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Partnering to fight coastal erosion

Saturday 14 February 2015 | Published in Regional


NUKU‘ALOFA – Pacific nations Tonga and Palau have partnered up in an effort to reduce the impact of climate change on their coasts.

This week a team from Palau visited Tonga to inspect a foreshore protection project on the eastern side of the main island.

The Associate Climate Change Coordinator for Palau says his country is desperate to find ways to fight the devastating impact of climate change on its coastline.

Xavier Matsutaro is leading the team visiting Tonga and has been looking at a number of projects, including an EU-funded construction of foreshore protection works.

He says they have used other methods to combat sea level rise and erosion in the past with mixed success.

“It’s a new issue that we are faced with and so we are trying to think outside the box in how we can best deal with the issue.

“Obviously this won’t be a permanent solution but it will at least buy us some time in that we can figure out what to do in terms of relocating our communities inland,” he said.

The Palauans have been particularly impressed with the use in Tonga of concrete block groynes to trap drifting sand and slow down coastal erosion – a concept that could be used similarly in Palau.

The National Climate Change Coordinator in Tonga, Manu Manuofetoa, says while the project on the main island has been a great success, the outer islands need attention as well.

“That’s the long-term plan for the ministry. Right now this is the funds available from the EU. That’s the only things available to us. That’s why we just selected eastern Tongatapu. We are currently knocking on donors’ doors looking for funds for the outer islands.”

Palau’s Matsutaro says although his team’s visit has the aim of possibly implementing a similar project in Palau in the future, the exchange of ideas is two-way. He says they are promoting an innovative way to protect taro from the sea.

“We’ve developed a two-tier dyke system to protect our taro patches. There was inundation before the work was done and now it is actually a case where the community uses the system to grow their taro.”

A climate change adviser from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Sanivalati Tubuna, is encouraged by the unique governmental partnership between the two island nations.

“It is a big issue given the geographical make-ups of most of the small island countries that we deal with in the Pacific and their vulnerability to sea level rise.

“Countries are experiencing a certain amount of land that has been inundated with the rise of sea levels.”

A Tongan delegation is hopeful that a visit to Palau can be organised for later in the year.