The legend of Sina & the Eel accentuates the Moata’a mangrove walkway

The escape route and shortcut through the mangroves to access the inland residential area of Moata’a village

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 08 JUNE 2018: The Samoan legend of the origins of the coconut tree is central to Moata’a villages’ Mangrove Walkway launched this morning as a response to climate change and sea level rise.

Village chief Tuatagaloa Asi Blakelock said the mangrove area is very special to the village, people and the culture of Samoa, because it is in this area that the legendary tale of Sina and her eel ended, and a new life and new hope sprung out through the coconut tree.

At the project launch this morning, Tuatagaloa claimed that the legend ended at Moata’a where the eel was killed at Taumeasina or Lalago (coastal part of Moata’a) and the first coconut tree in the Pacific and Samoa was from the head of the eel planted in Moata’a.

The Moata’a mangrove is one of the few wetlands in the urban area that are well preserved under the village council, but because of its coastal location, it is also the most affected mangrove area in Samoa during times of natural disasters.

The village used to harbour 9.1 hectare of mangroves but by 1990, only 5 hectares of mangrove land remained after part of the lands were reclaimed for the development of the sports complex at Apia Park, the Taumeasina Island Resort and the village sports field.

“Today, village settlement across the coastal area is vulnerable to coastal and inland flooding because there is no more buffer provided by the mangrove to stop coast line and inland residential areas from being eroded,” said Asi.

These problems prompted the Village Council to approach the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Small Grants to build a walkway as an escape route during natural disasters ad seeking to conserve and protect the remaining mangrove areas.

Reverend Kueva and faletua and Moata’a village chiefs Tofaeaono Iupati and Asi Peleiupu and members of the village council

The walkway is designed to be eco-friendly and resilient to serve as a daily access for people from other villages, as well as an emergency route when natural disaster strike.

The project was built by the All Electrical Construction Ltd at a cost of $116,380 tala. The length of the walkway is 190.5 metres, 1.3 metres wide and elevation is approximately 0.92 metres. According to Asi, the project has been in the pipeline for a long time and the community had been vulnerable to flooding and rising sea level.

He acknowledged the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) CSSP and all supporting agencies.

Acting Prime Minister Tialavea Leniu Hunt officially launched the walkway.

“Mangroves continue to be an important part of Samoa’s coastal ecosystem, not just for services but as a livelihood source, and help reduce emission from green-house gases and climate change.”

He said the ocean plays a key role in the life of this community and it was only fitting to celebrate with the launch of this important access walkway in the village, and the signing of the Village Ocean Declaration cemented their commitment to the value of the ocean to this community’s livelihood and eco system.

“Today we celebrate community action in protecting coastal wetlands, and protecting ocean for the sustainable livelihood, collaborative action of commitment to the Blue Pacific theme in this year’s Pacific leader’s forum. Let’s agree to put a stop to the increasing destruction of coastal wetlands and make the right choices to support the ecosystem, create positive growth of our ocean, health and industries.”

UNDP representative Ofusina Ieremia acknowledged the village’s initiative and congratulated them for the vision.

Aniva Clarke, member of Eco-Tour had the honour of reading out the village’s declaration committing them to safeguard, to protect the ocean as the way of life, save community livelihood, and maintain cultural values in relations to ocean and identity as people.

Coconut trees growing together with the mangroves in what remains of the Moata’a mangrove wetlands