Category Archives: Kiribati Adaptation Program

The construction team celebrate the success of the rainwater harvesting works completed on Banaba Island.

Water success for Banaba Island

Press Release, Bairiki, Tarawa 18 September, 2012

BANABA Island residents now have access to almost one million litres of rainwater thanks to the success of the Kiribati Adaptation Program’s (KAP) rainwater harvesting works.

In a joint effort between KAP, the Ministry of Public Works and Utilities (MPWU), King Holdings and the local community, construction of the Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) works was completed on 12 June, 2012.

The works, incorporated under Phase II and Phase III of KAP, comprised of various tasks needed to retrofit rainwater harvesting systems for water collection, transmission and storage infrastructure. This included the restoration of two water tanks, the installation of guttering on the desalination plant and old workshop buildings and maintenance training for a local technician.

The success of the project and regular rainfall during the past two months resulted in the tanks reaching the maximum capacity of 950,000 litres, KAP Project Manager Kautuna Kaitara said.

“Everyone involved is celebrating the successful deliverance of rainwater to Banaba, an island that is in the gravest need of water,” Mr Kaitara said.

“To give you an idea of the scale of the project, a standard rainwater tank is 5000 litres and Banaba’s new tanks hold a combined capacity of nearly one million litres. That’s the equivalent of 190 standard tanks,” he said.

The size of the roof catchment areas was about 10 times the size of a standard maneaba, he said.

“During the phosphate mining days, most water had to be imported from overseas. Then, the island depended solely on desalination.

“This proves there was no clean water supply available to the island and justified the dire need for the rainwater project.”

Banaba Island is 6.5km2 and part of the Gilbert Island chain. With just 295 residents, the one-time phosphate mining island is vulnerable to water shortages because there is no surface water or significant reservoirs of ground water.

Prior to KAP’s RWH works, Banaba Island residents depended on a combination of desalinated water and to a lesser extent rainwater.

However, the desalination plant was expensive to operate and the isolation of Banaba Island made maintenance works difficult, KAP and MPWU Senior Water Engineer Marella Rebgetz said.

“Before when the desalination plant broke down or required maintenance, Banaba had limited reserve water supply,” Ms Rebgetz said.

“Now, in most years, there should not be a need to operate the desalination plant at all,” she said.

“The project also delivered a water education program, additional materials for local communities to undertake further rainwater harvesting, and training to the local water technician to ensure the works is well-maintained in the future.

“I’m very proud to have been associated with this project. The tanks are now full and the water supply for the people of Banaba is much more secure.”

About KAP:

The Kiribati Adaptation Program began its third phase (KAPIII) in mid-2012. KAPIII aims to improve the resilience of Kiribati to the impacts of climate change on freshwater supply and coastal infrastructure.

KAPIII will achieve this objective under four key components to be achieved by 2016:

  1. Improve water resource use and management;
  2. Increase coastal resilience;
  3. Strengthen the capacity to manage the effects of climate change and natural hazards; and
  4. Project management, monitoring and evaluation.

KAP III  has a total cost of US$10.8million and will be financed through grants via the World Bank from Government of Australia; the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF); Japan Policy and Human Resources Development (PHRD); Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR); and in-kind contribution from the Government of Kiribati.


Q&A with Japan Ambassador

Q&A with Ambassador of Japan to Fiji and Kiribati about climate change

Ambassador of Japan to Fiji and Kiribati during his recent visit to Tarawa, Kiribati. Photo: Jolee Wakefield/KAPIII

Ambassador of Japan to Fiji and Kiribati during his recent visit to Tarawa, Kiribati. Photo: Jolee Wakefield/KAPIII

Recently appointed Ambassador of Japan for Fiji and Kiribati His Excellency Eiichi Oshima visited Kiribati for the first time this week. During his busy schedule, His Excellency met the President, toured Tarawa and was the guest of honor at a ceremony for a new fire truck donated by Japan at police headquarters. He also kindly took the time to conduct a Q&A, below.

