Samoa Village To Relocate Due To Sea Level Rise

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Sand mining from beach in Solosolo increased vulnerability

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, May 10, 2016) – The village of Solosolo that has one of the few black sand beaches in Samoa is moving inland at the face of sea level rise that is hastened by sand mining operations.

The village has realized that the seawall built years ago to stop the erosion seems to be sinking, and the village has opted to relocate their families on higher ground. But a few still want to reside on the coastal area.

To’omata Nora Leota, told the media about the vulnerability of the village and people from the sea rise and when the river on one side of the village that is known to have swept the whole bridge with it during the rainy season.

"We saw the danger during the (2009) tsunami and we ran to the hills, and it was from then on that several families decided to relocate to higher grounds," said To’omata.

She took the media on a tour of the village and pointed to the impacts of the sea on the coastal area where the malae has one side a bit higher than the other.

Asked if the village was always like that, To’omata said "no, it is the work of the sea and the river,"

She pointed out a water pipeline supposed to divert the flow of the river to the sea; instead, it is the avenue for the sea water into the village during high tide.

"In the next ten years, the waves will be breaking here," pointing to the particular area in the village malae. "When we dig the earth for graves, the seawater comes out first," she explained.

To’omata said, despite the decision to relocate, it was not until 3 years ago, that the Minister of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa at Solosolo, made the move to relocate and the rest followed.

Some churches are now well developed on higher ground with the exception of the 2 mainstream churches, the Catholic and CCCS whose churches are still in the coastal area, said To’omata.

She said 60% of the village is now relocated on higher ground after realizing the problem caused by sea level rise.

The village asked for a grant to build a seawall to fend off the rising sea, however, that too has failed as evident by the way it’s sinking slowly, and according to To’omata, sand mining has played a major impact in that area.

The village has approached the government Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment (MNRE) responsible for issuing licenses to stop sand mining because she believes "it’s destroying our village and our safety."

Besides the sea level rise, Solosolo has few rivers flowing from the mountain and sometimes caused landslides after heavy rain, and there were times, when the village had to use canoes to cross the flooding inside the village caused by the from the rivers bursting their banks.

To’omata said Solosolo is lucky to have a place to elevate to, and she hopes, families still remaining in the coastal area will consider moving for their safety.

To’omata’s family last week opened a new business venture combining a bakery, multipurpose store and other services to cater for the daily needs of the villagers and families now residing inland.

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