Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tonga - first in Pacific to join disaster risk and climate change plans

Clive Hawigen - SPREP

Apia, Samoa - Tonga will be the first country in the Pacific to implement a joint national action plan that will see both the climate change adaptation and disaster risk management teams join forces to plan for unforeseeable disasters in the island kingdom.

Sione Fulivai, climate change coordinator from Tonga said the merger of the two would synergise some of the projects both teams were working on.

L - R Clive Hawigen, Sione Fulivai

He explained that the disaster risk management unit deals with geographical disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions and the climate change adaptation unit is related to issues such as changes in weather pattern resulting in flooding, droughts and/or intense cyclones.

“Both have a common link which was to plan and implement projects that will assist communities when such disasters arise,” he said

“Tonga’s national disaster office needed to deal with all of these issues thus merging both parties seemed a better option.”

A joint national action plan will enable better management and coordination. Originally, the disaster risk management unit had its own task force and the climate change adaptation unit had its own with a primary role to monitor everything that is linked to climate change. This also involved each department carrying out their own vulnerability studies.

“When we develop plans it becomes easier to do institutional frameworks and link institutions to the common theme,” said Mr Fulivai.

He said with the Joint National Action Plan will enable both teams to create synergies such as the climate change adaptation team to forecast what would happen and the disaster teams to respond.

He said some of the lessons learnt include the need for political support to drive the plan, the need for people at the national level to continue work to keep momentum, knowledge of how to coordinate both teams because without good coordination people will start duplicating work and collection of data is a slow process.

“Tonga’s JNAP is like a roadmap, it is a programmatic plan with certain number of projects within,” he said.

Other countries in the Pacific are also working towards merging their climate change adaptation and disaster risk management.

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