Nature-based approaches to help reduce disaster risks

NUKU’ALOFA – March 14: 3.11pm (Environment): The implementation of eco-system based reduction and adaptation approaches that includes biodiversity should help Pacific countries reduce the increasing incidence and severity of disasters that is leaving more people vulnerable each year in the region.

That was something participants at the “Ecosystem Services for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction – a ‘win-win’ situation” workshop in Nadi, Fiji learned last week.

Tonga’s delegate Ms Ta’hirih Hokafonu (left) at the Nadi workshop last week. Photo: IUCN

The workshop, from March 8-10, was organised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in collaboration with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

That was funded by the Japan Biodiversity Fund under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Tonga was represented by Ms Ta’hirih Hokafonu, Project Manager for the Ridge To Reef project under the Department of Environment here in Nuku’alofa.

The IUCN said that the Oceania region is particularly prone to disasters with cyclones, floods, droughts and other natural hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis causing widespread destruction.

Tonga is rated second behind Vanuatu as the two countries prone to natural disasters.

While effective disaster risk reduction strategies are essential for continued human security, these strategies often fail to include biodiversity and ecosystems and the services that they offer in mitigating the impacts of extreme events, the IUCU added.

“IUCN has been working in this region to promote ecosystem management approaches to address coastal community vulnerabilities and we hope to have further discussions to identify opportunities to work together and scale up ecosystem-based approaches for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation,” Mason Smith, IUCN Oceania Acting Regional Director, said.

Delegates, including Ms Ta’hirih Hokafonu (4th from left) at a group discussion. Photo: IUCN

“The Pacific is one of the most at-risk regions in the world and given the geographic nature of Island nations in the Pacific, they are likely to experience adverse effects of climate change. We need to support the region to become more resilient and focusing on implementing the Sendai Framework will help guide effective support to build safer communities,” Mr Timothy Wilcox, Pacific Sub-Regional Coordinator for UNISDR, added.

To initiate multi-sectoral dialogue and drive integrated action for risk reduction, the workshop brought together representatives from both the disaster management and environment sector from Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Using a peer-peer learning approach, the workshop provided a platform for participants to exchange on their national experiences and to voice out ideas to scale-up action and political will for ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction.

“In Tonga, climate change related issues include increased intensity of rainfall during wet seasons leading to regular flooding and coastal erosions, as well as more severe cyclones affecting coastal habitats,” Ms Hokafonu told the meeting.

“Nevertheless, there is opportunities for an integrated multi-sectoral approach to implementing various legislations pertaining to the preservation and conservation of biodiversity.”

Ms Hokafonu said the workshop helped her to:

· gain more knowledge and understanding on nature-based solutions and its importance for disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and community resilience

· increase knowledge on the role of biodiversity and ecosystems services for disaster risk reduction

· develop capacities for designing and implementing ecosystem based disaster risk reduction and ecosystem based adaptation approaches that also integrate biodiversity

· establish networking with regional and international colleagues for exchange of ideas, knowledge and mutual support in order to boost action for ecosystem based disaster risk reduction and ecosystem based adaptation

· explore opportunities for taking actions for Eco-DRR and EbA in the focal countries

Tonga’s presentation by Ms Ta’hirih Hokafonu at the Nadi workshop. Photo: IUCN

“There were technical presentations on biodiversity and disasters and case study analysis provided by the IUCN, UNISDR, SPREP, Ramsar as well as learning from Thailand shared with the Pacific reps on global case studies proving the importance of ecosystem in reducing risks from hazards,” Ms Hokafonu said.

The participants were able to carry out field-trip to gather learning from Lomawai village in Nadi, as an example of how they are linking ecosystems and disaster risk reduction.

Lomawai villagers earn part of their livelihoods on mining sea-salt from salt marshes in their area.

Tonga and the other Pacific countries shared status of their countries with regards to the current arrangement of Disaster Management Office and status of linkages on using ecosystem systems to reduce disasters shocks and pressures.

“There was a wealth of discussion amongst the countries with regards to integrating EbA, DRR and Climate Change and the proposal for the Pacific to utilise Eo-DRR in the pacific as an approach to DRR,” Ms Hokafonu said.

“There was a lot of networking at this forum with the hope for closer collaboration on joint ventures to make the Large Ocean States in the Pacific a more resilience environment for its people future.”

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