Visit of Dr. Alfred Duda, Chief of GEF International Waters
Dr. Alfred Duda, Senior Advisor on International Waters for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), accompanied the Government of Fiji's Minister of Primary Industries, Mr. Jokatani Cokanasiga, and other project stakeholders on a tour of a GEF funded demonstration project to see how government agencies and communities are working together to better prepare for and reduce the impacts of floods.
In welcoming Dr. Duda to Fiji, Mr. Cokanasiga highlighted GEF's long commitment to Fiji as a sustainable development partner. "Over the years, the GEF has funded a number of projects to improve and sustain the local environment and its natural resources", Mr. Cokanasiga said.
Mr. Cokanasiga noted that "the recent funding of the Nadi IWRM demonstration project is yet another testimony of its commitment to the people of Fiji. I would like to thank GEF for its support for this project". In expressing the high priority Fiji Government is giving this initiative, Mr. Cokanasiga pointed out that "the Fiji Government, especially the Ministry of Primary Industries, has given and will continue to give its full support towards this project because, by comparison, Nadi region issues are quite complex and it will take significant time, effort and additional resources to resolve".
The Nadi demonstration project will consider the water related issues and concerns of all the stakeholders in the Nadi Basin to improve flood preparedness and water management in the area. Dr. Duda said that this approach was vital to the success of such projects as the proper management of river systems involved a diverse range of actors, from farmers in the upper catchment to fishermen making a living FROM the reefs and mangroves along the coast. It also needs significant support from government.
"You live in a hazard area, there needs to be a lot of integration. GEF looks to you and your project to not only involve communities but to also involve cabinet. Because your entire project involves different ministries," Dr. Duda said. "All the relevant ministries should work together so you won't have the loss of life and livelihood from flooding."
On his first trip to Fiji 12 years ago, Dr. Duda noticed the rivers flowing into Nadi Bay were brown and were depositing large amounts of sediment onto reefs. He met with people at the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and in government at the time to discuss the causes and to find ways to improve the situation.
"It's taken a few years since then to get this project up and running but it's good to see people finally working towards improving this river system," Dr. Duda said. "We need to manage rivers from the ridge to the reef. A farmer clearing 100 hectares of land in the upper catchment can have a detrimental effect on people downstream. The silt can kill reefs, impacting fishermen who rely on them for food and income. Silt build up in rivers will also cause flooding, which can lead to the loss of lives, property and businesses." Dr. Duda also pointed to increased impacts from climate change as a cause of future flooding and a reason why this project was timely.
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Mr. Vinesh Kumar, Project Manager for the Nadi Basin Demonstration Project, said they were working with communities on sustainable land use practices and to better prepare for floods through the establishment of 10 Community Disaster Management Committees. "Most of the problems we have in the area are due to human activities, although we also need to need to have economic growth", Mr. Kumar said. "We have to find ways to better manage the system so that activities can continue without destroying the very environment that enables these activities to take place."
Mr. Kumar said that while the support he is receiving from Government agencies is very important, everyone can play their part. "Water is therefore not just a problem for the water authority or government agencies, it is everyone's problem, and all the people must work together," Mr Kumar said. "We have the local expertise and we should use this local expertise to find relevant solutions."
This year the GEF celebrates its first 20 years and since inception has allocated US$9.5 billion, supplemented by US$42 billion in co-financing, to more than 2,700 projects in 165 developing countries. The GEF is the world's largest funder of projects to improve the global environment, and the people of the Pacific and Fiji benefit greatly from GEF support.
The GEF is running 13 Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) projects in 12 Pacific Island Countries to show the practical benefits of integrated sustainable water resources and wastewater management. The projects are being executed regionally by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC).