May 22, 2015 U.S. Ambassador Judith Cefkin visited the Village of Buretu in Rewa, Viti Levu, Fiji to inaugurate a riverbank stabilization project on the Navolau River. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development through its Coastal Community Adaptation Project (C-CAP), the project will offer the community immediate relief against the adverse
effects brought about by climate change.
The project has been developed in conjunction with the Fijian Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and members of the Buretu community.
“Climate change is a priority of the U.S. Government and we are aware about the effects of climate change on the coastal communities of the Pacific Islands,” Ambassador Cefkin said. “We remain committed to work with your community and the Government of Fiji in preparing for a more climate-resilient future.”
USAID/C-CAP Chief of Party, Stephen Smith, gave an overview of USAID/C-CAP’s activities in Fiji that are helping communities adapt to the negative impacts of climate change and improving disaster preparedness. The Village of Buretu has experienced increasing riverbank degradation due to the impacts of sea level rise, storm surges and intense tropical cyclones and the Navolau River is encroaching upon the community and threatening their social and economic infrastructure.
After a community-led process that identified and ranked riverbank stabilization as a priority in Buretu, USAID presented the community with plans for a revetment that incorporates an innovative technology–the “Reno Mattress” shoreline protection system, which is designed to follow the contours of the natural banks and attenuate rather than deflect the forces of erosion. In the short and over the longer-term, this reduces the potential for further erosion beyond the revetment and adjacent low-lying areas. This secure structure is designed to last longer with less maintenance and cost to the community than other more traditional revetments.
Foreign Affairs Director Climate Change Division, Peter Emberson stated that “Climate change is a challenge to us all with serious environmental, social and economic consequences. We take on commitments and we deliver against them”.
“We cannot stop the forces of nature; but we can mitigate its impact and build resilient communities so that lives – and livelihoods – are protected when disaster does strike,” USAID/Pacific Islands Mission Director Gloria D. Steele said.
Village Leader, Ratu Noni Veikoso acknowledged the timely support provided by the US Agency for the assistance provided for their village to adapt to the effects of climate change.
“We had tried many things to fix the problem of riverbank erosion but none had worked. We were on the verge of having to relocate the entire village when USAID came to our community. It was like one of those movies when the US Calvary comes to save the day– this project has saved our village and we are truly grateful for your help,” Veikoso said.
The U.S. Government, through USAID, builds the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities in the Pacific Island region to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters. Activities include rehabilitating and constructing new, small-scale community infrastructure and building capacity for community engagement for disaster prevention and preparedness.