Tonga will begin trialling coastal protection methods to arrest beach erosion and buy more time for communities living near the coast to adapt to climate change. The project in eastern Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga, will focus on six low-lying communities identified as vulnerable to the progressive effects of coastal erosion and sea level rise. The mixed ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ coastal engineering techniques and the results of the project will be used to inform the preparation of a wider coastal management plan for Tongatapu.
The project is a part of the regional Global Climate Change Alliance: Pacific Small Island States (GCCA: PSIS) initiative, which is funded by the European Union (EU) and executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). This national project, worth €0.5 million (approx. USD 650,000), will be implemented by the Government of Tonga and will significantly improve the capacity of stakeholders in Tonga to plan for the effects of climate variability and change on coastal systems.
‘The project is valuable, it’s very valuable. We can make a lot out of it and the benefit goes directly to the people, directly to the grass roots’, says the Hon. Samiu Kuita Vaipulu, Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga.
The Government of Tonga requested SPC EU support to trial different coastal protection methods in anticipation of future planned interventions. The Ministry of Lands, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Infrastructure will oversee and manage the construction of the coastal interventions. These will include the construction of permeable groynes and small detached breakwaters combined with sand replenishment and planting of site-appropriate plant species, including mangroves at the villages of Talafo’ou, Makaunga and Manuka.
Mr. Vaipulu praised the participatory approach of government ministries and project staff in engaging the local communities in the design of the project. ‘If you can get the community involved then they will maintain it. They feel it’s theirs and they will look after that particular project because they know it’s theirs and it is there for them.’
In all, the project will focus on building the resilience of 3,367 people living in 566 properties across six villages. The project will build the capacity of community, local government, private sector and national government in Tonga to design, coordinate and deploy coastal defences and acquit internationally sourced climate change adaptation funding.
The regional GCCA: PSIS project receives €11.4 million in EU funding and provides tailored climate change adaption support to nine Pacific small island states. In each case, the focus of the project is determined and implemented by the national government. Support to the country is provided by the specialist staff of SPC, the region’s principal technical and scientific organisation. In Tonga, the focus is on coastal protection. Separate projects are also being implemented by the governments of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau and Tuvalu.