What is the purpose of your visit to Kiribati?

My major purpose is to present my credentials to the President of Kiribati Anote Tong.

What is your impression of Kiribati?

My impression of Kiribati is very nice. I visited many places and met many people and I found Kiribati is a very nice country.

What is the importance of the relationship between Japan and Kiribati?

I emphasise the so called ko suna – it means ‘strong human bond’. As you know, we (Japan) experienced a severe earthquake and tsunami last year. At that time, the government and people of Kiribati sent us a very warm and sincere message of sympathies and gave us a very generous donation. So I think it’s a result of our long relationship and friendship that we should continue with this good relationship.

What are your thoughts on the current problems Kiribati is facing at the moment in terms of climate change?

The President Tong stressed climate change and sea level rise as a serious problem for Kiribati. Japan would like to cooperate with Kiribati to adapt to this situation.

This May we held a summit meeting called PALM 6 in Japan. At that time we discussed many subjects, including environmental topics such as clean water and garbage programs and so on. I know Pacific Island countries face a lot of these problems, especially water, and we want to help where we can.

Japan has already donated $1.8million to The Kiribati Adaptation Program – Phase III (KAP III) project. What do you think of KAP and the current efforts being made to tackle climate change and provide safe drinking water for people in Kiribati?

The project is developing well, but it’s going to take a long time. For example, the mangroves are very effective for erosion but they are still small. Overall, it’s a very good project.

Tiaeke Tio and the KAPII drilling rig at Bikenibeu.

Drilling for water in Kiribati

Tiaeke Tio and the KAPII drilling rig at Bikenibeu.

Binataake Nawere stands bucketing water from his well in the strong afternoon sun at Betio in South Tarawa, Kiribati.

“We use well water for washing clothes and dishes,” says 60-year old Binataake as he fills a large container with groundwater. The residents of Betio and many of Kiribati’s residents often rely on well water to meet their needs. Fresh water is in short supply in Tarawa. The average house in Betio only receives tap-water for an hour and a half every 2 days.

The population of South Tarawa has grown from only 3,013 in 1931 to over 40,311 by 2005. Such rapid growth has led to a population density as high as 15,000 people per square kilometre on the narrow atoll islands. Tokyo, famous for overcrowding, has a population density almost three times lower.

A KAPII (Kiribati Adaptation Program – Pilot Implementation Phase II) working crew recently completed a two month long project to drill boreholes required to assess the thickness of the underground freshwater lens in Tarawa. The lens is made up of rain water that has infiltrated the soil of the atoll. This freshwater then actually floats on top of a layer of saltwater directly beneath each island.

“It is my first time to see how it works, it is really exciting,” says Tiaeke Tio, an i-Kiribati technician as he stands in front of the KAPII drilling rig. Measuring boreholes have been installed by the project at Tabiang, Tabuki and Nubeina in North Tarawa and at Bikenibeu, Bairiki and Betio in South Tarawa. These boreholes will build on the network already in place and enable ongoing assessments of the freshwater lens to be made.

The team has been led and trained by Colin Benjamin, an experienced driller from the UK. When Colin arrived in Tarawa he had some concerns about training a local team to drill. “I thought the local language and labour issues were going to be difficult and therefore training would be hard. But it was the opposite, the i-Kiribati were very good,” says Colin with a big smile on his face.

“We can now measure where the freshwater lens starts and finishes and how this changes over time. This changes as it is affected by the amount of water pumped out, rainfall, tide and climate change,” says Colin as they complete the last borehole in the grounds of the Betio Sport Complex.

This new information is necessary to plan for the sustainable use of water in Tarawa. If too much water is extracted at a location where the lens is not thick enough, saltwater is pumped up from below the freshwater lens causing contamination of the freshwater and making it unusable.

The 40,311 residents of South Tarawa are currently drawing on a groundwater supply that can only support half the population. Water scarcity is a critical issue and the risk of saltwater contamination of the freshwater lens is ever present, so discovering new water resources are critical.

