The recent COP 26 Conference in Glasgow shed new light on the threat of climate change, the urgency of reducing worldwide carbon emissions, and particularly the need for adaption funding to countries most at risk from rising sea levels, including those at risk of losing their land, homes, and livelihoods from rising seas in the Solomon Islands.
I believe it is time for us to know just how serious the situation is at home (in the SI) and what is being done to meet the growing climate change threat.
In order to try and encourage a discussion on the concerns, let me first quote from the World Bank briefing paper of February 2021, titled – “Rural Communities Build Resilience to Climate Change in Solomon Islands”
To increase the resilience of rural Solomon Islanders to disasters and the impacts of climate change, the Community Resilience to Climate and Disaster Risk in Solomon Islands Project (CRISP) supported the Solomon Islands government to deliver multi-hazard early warning systems and direct community infrastructure assistance from April 2014 to May 2020. Between April 2014 and May 2020, 70 sub-projects, covering access to safe drinking water, more resilient communal buildings, safe footbridges and shoreline protection for vulnerable communities directly benefited close to 69,000 people across the country.
The 2019 World Risk Report ranks Solomon Islands the fourth most ‘at risk of disaster’ country in the world, and it is amongst the top 20 countries in the world with the highest economic risk exposure to geological, hydrological, and climatic hazards, including tropical cyclones, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, floods, and droughts. Each year, the country incurs an average loss of US $20 million as a result of earthquakes and tropical cyclones alone, and it hashad seven major disasters in the last 40 years.
In 2014, with more than 992 islands stretching across 1,500 kilometers, the country then had an overall population of roughly 620,000. Before CRISP, climate and disaster risk resilience was not yet fully integrated into the country’s planning and budgeting process, nor was it considered in major sector investments.
The project supported; (i) rural communities at the community and provincial level to increase their resilience through access to safer evacuation routes and evacuation centers during tropical cyclones and safe drinking water during prolonged drought; and (ii) strengthened climate and disaster risk information and early warning systems at both the national and sub-national levels to better mainstream risks in government policies and operations – and provide timely warnings to communities to prepare and respond to natural disasters.
Overall, between April 2014 and May 2020, 68,878 people have benefited from 65 community-led and 5 provincial-led resilience Overall, between April 2014 and May 2020, 68,878 people have benefited from 65 community-led and 5 provincial-led resilience projects.
· Projects provided better access to safe drinking water, created multi-purpose resilient buildings, improved footbridges, and increased shoreline protection. For instance, in the coastal village of Balo, a borehole consisting of two 5000-liter water tanks with 17 tap stands was installed to allow the community to access clean water free from saltwater intrusion and sewerage runoff. In Long, a raised community hall was built that acts as a shelter during cyclones and disasters, and as a meeting place for important community events.
· Volcano-seismic equipment was installed in seven sites in October 2018 and two rain gauges were integrated in two of the sites, benefitting at least 60,000 vulnerable people.
· The project has facilitated the development of nearly 70 community-based disaster risk management plans that describe the hazard profile of communities and the priority actions needed to manage risks. All of the top priorities within in these plans have been implemented through the CRISP Project.
· The project established a multi-hazard early warning system, and an integrated tsunami and cyclone warning system, that is benefitting the entire population of 620,000 Solomon Islanders.
· Women are estimated to comprise 33,592, nearly half (49 percent) of the direct beneficiaries at project completion in May 2020.
· Of the targeted communities in Guadalcanal, Central Islands, Rennell and Bellona, Malaita, and Temotu Provinces, 97 percent had their number one priorities, such as access to clean drinking water and disaster-resilient community infrastructure, implemented through the sub-projects.
· Three ministries – the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management, and Meteorology, and the Ministry of Mines, Energy, Rural Electrification and Geohazards Unit – have included risk resilience measures for climate and disaster risk in their annual work programs since 2018.
· A Framework for Resilient Development was drafted through project support that informed a revised National Disaster Management Plan approved by Cabinet in April 2018. The structure prescribed by the plan was then activated for national COVID-19 preparedness and response activities in 2020. This plan ensures a proper flow of commands and instructions from the National Disaster Committee down to the national and provincial governments as well as the activation of working committees to build awareness and support preparedness activities. This has also assisted the management of the confirmed Covid-19 cases in Solomon Islands
· The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)contributed the US $1.8 million to the project. CRISP was implemented by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management, and Meteorology.
To help mainstream resilience into rural infrastructure to enhance economic growth, and to protect communities – including those in low-lying atolls and on artificial islands – against the impacts of climate change and disasters, the Solomon Islands government and the World Bank have agreed to scale up the CRISP-led community resilience activities through a new integrated program in 2022.
The new program will also strengthen government capacity to implement resilience-informed investments.
“The feedback from communities is that we have really addressed the issues that they have on the ground in relation to climate change.”
“There has also been a range of adaptation actions, including institutional strengthening and hard infrastructure. And we have utilized local expertise, which I see as being very important because we've built the capacity of our own people.
“Nearly all the technical people and engineers that have worked with the project have taken up similar, or even higher up, positions in other organizations within the country.”
Dr. Melchior Mataki, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management, and Meteorology, said “Through CRISP a borehole consisting of two 5000-liter water tanks with 17 tap stands was installed in Balo village on Guadalcanal. Martha Sura, a grandmother of five,explained what the water tanks mean for her village:
“The most common sickness in our area was diarrhea because everything flowed to the stream. I saw my mother use the stream to wash and I grew up washing from the same stream. I do not want my grandchildren to continue with the same cycle. So, now in the morning, we store water in the drums here to flush the toilet.”
Mary Jean, a sixth-grader from Bola village in Guadalcanal Province, said the installation of 5000-liter water tanks in her community had changed her daily life:
“Usually fetching water is a difficult chore for kids like me. We fetch water in the morning, after school, and also in the evening. I remembered telling my mom how tired I am because of fetching water. Now I am happy, as I do not have to walk far to fetch water.”
End of quote.
Might one know what can reasonably be expected from the Solomon Islands government and the World Bank in CRISP-led community resilience activities through a new integrated program next year?