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Solomon Islands

Region: 
Did you know: 

The Commonwealth Youth Programme Pacific Centre is based in Honiara; it promotes youth development in 14 Pacific countries with a total population of some 31 million. The country is an archipelago consisting of a double chain of rocky islands and some small coral islands; the rocky islands are remarkable for their steep rugged mountains, of which the highest, Makarakomburu, on Guadalcanal Island, rises to 2,293m. Some 79% of Solomon Islands is covered by forest, though this area declined at 0.2% p.a. 1990–2010.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 
1978
Population: 
561,000 (2013)
GDP: 
p.c. growth: 0.5% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: 
2014: world ranking 157
Official language: 
English
Timezone: 
GMT plus 11hr
Currency: 
Solomon Islands dollar (SI$)

Geography

Area: 
28,370 sq km
Coastline: 
5,310km
Capital city: 
Honiara
Population density (per sq. km): 
20

Solomon Islands, an archipelago in the south-west Pacific, consists of a double chain of rocky islands and some small coral islands. The major islands are Guadalcanal, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, New Georgia, Malaita and Makira (or San Cristobal). Vanuatu is the nearest neighbour to the south-east where the archipelago tapers off into a series of smaller islands. Its nearest neighbour to the west is Papua New Guinea.

The country comprises the capital territory of Honiara and nine provinces, namely Central (provincial capital Tulagi), Choiseul (Taro Island), Guadalcanal (Honiara), Isabel (Buala), Makira and Ulawa (Kirakira), Malaita (Auki), Rennell and Bellona (Tigoa), Temotu (Lata), Western (Gizo).

Main towns: 

Honiara (capital, pop. 63,300 in 2010) on Guadalcanal, Auki (6,800) on Malaita, Munda (4,900) on New Georgia, Gizo (4,500) on Gizo in the New Georgia Islands, Uruuru (3,300) on Malaita, Buala (2,800) on Santa Isabel, Yandina (2,600) on Mbanika in the Russell Islands, Kirakira (2,000) on Makira, Tulagi (1,700) on Nggela Sule, Taro Island (1,200), Lata (630) on Ndeni in the Santa Cruz Islands and Tigoa (580) on Rennell and Bellona.

Transport: 

There are 1,390 km of roads (mainly on Guadalcanal and Malaita), 2.4 per cent paved, with some 470 km of main roads, the rest private rural-access roads. The terrain is mountainous and there is heavy rainfall making road conditions unpredictable.

The international ports are Honiara (on Guadalcanal) and Yandina (on Rennell Island); other significant ports are Gizo and Noro (on New Georgia). Ferries ply between the islands. The international airport is at Henderson Field, 13 km east of Honiara.

International relations: 

Solomon Islands is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography: 

The islands are remarkable for their steep rugged mountains, of which Makarakomburu (on Guadalcanal Island) is the highest at 2,293m. There are also several atolls and reef islands, plus several dormant and two active volcanoes. The rivers are fast-flowing and not navigable.

Climate: 

Equatorial; hot and humid. During the rainy season (November to April), there are fierce tropical storms – for example, Cyclone Zoë in December 2002, which devastated the isolated islands of Tikopia and Anuta.

Environment: 

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation, soil erosion, and that much of the surrounding coral reef is dead or dying.

Vegetation: 

Forest covers 79 per cent of the land, with dense tropical rainforest occurring on most islands, this percentage having declined at 0.2 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. There are large tracts of rough grass on the northern side of Guadalcanal and Nggela Sule. Parts of the coast are swampy, supporting extensive mangrove forests. Elsewhere, the coast is dominated by coconut palms. Hardwoods now grown for timber include mahogany, acacia and teak.

Wildlife: 

Indigenous mammals are small and include opossums, bats and mice. There are crocodiles in the mangrove swamps and sea turtles nest on the shores from November to February. Birdlife (more than 150 species) includes many species of parrot and incubator bird. Some 20 mammal species and 20 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

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