Climate Talks -Minister Bala: Coastal And River Towns Face Challenges

Climate change effects on coastal and river towns in Small Island Developing States are a very wide and challenging topic, says Parveen Kumar. The Local Government Minister said it included
18 Oct 2017 12:32
Climate Talks -Minister Bala: Coastal And River Towns Face Challenges
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with the delegates at the Pre Cop23 meeting at the Sheraton Fiji Resort yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

Climate change effects on coastal and river towns in Small Island Developing States are a very wide and challenging topic, says Parveen Kumar.

The Local Government Minister said it included areas such as carbon emission, ocean health and reef and river and creek ecosystems to name a few. While participating in a preCOP panel on Cities and Climate Change: Coastal and River Towns in Small Island States – Carbon Emissions of Mega Cities versus impact of sea level rise on Coastal and River erosion yesterday, Mr Bala shed light on some issues they were grappling with.

“As a general rule, islands and coastal regions of continents, tend to have the largest towns and cities. If these are inland, they are more often than not, next to a large river system. In small island states – like Fiji, the coastal regions, usually combined with a river system, provides the location for towns and cities.

“In Fiji, this is the rule of thumb, for all 13 municipalities,” he said.

He said small islands emit small amounts of green house gasses, relative to the heavy climate change burden we shoulder as Small Island Developing States (SIDs).

“Last week, I was in Maldives, attending the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) conference on climate change. Every speaker I heard, made mention of the fact that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are seen by the international community with unique needs and concerns in all facets of their lives, that have to be addressed.

“All of them also mentioned that SIDS have limited responsibility for climate change. Yet, ladies and gentlemen, they are the first and hardest hit from its adverse effects.”

The relativity of these emissions, he said, was challenged by the fact that even such low emissions could have disastrous results for the fragile ecosystems and economies of SIDs.

“When talk turns to climate refugees, we know that the first and most affected, will be some SIDs as they become unsuitable for human occupation. And, like many of the delegates at AOSIS, I strongly argue, that this among other factors, singles them out for special consideration from the international community.

“And this special consideration should extend to towns and cities in SIDS, as they are usually at the forefront of the effects of climate change – both due to location as well as demography.”

He said a combination of location and the weight of population in these urban areas worsen these adverse climate effects for our towns and cities.

“Unfortunately, many of the dwellers in the lower lying areas of our towns and cities are from the lower socio-economic strata. The impact on their lives is magnified many times by coastal and river flooding and erosion.”

And the damage bill from extreme weather events like TC Winston has greatly impacted on the development of amenities and delivery of services in Fijian municipalities, the panel heard.

“The Ministry is looking at sustainable means of mitigating against coastal and river erosion, using responsibly sourced local materials, and where possible recycling or reusing such materials.

“The vision of the Ministry is to work towards smart towns and cities all aimed at reducing the collective carbon footprint in Fijian urban areas through proactive town planning and development strategies.  This vision is being realized in the planning and construction of the Levuka Climate Change and Heritage Park.”

“The site is built using green sustainable practices in sourcing materials for artefacts, installations, information boards, pathways, amenities, information centre and toilet facilities.

“Discarded aluminum fish bins from Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO), have been reused as part of mitigation against coastal erosion. The reused bins create silos to hold soil and rocks to form the front wall of reclamation area.

“The soil and rocks for the site have been sustainably sourced by dredging the historic Totogo Creek. This is also a flood mitigation measure as in recent times the creek due to silt build up and invasive plants, has overflowed and contributed to the flooding of the lower reaches of creek, in the historic Totogo area as well as the main business thoroughfare on Beach Street.

“The dredging has removed silt and invasive plants that had clogged up the creek and stifled its ecosystem. The use of silt and rocks from Totogo Creek has revived its important ecosystem and allows marine life to flourish.

“These measures are innovative, local and sustainable. And we hope to expand such programmes to other areas. However, we still require external funding and expertise to construct traditional sea walls and other forms of mitigation.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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