UNDP supports the battle against Coastal Erosion in Mauritius

As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), the Republic of Mauritius (which includes Rodrigues, Agalega and other small islets) is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. In the coastal zone, it is feared that accelerating sea level rise and increasing frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones will result in considerable economic loss, humanitarian stresses, and environmental degradation.  There is evidence that coral growth rates are unable to maintain equilibrium with the current rate of sea level rise, which is reflected in the increased erosion rates at five key beaches around the island of Mauritius in the last 10-15yrs. In addition to the risk of physical loss of beaches, infrastructure that is immediately adjacent to the dynamic beach zone is at risk and there is clear evidence of this risk in some areas, with seawalls collapsing and erosion of roadbeds, especially after storms.

Highlights

  • 21 beaches currently experiencing erosion (23% of the beaches on the island of Mauritius) and 22 sites which experienced surges and flooding.
  • The project began in 2012 with the objective of increasing climate resilience of communities and livelihoods in coastal areas
  • Support of UNDP initiated to promote mangrove reforestation

The Environment Analyst states “there are 21 beaches currently experiencing erosion (23% of the beaches on the island of Mauritius) and a further 22 sites on the island of Mauritius which have experienced surges and flooding in the recent past with additional sites on Rodrigues and Agalega. The risk to human life and livelihoods is increasing, particularly for coastal communities and those who earn a direct and indirect living from the sea (e.g. workers in the tourism sector).”

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, UNDP is providing technical support as part of a 4yr ‘Coastal Adaptation Project’, funded by the Adaptation Board Fund. The project began in 2012 with the objective of increasing climate resilience of communities and livelihoods in coastal areas in Mauritius and has commenced work on the following outcomes:
1.    Application of Adaptation Measures for Coastal Protection- this includes preparatory work, such as a detailed technical assessment, examination of scientific data and consultation with communities and stakeholders at 3 sites in Mauritius; Mon Choisy beach in the North, which is eroding at a rate of 1-2mts per year; Riviere des Galets, which is vulnerable to storm surge and erosion; and Quatre Soeurs, which experiences frequent flooding during high tides.
2.    An Early Warning System will be developed following an assessment of the current sea state monitoring systems (Mauritius Meteorological Services and Mauritius Oceanography Institute).
3.    Training; A “Handbook on Coastal Adaptation” will be developed through collaboration of Government agencies and NGOs, to clearly inform best practices for climate resilience in the ROM coastal zone, including ecosystem-based approaches.
4.    Policy Mainstreaming will be undertaken through the determination of a ‘National Coastal Zone Adaptation Strategy’ that addresses all perceived climate change risks in the coastal zone of ROM.
5.    Knowledge Dissemination and Management will occur through the development of the Handbook, training modules, and website content to include the best coastal adaptation practices for the ROM context, including ecosystem-based approaches. It is also expected that lessons learned will be shared with coastal stakeholders in other locations in the southern Indian Ocean.

The following activities were carried out with a comprehensive assessment by a consultant team in 2013:
·    Design of coastal protection measures, such as offshore, submerged wave attenuation structures.
·    Planting of mangroves and beach crest vegetation.
·    Sealing the wave-overtopping wall.
·    Development of a drainage scheme for the backshore, to re-direct surge floodwater and wave-overtopping water from villages.
·    Monitoring of the effectiveness of the interventions at each site.
·    Relocation of exposed coastal communities as a ‘retreat’ option will also be explored as an adaptation measure.

One of the main activities carried out was to promote mangrove reforestation along the coastal belt of Grand Sable and Quatre Soeurs villages. Mangroves act as carbon sinks, providing nutrients for marine life. They protect coastal communities from associated storm surges and erosion by captur­ing soil during periods of heavy precipitation thus stabilising shoreline sedi­ments. Mangroves also serve as a nursery and breeding ground for many marine organisms.
Using a community-driven approach, UNDP worked with the Grand Sable Fishermen Association (GSFA), which consists of 56 members from the fisher community. According to one of the members “propagules collection and planting did not disrupt the community’s daily livelihoods activities. UNDP also worked through the Grand Sable Women Planters Farmers Entrepreneurs Association to undertake awareness-raising and sensitisation activities on the prevention of coastal erosion through mangrove propagation.”
UNDP’s community-based approach has resulted in strong ownership and engagement of local community-based organisations such as the Fishermen’s Association. Community-driven action increases the sustainability of a community’s resilience to negative climate change impacts.