Vital Access: Climate change and roading in Micronesia
Two Category 5 cyclones have hit the Pacific in the space of 3 weeks. As the Category 5 Super Typhoon Maysak hits Micronesia, authorities in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) say there have been casualties and severe damage to infastructure in Chuuk state.
In the wake of the extensive devastation that Cyclone Pam caused, and as Typhoon Maysak continues to wreak havoc, Pacific Island communities are acutely aware of the dangers of coastal living.
MOUNTAINS RISING FROM THE OCEAN
In Kosrae, one of the 4 states in the Federated States of Micronesia, a dramatic, mountainous landscape rises abruptly from the ocean. With 80% of the population clinging to the limited coastal lands which ring the island, Kosraeans have few alternative options than to live in close proximity to the ocean.
A newly built, climate-proofed section of coastal road in Kosrea now provides a safer alternative to perilous coastal living, via access to higher ground.
MACRO EFFORTS IN MICRONESIA Reducing the vulnerability of coasts through appropriate adaptation measures is one of the focus areas of the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) programme. Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the PACC project is the first major climate change adaptation initiative in the Pacific region, with demonstration projects in 14 Pacific island countries piloting on-the-ground adaptation solutions.
In FSM, the project identified a 7 km section of the road in the Tafunsak municipality which was being progressively damaged by flooding from heavy rains and high tides. Following a socio-economic assessment, community consultations, analysis of climate and sea level projections, and input from expert coastal engineers, the road has been improved. Newly raised, and with larger culverts and better drainage, the road was redesigned to withstand the heavier rainfall and higher sea levels that are anticipated in the coming decades.
“We have carried out engineering works which included raising some sections of the road by up to one and a half metres, changing the specifications of the building materials, adding culverts and improving drainage,” PACC FSM Project Coordinator, Simpson Abraham explains. “The road can now endure rainfall up to 254 mm/hour.”
The project has also supported policy development in FSM, which subsequently became the first Pacific Island nation to pass a climate change law - Kosrae State Law 10-2 (2011), known as the Climate Change Act. The new law codifies the need for climate risks to inform the design of future infrastructure. When climate risk is explicitly considered and incorporated into policies, plans and practice, development efforts are more resilient to climate uncertainty, and more likely to reach their objectives.
“This project has helped draft climate proofing legislation, installed sea-level and climate monitoring equipment, helped improve the coastal road, as well as developed guidelines that we can now use in other activities on Kosrae.” Simpson Abraham, PACC FSM Project Coordinator.
GIRLS SCOUTS AND RAINFALL GAUGES
BUILDING TECHNICAL SUPPORT AND AWARENESS
In 2011, the project installed tide and rainfall gauges on Kosrae. These provide accurate, local data on sea level and weather, and are distributed to the general public - enabling the inclusion of climate change in decision making and future planning.
“Like everywhere else, we hope to know more about the climate. The people of Kosrae must really understand our surroundings. We need to work together to sustain the island as well as the environment… We are grateful to the project and how it has helped us begin to understand these changes.” - Governor Lyndon H. Jackson, Kosrae State, FSM.
For building awareness, PACC FSM activities engaged the community and included road and coastal clean-ups, teacher trainings, and field trips with the Girl Scouts of Kosrae. PACC FSM also hosted a Climate Change Song Contest. The 1st Place winner of the contest was Tessa Abraham, an 8th grade student in the nearby high school.
PACIFIC ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE (PACC)
The PACC project has been funded by the Global Environment Facility‘s Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) – a fund that was established to support adaptation and technology transfer in all developing country parties to the UNFCCC. Additional funding has been provided by the Australian Government to support the replication of successful adaptation interventions in a broader range of vulnerable communities.
Since it began in 2009 the programme has laid the groundwork for more resilient Pacific communities that can cope with climate variability today, and climate change tomorrow. PACC FSM is turning climate challenges into opportunities for national infrastructure development and policy enhancement.