New data help Samoa manage risks from sea-level rise

Australian High Commissioner, Dr Stephen Henningham Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Fa’amoetauloa Dr. Faale Tumaalii

Australian High Commissioner, Dr Stephen Henningham presents the data to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Fa’amoetauloa Dr. Faale Tumaalii.

APIA: TUESDAY 29 OCTOBER 2013: The Australian High Commissioner, Dr Stephen Henningham, today presented the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Fa’amoetauloa Dr. Faale Tumaalii, with new high resolution mapping data that will help Samoa plan for the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels.

“With nearly three quarters of the Samoan population living on the coast, one quarter living here in Apia, climate change and rising sea levels pose very real threats for Samoa”, said Dr Henningham.

“This new data will be invaluable in supporting the Government of Samoa to better understand and manage these risks, in order to protect communities in the Apia area and their livelihoods,” he said.

Through a partnership between the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the data survey of Apia and Faleolo airport is part of an ongoing project to assist Samoa manage climate change and natural disaster impacts in the coastal zone. The highly accurate mapping data, known as “LiDAR”, can be used to model sea level rise, cyclone and tsunami risk as well as to plan evacuation routes.

In order to inform the planned redevelopment of the Maota Fono (Samoan Parliamentary Complex), the data is already being put to use by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to conduct a detailed analysis of the extent to which cyclone related storm surges and extreme sea-levels will flood the Mulinu’u Peninsula and other low lying parts of Apia. This information will be factored into the design of the new Maota Fono to ensure it is built to withstand future climate conditions in Samoa.

A 3D digital elevation model of the area surrounding Apia using the new data. The red areas are the highest elevation, and the blue areas are the lowest. The coastal plains, waterways and mountain ranges are clearly visible

A 3D digital elevation model of the area surrounding Apia using the new data. The red areas are the highest elevation, and the blue areas are the lowest. The coastal plains, waterways and mountain ranges are clearly visible

Not only will this data assist Samoan decision makers plan for the impacts of sea level rise, it has many other uses. The data can be used to map coral reefs, roads and waterways, plan construction sites and breakwaters, plan for safe disaster evacuation centres, monitor land subsidence and detect changes in vegetation growth.

“To ensure we maximise the potential of this new data, a training program on how to use the data is also being provided for officials from across the Samoan Government”, Dr Henningham said. “This data has any number of practical uses that can contribute to many of Samoa’s economic, social and environmental objectives.”

The surveys were conducted in partnership between the Samoan and Australian Governments, with funding from the Australian Government’s Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning (PACCSAP) program.

 

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