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.
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