Tonga

Pilot Project for reducing vulnerability in Mo'unga'one underway

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22nd February 2016 A Partnership Pilot Project is being implemented on the remote Ha'apai Island of Mounga'one by the Government of Tonga, through its Meteorology and Emergency Managements Departments, the Tonga Red Cross, the Secretariat of the Pacific Environmental Program (SPREP), the Government of Finland (through the FINPAC Project) and UNESCO.

The initiative is aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the Mounga'one Community livelihoods to Climate Change and Natural Disasters through improved meteorology and tsunami warning services.

A team comprising of staff from the Meteorology (TMS) and Emergency Management (NEMO) Departments of the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) and the Tonga Red Cross visit the island from 10-13 Feb 2016 to install VHF Radio Communications equipment, a portable rain gauge and a speaker siren alert system. The team also conducted training on the equipment and weather reporting and carried out a Community Tsunami Evacuation drill. The VHF Radio and weather reporting training was funded by the FINPAC Project while UNESCO funded the siren, the Community Tsunami Evacuation Drill and the tsunami and tropical cyclone awareness material. The systems were installed at the Mo’unga’one Primary School and were commissioned by the Chief of the village Kava-Mounga’one.

This siren-speaker system is dualistic in nature having the capacity to be a siren and a speaker at the same time. The speaker will be used by the Tonga Meteorological Service or the town officer for broadcasting of warnings but the island can also utilize it to make important announcements that are integral to their livelihoods and activities on Mounga'one from time to time. The siren system is activated using a mobile-phone or a landline phone on site or remotely from Fua’amotu or the Met Office at Salote Pilolevu Airport in Ha'apai.

The emergency communication VHF radio system was installed to ensure stable communication is established between Mounga’one and the MET Office at Pilolevu Airport, Tonga Red Cross at Pangai (capital of the Ha'apai group), Ha’apai Governor’s Office and Police for use especially before, during and after a natural disaster.

A rain gauge (provided by the SPARCE Project – Rain gauge initiative for Schools) was also installed in the same compound which aims at monitoring status of drought and amount of rainfall received by the island. 5 locals were trained on how to record and report daily rainfall amount to Pilolevu Airport. The rain station is gauged at 10:00am daily and the measurement is then reported immediately to the MET office in Pilolevu Airport via VHF to relay to the main station at Fua’amotu and is reported as part of the National Weather Report.

Awareness programs were conducted by staff of MET and NEMO including first aid training that was provided by the team from Tonga Red Cross. Awareness pamphlets on Tsunami and Tropical Cyclones were distributed to the people which contain tips and advices for security and safety as well as meteorological terms and definitions used by MET in its warnings.

The FINPAC project picked Mounga’one Community the worst affected island in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Ian that hit Ha’apai in 2014. The vision is that at the completion of the project Mounga’one will be the most resilient island in the kingdom to the impact of climate change and all natural disasters. It is anticipated that lessons learnt will be replicated in other vulnerable areas of Tonga.

The Next phase of the project will be looking at developing a business plan for the Community to be able to maintain this equipment in the long run. Discussions with the community on this issue have been finalized and an fishing boat will be constructed under the project (funded by SPREP) with the aim that the youth of Mounga'one will use the boat for fishing. A certain percentage of the sale of their catch will go into a community resilient fund which will be used to support the project in the long term.

The funding from UNESCO and for the project ceases this month and next month respectively but the MET Office aims to continue working with Mounga'one until 2025 on the use of Weather, Climate and Warning Services to build resilience of livelihoods in the community with the aim to reach a stage where they can be certified resilient to the effects of climate extremes and disasters. It is a longer term plan that successful elements of this pilot can also be rolled out in other vulnerable communities.

Mounga'one was chosen for the Pilot jointly by the Tonga Red Cross and the MET Office due to its vulnerability following the effects of Tropical Cyclone Ian (Category 5) which devastated the Island in January 2014.

ENDS

For further information please contact the Meteorology Division on 35355 or metstaff@met.gov.to. More information is also available at www.met.gov.to