SAMOA COMBINES SCIENCE

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MACMILLAN BROWN CENTRE FOR PACIFIC STUDIES University of Canterbury New Zealand

MEDIA RELEASE December 18, 2001

WITH COMMUNITY IN COASTAL RISK PLANNING

Samoa's combination of the best scientific tools with community knowledge of the country's coastline has put it ahead of most other Pacific countries in preparing for worsening damages from global warming. A detailed mapping exercise has identified every coastal risk along all coastlines, and local communities are now drawing up contingency plans.

Violet Wulf, from Samoa's Department of Lands, Surveys and Environment, says villages are now discussing building new sea walls, if appropriate, shifting some roads further inland to take them out of landslip, flooding and storm hazard zones, and improving their cyclone warning systems.

World Bank project component manager Mr. Bismarck Crawley told a Macmillan Brown Centre/APN workshop on local perspectives on climate variability, held in Apia Dec. 4 - 6, that the detailed aerial and land study of Samoa's coastline shows that 76 percent of Samoa's 574 kilometers (345 miles) of coastline is highly vulnerable to coastal erosion.

As well, 93 percent of Samoa's coastal zone -- virtually all the heavily populated areas -- will be in the flood hazard zone within half a century.

"On Manono Island, the whole island is vulnerable to coastal erosion and flooding, because all the land is so close to sea level," Mr. Crawley said.

The coastal hazards survey identified specific vulnerable assets like sea walls, bridges, roads, power lines and water pipes, and other resources that would be damaged by future cyclones, heavy flooding and landslips.

"Equally importantly, we're working with the communities to work out the best solutions, to minimize these impacts. We set up 277 field stations, and that included gathering anecdotal data and conducting detailed interviews," Mr. Crawley said. The complex exercise of mapping Samoa's coastal hazards involved every community in the country who will be affected. It was jointly organized by the World Bank's Infrastructure Asset Management Project, AusAID and the Samoan Government.

Detailed hazard maps have recently been presented to the representatives of each village, and regular updates are planned. Mr. Crawley said community discussions included the need to raise some houses, schools and churches where they would otherwise be destroyed or damaged by storms, floods and sea level rise.

Ms. Wulf said Samoa had already used the mapping information to develop a national coastal hazard strategy, formalized in February 2001 and now being implemented locally.

For additional information, contact: Jan Sinclair Tel/Fax: (649) 415 9014 Email: jansinclair@xtra.co.nz 

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