Ris­ing Seas, Ris­ing Fears

mailife - - Contents - By JOHN MITCHELL Pho­tos SUP­PLIED

Res­i­dents of Vu­nido­goloa, a vil­lage on Fiji’s sec­ond-largest is­land, Vanua Levu, in 2012 be­came the na­tion’s first com­mu­nity to re­lo­cate due to cli­mate change. The vil­lage had 26 homes. It sat only me­tres from the coast­line. With four decades of a higher tides and heav­ier rain­fall, Vu­nido­goloa found it­self at the mercy of en­croach­ing sea­wa­ter. Mi­grat­ing to higher ground of­fered the only re­main­ing op­tion for the com­mu­nity and its res­i­dents. Six years af­ter that his­toric vil­lage re­lo­ca­tion, the is­landers of Beqa, off Viti Levu’s south­ern coast­line, are also slowly wit­ness­ing the dras­tic ef­fects of cli­mate change un­fold sub­tly be­fore their eyes. “When grow­ing up as a young boy, I re­mem­ber the beach was a few me­tres out. Now it has moved in­wards and eaten up parts of our vil­lage bound­ary,” Pita Kauy­aco said.


Now 52, and Soliyaga’s vil­lage head­man, Kauy­aco fears sea level rise may threaten vil­lagers’ sur­vival in the fu­ture as cli­mate change be­comes more dras­tic and ex­treme. “We have been wit­ness­ing the ef­fects of cli­mate change over the past 10 years. In re­cent years in par­tic­u­lar, these have wors­ened, and we can only imag­ine what can hap­pen in the fu­ture,” Kauy­aco said. El­ders built Soliyaga’s first sea­wall some 20 years back to stop sea­wa­ter from en­croach­ing into the vil­lage’s fresh water spring. It was for­ti­fied some years ago but strong rolling waves have breached parts of the sea­wall and caused heavy silt­ing of a small creek that runs through the vil­lage. “In school I went only to class eight. I had no dreams of work­ing out­side the is­land and get­ting a good job. How­ever, as an age­ing vil­lage head­man I want my chil­dren and other vil­lage chil­dren to pros­per, get an ed­u­ca­tion and find well-paid jobs,” Kauy­aco said. “I have two chil­dren. One is study­ing agri­cul­ture at USP while my younger one works at Lalati (Beqa’s Lalati Re­sort & Spa). Due to cli­mate change their fu­ture and their chil­dren’s fu­ture will be threat­ened if el­ders to­day fail to do some­thing about it.” A gov­ern­ment team that vis­ited Soliyaga re­cently has in­di­cated its will­ing­ness to help vil­lagers adapt to chal­lenges brought about by cli­mate change.

Min­is­ter for Wa­ter­ways and the En­vi­ron­ment, Dr Ma­hen­dra Reddy, es­ti­mates that $15 mil­lion will be needed ev­ery year over the next 10 years to ef­fec­tively pro­tect vil­lagers and their com­mu­ni­ties by con­struct­ing and main­tain­ing sea­walls. “We will do it. It is just a mat­ter of time,” Dr Reddy said. For Soliyaga, whose peo­ple largely de­pend on sub­sis­tence farm­ing and fish­ing for sur­vival, rais­ing the height of the sea­wall by 0.5 me­tres and re­pair­ing breached por­tions of it will give some form of re­lief, se­cu­rity and pro­tec­tion.


Lalati, well known for its con­nec­tion with Lalati Re­sort and Spa, is well shel­tered by Malumu Bay, a cove fringed with man­grove bushes and palms. For some time now, its sea­walls have not been ex­posed to strong ocean waves like other vil­lages on Beqa. How­ever, flat land is scarce as rocks and moun­tains stran­gle the vil­lage right at its bound­aries. “Our fa­thers built our sea­wall which we for­ti­fied about four years ago. But with ris­ing sea level and cli­mate change we will need to move to higher ground,” said head­man Wame Turaga­baleti. “The vil­lage bound­ary has be­come too small for our in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion.” Lalati has 25 houses and a pop­u­la­tion of 140 peo­ple. The peo­ple of Lalati also need class­rooms to house the lower streams. Cur­rently, vil­lage chil­dren from as young as class one stay separately from their par­ents in board­ing fa­cil­i­ties in an­other vil­lage to at­tend school. Gov­ern­ment will look into bull­doz­ing higher ar­eas of the vil­lage so that it can ex­tend in­land. Moves to have school fa­cil­i­ties for classes 1 to 4 in the vil­lage have also been mooted.


Nawai­somo is Beqa Is­land’s big­gest vil­lage, with 52 house­holds and a pop­u­la­tion of 257 peo­ple, 96 of whom are school-age chil­dren. This vil­lage is also slowly fac­ing the brunt of cli­mate change. “We need to raise the height of our sea­wall to pre­vent

sea­wa­ter from erod­ing our vil­lage bound­ary,” said Mos­ese Saqana­vere, the vil­lage’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Rewa Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil. “We also have three heav­ily silted drains which get flooded dur­ing heavy down­pours.” Gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing build­ing a flood­gate along the sea­wall to al­low out­flow of water from the creek and pre­vent sea­wa­ter in­tru­sion dur­ing high tide. The vil­lage sea­wall will also be raised and breaches re­paired. There have also been dis­cus­sions to have boul­ders on the shore­line to pro­tect the sea­wall.


The peo­ple of Rukua have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the grad­ual ero­sion of their vil­lage bound­ary by strong waves and silt­ing of vil­lage drains. “We clean our vil­lage drains reg­u­larly be­cause waves pile up sand, co­ral, stones and de­bris dur­ing high tide. The vil­lage bound­ary ad­ja­cent to the sea­wall is slowly erod­ing,” said head­man, Orisi Cag­i­laba. “It is ev­i­dent that we are slowly fac­ing ad­ver­si­ties of cli­mate change.” The sea­wall at Rukua, a vil­lage made up of 53 fam­i­lies and170 peo­ples, sits on a 15-mtre width of re­claimed land. Gov­ern­ment has in­di­cated it will pro­tect the sea­wall by hav­ing break­ers on the shore­line and will in­stall more water tanks for stor­ing much needed water. “The de­vel­op­ment of ru­ral mar­itime ar­eas is one of our pri­or­i­ties. Due to the im­pacts of cli­mate change we also want to pro­tect vil­lagers by al­lo­cat­ing fi­nances for the con­struc­tion, re­pair and for­ti­fi­ca­tion of vil­lage sea­walls,” Min­is­ter for Wa­ter­ways and En­vi­ron­ment, Dr Ma­hen­dra Reddy said. “We want peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence com­fort in life, earn a liveli­hood and in turn con­trib­ute to na­tional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.” Dr Reddy said while some sea­wall projects on Beqa may be car­ried out us­ing money in the 2018/2019 na­tional Bud­get, oth­ers will be fac­tored in the fol­low­ing bud­get year (2019/2020).

Chil­dren of Dakuibeqa Vil­lage (photo source:repi­core.zmt-bre­men.com)

Lalati Vil­lage green, Beqa

Gov­ern­ment team in Nawai­somo (photo source:Fi­jivil­lage.com)

Beqa is­land as seen from Viti Levu (photo source:en.wikipedia.org)

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