Training an i-Kiribati team to operate the required equipment is vital for the sustainability of ground water monitoring in Tarawa. “As far as the local drilling crew is concerned, we have managed to put together a very efficient team that is learning a lot,” continues Colin. Tiaeke nods his head and responds, “We have been drilling down to 15 or 20 metres, getting all the parts together and getting the machine going. I am learning something new.”

“It is good to learn about looking after the water here,” says Tiaeke as he describes the importance of the KAPII team’s work to Kiribati. “It is where my ancestors lived, where I grew up, where my family is. I love the place and I love this country.”

Binataake knows well the importance of the freshwater lens. “When the government piped water supply is not operating and there is no rainwater, we only have the water from our well,” he says lifting another full bucket, something he hopes to be able to rely on, now and into the future.

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.


President Anote Tong helps plant mangroves in a KAPII initiative to protect our coastlines.

Kiribati gets 37,000 new mangroves

Press Release, 2011

Over 37,000 mangrove seedlings have recently been planted on the islands of Aranuka, Butaritari, Maiana, Makin and in North and South Tarawa.

The seedlings were planted through an activity funded by KAPII (Kiribati Adaptation Program Phase II) under the supervision of the Government of Kiribati’s Environment and Conservation Division.

Turang Favae, Acting Biodiversity and Conservation Officer at the Environment and Conservation Division says, “First and foremost it contributes to the building of coastlines and protects our shores against coastal erosion.”

Mangroves, although considered a ‘soft’ option when compared to seawalls, can be one of the most effective forms of coastal protection that in addition provide a range of other benefits.

“We see mangroves as an important habitat for marine life that use the mangroves as their homes. In that sense mangrove ecosystems are important to the marine species that we depend on for our livelihoods,” says Mrs. Favae. “They also contribute to the natural carbon dioxide cycle, act as buffers to storm surges and sea sprays and help filter nutrient runoff from land as mangrove roots absorb these nutrients and reduce pollution impacts on the sea.”

Dr. Helene Jacot Des Combes, of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, sees mangroves as a coastal protection option that can go beyond government and into the hands of the people.

“It is a solution that is not as costly as others and it can be done by the community, there is no real maintenance required and it profits the community by providing extra food and fire wood,” says Dr. Jacot Des Combe.

Community involvement in the planting is indeed central to the planting programme implemented in Kiribati confirms Mrs. Favae. “The importance of engaging the community is to gain their full support in the management of the mangroves themselves. We encourage and practice mangrove planting with communities, youth groups and school students so they can see the importance of planting and gain a sense of ownership to look after and manage the mangroves.”

The Government of Kiribati has long recognised the importance of healthy coastal ecosystems and well managed coastal protection. Mangrove planting is seen to support these national aims that are outlined in both the 2008-2011 Kiribati Development Plan (KDP) and the 2006-2010 Kiribati National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (NBSAP).

“To replant native plants contributes to the renewal of the ecosystem. When planting is successful it has impacts both on the protection of the coast and also for food security by providing more fish and crabs for the community,” says Dr. Jacot Des Combe.

In Kiribati mangroves are also culturally important as they are utilised as a source of building materials, dye and medicine. Yet one issue encountered has been barnacles that have caused the destruction of smaller seedlings, particularly in South Tarawa.

Mrs. Favae has long been concerned about this issue. “It appears there is not much we can do about the barnacles, as it has been suggested their presence is linked to sea water salinity levels.”

Regardless of the obstacles faced, the program has proved successful with the majority of seedlings planted now growing towards becoming healthy mature plants.

Perhaps most importantly public awareness of the importance of mangroves is growing in Kiribati. To lead by example, the President of Kiribati himself recently planted mangroves alongside local youths in South Tarawa.

Through her experience in the Outer Islands, Mrs. Favae knows that “community support is essential to the sustainability of mangroves.” The significance of this cannot be understated, as mangrove planting is a climate adaptation strategy that truly places the ability to act into the hands of the people of Kiribati.

