the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund. The main partner involved in the project was GEF's Integrated Water Resource Management Project implemented by SOPAC/SPC.