The urgent need to protect and manage effectively the Water Reserves at Buota and Bonriki is recognized by the Kiribati Government in the National Water Resources Implementation Plan, the Tarawa Water and Sanitation Road Map 2011-2030 and the Kiribati Development Plan 2012 – 2015.
The critical state of the water reserves is likely to get more serious in the future as a result of the impacts of climate change on future rainfall / drought patterns, together with the population growth.
Because the preservation of the water reserves in peri-urban Buota and Bonriki is critical to the long term health and economic growth of South Tarawa, the Cabinet approved the establishment of an inter-Ministerial Water Reserves Task Force, chaired by MELAD.
The purpose of the Task Force is to:
1. Move all unauthorized dwellings located within the boundary of the water reserves and end harmful practices (such as sand mining) on the Buota and Bonriki Reserves; and
2. Develop and implement a long term sustainable management plan for the two reserves.
The Task Force has now developed the first draft of its approach to these two tasks which are described as a “Governance Roadmap”, and presented this approach to all stakeholders during its first workshop on 28-29 October 2014 to consider the draft proposals.
There will be a second workshop in about four months to consider the final draft proposals and a third workshop four months or so after that – in the middle of 2015 – to consider the final proposals. Over the next 8 months consultations will take place, involving all stakeholders, coming together at the workshops to seek agreement and build consensus about the way forward – for the protection and conservation of the two water reserves that are so important to the lives of so many of the people of South Tarawa and of Kiribati.
The process will take place within the framework of government policy, the laws of Kiribati and the World Bank’s Operational Policy on involuntary resettlement.
Implementation of an Immediate Actions Plan to address the first purpose of the Task Force and a Sustainable Management Plan to address the second, will only start after there is full and open consultation with all stakeholders and agreement about what is to be done.
This agreement will be made into a formal written document with representatives of all key stakeholders participating. It is hoped this can be achieved by the middle of next year and both plans can then be implemented.
The first step is to start a process of community engagement. This will mean that, after this workshop: a) consultations start and continue on a regular basis with all communities involved; b) a communication, education and awareness plan is started; and c) a census and survey of the unauthorised residents on the two water reserves and a survey of Buota and Bonriki village residents is carried out. The surveys are necessary to draw up the first draft of a Resettlement Plan for the water reserves, and a Process Framework for the two village communities, for presentation at the next workshop.
The main stakeholders are the communities of Buota and Bonriki villages, the residents of South Tarawa, the unauthorized residents on the two water reserves, the Urban and Island Councils and their planning Boards, the administrative arms of government in a number of Ministries and agencies – MELAD, MPWU, MoHMS and PUB, the executive arm of government – Cabinet – and the Kiribati Adaptation Program III and Office of the Beretitenti under whose management and direction the process falls.
The process of consultation to reach agreement between all these many parties may be difficult and involve hard decisions but the achievement of the end result – clean and safe water – is very important to the people of South Tarawa and of Kiribati. All stakeholders will need to participate openly and constructively to reach an outcome that is fair to all and recognizes and meets the needs of all, as far as this is possible in meeting the overall goal – clean and safe water for South Tarawa.