The atolls and islands of Kiribati are not more than a few meters above sea level. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Seawalls to protect Kiribati shorelines

Tarawa, 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 Environmental Facility,  AusAID and NZAID. The key goal is to reduce Kiribati’s vulnerability to  climate change, climate variability and sea level rise.

Related Information

For more information, contact: Government Of Kiribati, Office Of Te Beretitenti (President), P.O. Box 68, Bairiki, Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati. Telephone: (686) 21183 or Fax: (686) 21902.
An example of healthy coral.

Diving under the surface of Kiribati

The people of Kiribati rely on healthy coral reef systems to protect the shorelines of their atolls and provide a habitat for fish that are integral not only to the food security of their own nation, but also to exports that feed the world.

The isolated nature of the atolls of Kiribati means that diving to assess the health of coral involves significant risks. There are no s

An example of healthy coral.

An example of healthy coral.

pecialised medical facilities equipped to treat dive injuries such as decompression sickness, even standard emergency facilities may be several days travel away. Divers must do their best to check each other’s equipment and wellbeing at all times.

This does not deter staff from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development who are undertaking an ecosystem monitoring program to assess the health of corals in the Gilbert Islands group. Funding for these trips and new monitoring equipment has been provided by KAPII (Kiribati Adaptation Program – Pilot Implementation Phase II), a project that aims to reduce Kiribati’s vulnerability to climate change, climate variability and sea level rise through adaptation.

Aranteiti Tekiau, a research officer at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development, has recently returned from a trip to the outer islands of Tamana and Tabiteuea North. What he saw whilst diving is causing him great concern. “Unfortunately we found serious coral bleaching at Tamana. The people on the outer islands may not notice it or see what it is. But it definitely has an impact on their lives and getting what they need from the ocean.”

“If coral health is declining fish abundance will decline as well. This is our main source of food and where we get our protein from. In Kiribati it is especially important that our coral is healthy,” stresses Mr. Tekiau.

This reliance on fish cannot be overstated. Each i-Kiribati is estimated to eat somewhere between 72kg and 207kg of seafood every year. Kiribati also encompasses the largest exclusive economic zone in the Pacific with over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean and fisheries that are estimated to be worth more than US$150 million annually to the international market.

Ribwanataake Awira, the secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development, speaks from the big picture perspective. “The overall trend that we are experiencing right now is the change in climate. That is the real concern as we live very close to our environment here.”

Bleached coral - 300dpi photo - Dr Simon Donner

An example of bleached coral.

Mr. Awira fears that “an increase in temperature is one of the major factors that will affect the coral as we know it. Even if there is only an increase by 1 degree it will start to die off. That is what we are worried about now, especially in areas like Kiribati where we depend entirely on the growth and health of the reefs.”

One strategy the Government of Kiribati can consider is creating Marine Protected Areas where healthy coral reefs that have resisted bleaching are located. The creation of these areas may be able to increase the resilience of surrounding reefs. Through increased monitoring operations the identification of areas suitable for protection becomes possible. To do this effectively requires a great deal of equipment, something not always easily accessible in least developed countries.

The KAPII project has provided a range of items to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development including regulators, scanners, scuba tanks, software, weight belts, underwater digital cameras and slates for data collection.

Mr. Awira is grateful for the capability the new equipment brings to his ministry. “To do this type of visual assessment work we require scuba gear to continue monitoring the growth of corals. The official handing over of the equipment will enhance the capacity of our staff to maintain this level of monitoring. It will help a lot.”

There are many stories about the impressive diving ability of the i-Kiribati, with or without equipment. Mr. Tekiau has seen it himself. “It is not a lie. Kiribati people have their own way of diving without scuba gear. I have often seen people here free dive for much longer than five minutes!”

The ecosystem monitoring team has four more KAPII dives this year on Abaiang, Abemama, Butaritari islands and in the Tarawa lagoon, as well as ongoing monitoring projects beyond KAPII. We wish them the best of luck in their important work.