Sunday, 30th April 2017

Living with a rising sea

Posted on 24. Mar, 2011 by Florent Baarsch in Adaptation to climate change, Sea-level rise

Coastal erosion on Funafuti, the capital island

Coastal erosion on Funafuti, the capital island

How is the increase in sea level felt in Tuvalu? Are there initiatives to reduce this problem?
Which are the consequences of this problem to the population?

Coastal erosion, salinization of the groundwater resources and the rising tides are the most important and direct effects of sea-level rise. Some parts of the main island Funafuti (the capital city) are flooded by saltwater, seeping through the porous atoll ground, at least twice a month. During the King Tides (in February), the population of Funafuti lives with about 50cm of water on the ground.

In order to limit the impacts of sea-level rise and other climate change related consequences, the government of Tuvalu wrote (in May 2007) a National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPA). The two first projects of the adaptation plan are directly or indirectly related to sea-level rise.

The first project aims to increase the coastal resilience. This will be done by building seawalls and channel current breaks, and by planting mangroves.

The second project seeks to ensure food security in a progressively salted environment.
Sea-level rise has a considerable impact on the composition of the soil, which is getting increasingly salinized. Traditional crops planted on this soil are consequently affected by the saltwater intrusion. This is especially the case of pulaka (a traditional root vegetable). The saltwater contamination of the pulaka pits creates a new threat on food security on Tuvalu, and especially on the outer islands where the people are much more dependent on local agriculture. To decrease the risk of food scarcity, salt resistant pulaka plants are about to be introduced on Tuvalu.

As the groundwater resources are progressively salinized because of sea-level rise, the third project is about securing freshwater availability for the Tuvaluan population by improving the rainwater storage and catchment capacity.

These effects of sea-level rise have direct impacts on the lives of the Tuvaluans. Coastal erosion, for example, has a devastating effect. On the beaches of Funafuti, we can now see walls of sand where the roots of the trees are hanging in the air. In some more eroded areas, the trees are already falling down, escalating the erosion process. That said, it is important to highlight that Funafuti is just 400meters at its widest; Consequently, the loss of just one beach or one meter of shore has a considerable impact on the people living alongside the ocean or the lagoon.

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