`Ewa Plain’s Loss Also Hawaii’s Loss
Are you crying now or will you cry later? The American Indians cried when the Great Plains and the buffalo disappeared after White settlers inhabited their land. Consequently, their sources for food, clothing and shelter were destroyed, and they were forced to live in poverty. Now the Hawaiians should fear the settlers coming to the `Ewa Plain. Extensive housing developments will deplete the area’s water resources, a basic ingredient for farmers in this agricultural zone. The city and state permit using agriculture land for commercial and housing projects, and farming opportunities are pushed aside because it is not lucrative enough to attract other business developments.
There was a time when the trade winds blew across this plain, and you could see the waving sugar cane tassels stretching from Waipahu to Nanakuli. The `Ewa Plantation Company started cultivating 775 acres of this land in 1891. By 1933 sixty-nine artesian wells and five surface wells provided twenty-four water pumps (Susan M. Campbell, `Ewa Plantation Company History, July 1974). Because irrigation water replenished the underground water lens that stores potable water, agriculture could maintain a healthy balance between water regeneration and human consumption. However, after the plantation shut down and buildings went up, the City’s Board of Water Supply discovered the increase of chlorides in the water that signaled the decrease of usable water. Water used by residents and businesses does not flow back to the ground to restore the level of potable water, and more wells and pumps are required for new housing developments. In light of these facts, `Ewa will face a water shortage with its increasing population and development.
Besides its water resource problems, `Ewa stands to lose some of its rich culture. Currently, community members have addressed the issues of preserving the plantation manager’s house, protecting an expansive network of ancient underground burial caves for Hawaiian families and royalty, and saving endemic plants. Fortunately, there have been efforts to designate the Oahu Railway & Land Company and the `Ewa Plantation manager’s house as historical fixtures, but the advent of the fixed rail and the cry for profitable housing ventures will stifle efforts to conserve the area and will drain the environment of its natural capabilities for farming.
More attention should be given to improving our economy by utilizing land which is suitable for agriculture and offering local produce that are sold at reasonable prices without the additional shipping and marketing fees charged by overseas companies. It is a dark forecast of things to come when hundreds of acres of rich agriculture land are sacrificed for housing and golf courses instead of growing vegetables and fruits to supply our local folks. Our Hawaii State Constitution states that it “shall conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable lands.” Is the state being derelict in guarding its farmlands?