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New Shoreline Protection Guidelines for Kiribati

10 August 2010—The lives of over 40,000 people in South Tarawa, Kiribati are linked by a single road.

It provides not only transport but a vital connection to supplies, schools, hospitals and the airport. Upon arrival, it is impossible not to notice the fragility of this crucial logistical link that is often literally crumbling into the lagoon. In some areas the adjacent main water supply pipeline has been uncovered and is also at risk due to coastal erosion.

"Kiribati is vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise which we can see the effects of visually," said Tebutonga Ereata, Director of Lands at the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development (MELAD), highlighting the urgency of the situation. "There are places that have been eroded quite seriously. We are already vulnerable now."

Four key locations in South Tarawa are being protected by new KAPII (Kiribati Adaptation Program – Pilot Implementation Phase II) seawall constructions. The design for new walls at the Ambo-Taborio causeway, Bairiki-Nanikaai causeway, Korobu Road and Bonriki Airport runway have been prepared by utilizing a new set of guidelines specifically developed for Kiribati by BECA International and funded by KAPII.

These ‘Shoreline Protection Guidelines’ are now available for use in Kiribati to design and implement improved coastal protection measures that include traditional sandbag walls and also consider new seawall designs and ‘soft’ options.

"The new guidelines will be a really important document for the government and for this ministry," said Moanataake Beiabure, Acting Director of the Ministry of Public Works and Utilities. "From them we can base a method to carry out the proper surveys and then adopt which kind of coastal protection is appropriate. It may not always be a seawall, it can be soft protection such as beach replenishment or mangrove planting."

Mr. Ereata also agreed regarding the importance of this new document. "The guidelines will assist decision makers and especially the Foreshore Management Committee that makes recommendations to approve development along the foreshore. They have been developed in such a way that will make decisions easier and well informed. It is crucial that we use them and train people how to use them."

The development of the guidelines involved the Foreshore Management Committee and four key ministries who collaborated during workshops held by BECA International.

"They (the guidelines) need to be further implemented into relevant department activities so that they are really used as a day to day guide in this aspect where coastlines are concerned. We need to really get that out there," said Mr. Ereata.

This type of cross-sector approach is seen as vital for Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) efforts where related issues often impact across every part of society. Mr. Beiabure even felt that "the public can adopt these guidelines for their use, not just the government."

In June 2010 the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that it would "almost inevitably" increase predictions for sea-level rises due to climate change. With this dramatic news the importance of the new ‘Shoreline Protection Guidelines’ to Kiribati are highlighted even more than ever.

The Government of Kiribati KAPII project is supported by the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, AusAID and NZAID. The key goal is to reduce Kiribati’s vulnerability to climate change, climate variability and sea level rise. 

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