Climate Watch

Solevu Village – Sandbags Protect Homefront

In 2017, Maika Nasilasila of Solevu, Mamanuca noticed how the rise in sea level was affecting the village grounds.
09 Aug 2022 18:00
Solevu Village – Sandbags Protect Homefront
Maika Nasilasila at his homefront in Solevu Village, Malolo. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

Erosion of beaches, sea inundation as well as flooding in low lying areas are major physical impacts of sea level rise. Located just off the west coast of Viti Levu and a 30-minute boat ride from Port Denarau Marina in Nadi, lies breathtaking beaches of the Mamanuca group.

Despite the diversity and pristine lagoons, parts of the two main villages of Yaro and Solevu are also prone to the rise in sea level, coastal erosion, and saltwater intrusion.

But the impacts of climate change will not deter 60-year-old Mr. Nasilasila from being resilient and taking action no matter what. And just as military personnel would use sandbags in trenches to protect soldiers from enemy rifle fire, Mr. Nasilasila also faced the enemy of sea level rise.

Walking along the beaches of Solevu Village, one will notice the beautifully stacked sandbags in front of Mr. Nasilasila’s villa-looking home.

The piles of sandbags are the only ones that can be seen on the village beachfront.

Maika Nasilasila in Solevu, Mamanuca. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

Maika Nasilasila stacking sandbags at his homefront in Solevu  Village, Malolo. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga Tuisawau

RESILIENCE

“After I retired in 2017, I came to the village and made the decision to serve the people (Vanua) and to uphold the responsibilities to the church (lotu),” Mr. Nasilasila said.

“And that is when I noticed the quick rise in sea level and how its boundaries have slowly been moved closer to the village grounds.”

Mr. Nasilasila retired as the Manager of the Marine and Activities department in Malolo Island Resort.

He started work there in 1981. With 36 years of experience, he brought the idea of building a seawall-like barrier to protect his home from the rise in sea level.

“I brought the same concept of marine and environment good steward that we used back in the resort and applied it right here at home,” he said.

“It has worked for me and I know it will work for the village as a whole if we put in the effort to make one.”

 

During a village meeting, Mr. Nasilasila proposed an initiative called ‘The Beauty of Solevu’.

He said he gave the idea of establishing an initiative that involved putting seawall sandbags on the beach forefront to not only beautify but protect the foreshores from king tide waves and sea level rise.

“I tried to enlighten that concept during the meeting but it was turned down because I was told we needed funding to do all that,” he said.

Mr. Nasilasila continues to be an example of resilience in the village.

“The sandbag seawall has experienced three cyclones. It has been the saviour barrier for my home,”

 

TAI MIRI

Looking up from her chair, 82-year-old Tai Miri as she is fondly known by others, quietly whispers,

“A tam dau kodaki tu ko i mata na tubu ni wai” (The rise in sea level was never like this before.).

Tai Miri, the mother of Mr Nasilasila commended her son for taking action when it seemed like there was nothing to worry about.

 

“The sandbag seawall has withstood several weather patterns. During one of those cyclones, it was just me and mum here while my wife was on the mainland. I just put on all the hurricane shutters and we stayed put without any more worry,” Mr. Nasilasila said.

“When the cyclone passed, I went out and noticed how the tide had pulled in debris and sea came right into the village but my home was safe. The sea water did not go over the sandbags, the sandbags protected my home,” he said.

Last month, the village experienced a king tide that caused seawater intrusion, but Mr. Nasilasila said their home was safe. He said people need to be aware of the signs and act accordingly before it’s too late.

 

SANDBAG SEAWALL

Built in 2018, the sandbags are now four stacks high.

Despite the lack of funding to build a similar sandbag seawall around the village, he is still willing to help.

“The only expenses I’ve used during the years is buying the sacks to put the sand in,” he said.

Initially, two stacks have been buried by the tides through the years.

The beachfront of Maika Nasilasila in Solevu Village, Mamanuca group. Photo: Kelera SovasigaTuisawau

The beachfront of Maika Nasilasila in Solevu Village, Mamanuca group. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga Tuisawau

He has placed another four stacks on top.

“We should not sit around and expect help to come. The resources around us are the greatest available help,” he said.

“We just have to open our eyes, take the first step of action and strategise a way that will work for us to be able to adapt to these changing weather patterns.”

Since its establishment, there have been more than 100 bags of sand placed on the forefront of Mr Nasilasila’s home.

 

SCIENCE BEHIND IT

According to Fiji’s National Climate Change Policy, the global sea level changes will more than double by the end of the century. Since 1993, Fiji has recorded a 6 millimetre (0.2 inch) increase in its sea level per year, larger than the global average.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that rising seas will also erode coastal areas causing shorelines to retreat and forcing small island states to invest in reconstruction actions and preventive climate change adaptation.

 

Feedback: adi.sovasiga@fijisun.com.fj



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