PLANNING and Development Minister Penelope Beckles has launched a landmark US$10 million project aimed at building climate resilience of the South Oropouche River Basin (SORB) population and ecosystems to flooding, sea level rise and expected increasing water deficit events, on Wednesday.
While these are among some of the most damaging climate risks already being experienced in the Woodland area, Beckles asserted, “This project will not solve the flooding problem and its impacts.
“There is no silver bullet that will climate proof any country. This is the reality. But it will increase resiliency in many areas, which, if properly implemented, will decrease the severity of flooding and climate risks and their associated impacts on livelihoods.
“This project is therefore a good starting point, leading to comprehensive adaptation over time and in the long term,” she said at the Debe Secondary School launch.
Bernardo Requena, Country Representative, Latin American Development Bank (CAF), Requena agreed with Beckles that the success of the four year project will depend largely on community engagement as those who live and work there would be able to contribute to the solutions that work for them.
Beckles said it is the first grant funded national project under the Adaptation Fund - Multi-sectoral Adaptation Measures to Flood Relief in the SORB, the first, and only beneficiary of this landmark grant.
Factors including, vulnerability to flooding and climate risks, population density, commercial, agricultural, and cultural activities, and impacts on citizens, as well as the size of the catchment, led to its selection of SORB for this initiative.
With record breaking temperatures across the world, resulting in floods, droughts, wildfires, heatwaves and at home, consecutive hot days which are having dire consequences on crops, livestock and general comfort, Beckles said climate change is here.
“It is no longer a futuristic phenomenon. The future is already here.
“We are now seeing more intense rainfall where a greater volume of rain is falling in less time,” she observed pointing to increased temperatures that are also causing increased evaporation of water and the expectation if more goes up, then more will come down
She told the mainly local audience that they know more than anyone the perennial flooding that this watershed experiences and the associated suffering that ensues.
“And this is projected to become even worse as climate change continues.”
She noted the damage the frequency and intensity of flooding has caused in the Woodland area, resulting in staggering economic losses and the disruption of the ecological balance with long-term consequences for biodiversity and ecosystems.
“You would agree that we cannot afford this anymore and for all the obvious reasons which inevitably leads to flooding.”
Over two decades ago, climate models projected less cumulative rainfall, which will lead to droughts and water shortages, “which we are already experiencing, which are affecting potable water availability and agricultural productivity.
“Additionally, sea-level rise is leading to saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources, endangering our coastal communities, impeding agriculture, damaging livestock and altering natural ecosystems.
“This is already being experienced in the Woodland area. So the picture is not a rosy one, and through this project, we are acting with urgency.
“While the world continues to strive to constrain temperature increases to at least 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to not only adapt to the climate risks that are already being posed, but also to the risks in the short to medium term.
“Building capacity to withstand these impacts, or climate resiliency, is therefore clearly a necessity.”
She said this is precisely what this project is designed to address flooding through a holistic approach, encompassing infrastructure improvements, early warning systems, and community engagement.
“It seeks to create a basin-wide strategy that integrates the efforts of various sectors, including agriculture, water resources management, and disaster preparedness.”
She spoke of the genesis of the project at the 25th Conference of Parties to the climate change convention in Madrid, when government representatives spoke to senior executives CAF to develop a project to address climate risks, particularly flooding in the SORB.
Follow up discussions with CAF and UWI, key stakeholders including agencies and ministries, as well as regional corporations, developed a project proposal for submission to the Adaptation Fund.
She acknowledge the contribution of Edward Moodie and the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group to the design of the project.
“Their years of data collection and observation proved to be invaluable in informing what needs to be done under the various activities of the project.”
Moodie pledged the commitment of the community groups to work with CAF and the different agencies to increase resilience in the area.