The poorest on the edge of water scarcity

Interview Loia Tausi, coordinator PACC Tuvalu

During the last dry spell from September to January 2011 the Tuvaluan government was about to declare state of emergency, due to lack of water. Loia Tausi is working to better the water-situation for the most vulnerable communities in capital Funafuti.

As a non-scientific person, I would say that this drought could be evidence of changing in the weather patterns. I mean, talking about climate change, the dry spell happened in the middle of the wet season! A lot of people here will tell you that the weather patterns have changed drastically, Loia Tausi tells us.

Loia is the coordinator for the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) programme on Tuvalu. Along with 12 other Pacific island countries, Tuvalu is working to find good solutions to meet the different adaptation needs of the island states. Through the programme, the 13 countries can choose one of three sectors:
Water resource management
Food production and security
Costal zone and associated infrastructure
Though all fields are highly relevant for Tuvalu, the government chose water for this programme.

PACC is a project made to assess the impacts of climate change and to build resilience on the community level. We are looking at ways to help people adapt. With the PACC project we are trying to help two of the most vulnerable communities on Funafuti, Tausi says.

She explains that on Tuvalu, as all over the world, the most vulnerable people are the poorest ones. These are the most vulnerable in almost all fields– either the issues are related to climate change or not.

When it comes to water security the poorest are vulnerable because they can’t afford to buy additional tanks. Through the EU-project all households on Funafuti get one tank each for free. The criteria for getting a tank however, is that the household has to ensure a good roof and a platform for the tank to stand on.

– Not everybody can get a tank. The project only provides the gutters, the gutter work and a tank. The users have to have a good roof and a platform where the tank can stand. If they cannot provide this, they will not get any water tank.

Further more, Tausi explains that gender is an issue, also on Tuvalu.

The women do most of the domestic work and management and often have the sole responsibility for the families, she says.

With PACC, Tausi are not working on groups, but on the most vulnerable communities. According to her, these are the ones placed on the northern and the southern end – far away from the facilities in the centre.

There are, as you see, lots of places where the people living near the centre of the island can get water. It is different in the outskirts. There they have less communal cisterns and therefore no social security systems if they would get short of water, Tausi says.

The nine island communities and the churches are important on Tuvalu. The common houses of the islands and the church buildings often have their own cisterns where their members can get water for free.

Tausi is doing assessments of the needs of the people living in the villages. She is identifying their priorities and adaptation options.

By doing this we are trying to figure out what solutions we can help them implement. However, our budget is small. PACC on Tuvalu only have 750 000 USD for the five years. Consequently, what we can do is very limited, she explains.

Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC)
Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) is a regional project covering in total 13 pacific island states: Cook Islands, Fiji, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Samoa. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) fund the project that started in 2009 and will end in 2013.

The goal is to implement long-term adaptation measures in order to increase resilience by focusing on three key development sectors:
Water resource management
Food production and security
Costal zone and associated infrastructure (road and breakwater).
The 13 countries have themselves decided on what development sector they want to focus on in this project. All issues are relevant to Tuvalu and part of the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA).

Facts – water on Tuvalu
Due to pollution and increasing salinization of the ground water, Tuvalu is totally dependent on rainwater catchment and storage to cover its fresh water needs.
The rainwater catchment is based on catchment from private rooftops. The access to water is therefore dependent on private roof and storage capacity. When short of water, the people can buy water from the public catchment or desalinization plant. They can also get water from their respective community catchments.
There have been four big water catchment and storage projects on Tuvalu in the recent years. The first EU project provided enough water tanks to all households on Funafuti. The second EU-project is providing tanks to the outer islands. In addition there have been two water-catchment projects funded by AusAID.