The Solomon Islands are included in this endeavor, and the problem of unexploded ordnance referred to as UXO, has many aspects. A report prepared in 2011 details the issues for the entire Pacific theater, titled “WWII Unexploded Ordnance: A Study of UXO in Four Pacific Island Countries 2011”. To read the entire report click here: http://www.forumsec.org/resources/uploads/attachments/documents/UXO%20final.pdf
The section on the Solomon Islands begins on page 60, with some geographic details such as the population being approximately 535,699 people, with the density being 19 people per square kilometer. They have approximately 1,135 police personnel for the population, and when you do the math it breaks down to about 1 police officer for every 472 people. In addition to their basic duties in sometimes very remote areas, these police officers are responsible for helping to report and in some cases retrieve this ordnance, and attempt to properly dispose of dangerous materials. Not only are most of them not properly trained, but there are just not enough people to pull from regular duties to take care of all the bombs and shells that are lying around above ground or found buried.
The UXO are a danger in many ways including:
1. Being volatile and prone to explode on land as well as underwater, due in part to corrosion of the metal casings. This results in leakage of dangerous chemicals into the waters and the soil.
2. Materials wash upon shore and contaminate beaches - beaches where there may be tourists or others who don't realize the danger and be injured or killed.
3. Locals find the shells and attempt to extract the gunpowder for sale or use in "dynamite" fishing (basically throwing homemade bombs in the water causing an explosion resulting in a massive fish kill) and this results in explosion and possible death.
4. Some of these homemade bombs are used in violent crimes.
5. UXO found in areas of property development cause work delays and add dollars to costs for remediation that builders can ill afford.
6. The leakage of UXO underwater is killing coral reefs; The Solomons support diving tourism in pristine areas and areas with diveable wrecks, so the ordnance can impact tourism dollars.
The report is worth reading, and the photographs frightening. I can't imagine having something like this in my back yard, and the people of the island nations live with it every day. Anyone visiting an exotic and wonderful part of the world needs to educate themselves on the issues important to these places, in order to be a responsible tourist. As I hope to visit the Solomon Islands some day to pay homage to the grave of my uncle, I appreciate having access to this information.