Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Pacific water studies gain from new small islands project

Update Number 2   July 1996
(UNESCO-APIA)

About this Update
Pacific Water studies gain from new Small Islands project
Freshwater emphasis to continue
Results of practical use
More support for transdisciplinary work
Pacific water specialists to guide programme
Strong Pacific interest in CSI
Experts Meeting & Action Plan
Catchments and communities
Atoll groundwater recharge
Climate change & island resources
Groundwater pollution in villages
Follow up of groundwater studies
WASP under threat
People & Plants surveys start
Assessing traditional forest use
Shore Ecology handbook
Could an earthquake drown Suva?
Travel - Travel - Travel
For more information

About this Update
UNESCO Office Apia issues this update to inform National Commissions for UNESCO in the Pacific about its science activities. The update is also circulated to other people interested in our work, and within UNESCO. It appears about three times a year in email and news sheet forms. This issue covers the period January-June 1996.

Pacific Water studies gain from new Small Islands project
A new project will boost UNESCO action to understand key water resource problems in the Pacific. Launched on 1 January 1996, the project on "Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) will assist Member States towards integrated coastal planning and management. The transdisciplinary CSI project will unite expertise from UNESCO's environmental and social science programmes to pursue actions agreed by the UN Earth Summit in Rio, and the UN Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (Barbados 1994).

Freshwater emphasis to continue
Four CSI pilot projects are being developed in different subregions. Pilot project 1 based in the Pacific Island countries will focus on the management of freshwater resources for the sustainable development of small islands. Pilot project 1 has its roots in the three field studies of UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme (IHP) on catchment deforestation, groundwater recharge and groundwater pollution. These studies were recommended by the UNESCO-UN-South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission SOPAC Workshop on Pacific Water Sector Planning Research and training, Honiara, Solomon Islands, June 1994. They are being implemented in close collaboration with SOPAC through Mr. Ed Burke and his team from the Water & Sanitation Programme.

Results of practical use
From the very beginning, the IHP field studies incorporated most of the key CSI concepts. These included definition of the problem by practical resource managers in the region, inclusion of various sociocultural and other interdisciplinary aspects as an integral part of each study, and an emphasis on the practical application of the results both to guide technical personnel, and to educate the community.

More support for transdisciplinary work
Unlike regions where CSI-type projects did not already exist, in the Pacific the approach has been to use CSI funding to reinforce these studies, without a major change of direction. Indeed, within the UNESCO structure, IHP has offered these studies as a contribution towards the CSI endeavor. Some new activities are being implemented to cover CSI goals not already addressed. UNESCO's Medium-Term Strategy 1996-2OO1 states that "strong disciplinary base is needed if a transdisciplinary approach is to be effective." The social science elements of CSI pilot project 1 were pioneered under IHP, but are now funded through CSI. While the necessity of gaining community acceptance and using community knowledge has already been proved, the pilot project equally depends on the quality of the water science performed and the enthusiasm of the network of water scientists established under IHP. The balance between social and technical aspects will be maintained. Both are essential.

Pacific water specialists to guide programme
The Pacific Member States have repeatedly expressed the wish to be closely involved in the planning and implementation of UNESCO's activities in this region. This has been a factor in the successful development of the IHP field studies. UNESCO will continue to listen to the Member States and relate science activities to their perceived needs. The IHP Pacific Working Group will continue. The two field studies on groundwater resources arc already underway. A third on catchments and communities is being redesigned on the advice of the IHP Pacific Working Group which met in Suva in April. See later pages for details on the three studies.

Strong Pacific interest in CSI
Trevor Sankey, the Science Adviser of the UNESCO office in Apia, has Introduced the CSI project to many partners in the Pacific through presentations and visits. In general, the project has aroused strong, positive interest in particular detailed discussions have been held with relevant staff of three regional organizations: the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), and the University of the South Pacific (USP). There are good prospects for collaboration with all these organizations on different aspects of CSI activities.
Helping integrated coastal management.
Other projects in CSI will look at coastline instability, coastal biodiversity and coastal ecosystem productivity. As results emerge from the Pacific and other regions, UNESCO will progressively apply them to support integrated coastal area management and sustainable community development in the Pacific.

Experts Meeting & Action Plan
A Pacific development specialist is expected to attend the CSI Experts Meeting, UNESCO Paris, 25-28 November 1996, together with the Science Adviser from UNESCO Office Apia. In preparation for the meeting, a draft Pacific CSI action plan will be prepared, setting UNESCO (CSI) activities within the context of Pacific coastal area management initiatives. UNESCO National Commissions will be contacted to assemble information for this, using a survey format prepared in collaboration with SPREP.

Catchments and communities
Study one will develop low cost methods to compare human impacts on different forested water catchments, and the effect of these impacts on local communities, and the surrounding environment. Following extensive preparatory work in 1995, the IHP Pacific Working Group (Suva, Fiji, April 1996) proposed a major rethink of this study due to several concerns:

  1. The original plan for the Solomon islands required a pair of catchments to be subjected to contrasting treatments during the experimental period. This is very hard to control in the Solomon Islands at present.
  2. Catchments in the region vary in characteristics and are subject to many different impacts. Opinions vary on how results from a single pair of catchments can be extrapolated for application elsewhere.
  3. Political considerations may affect participation of some prospective donors.
    On the Working Group's recommendation, preparatory work is in progress to explore possible approaches and produce a revised plan for consideration at the SOPAC session, October 1996.

Ideas under consideration

  1. Development of low cost methods to compare a large number of catchments with a wide range of characteristics and treatments. These could include areas subject to traditional use only, sustainably logged areas, fully logged areas, mining areas, and areas subject to agricultural encroachment. The methods would allow investigation of climate change effects, considered important by the Working Group.
  2. Study modules in several countries, Vanuatu, Fiji and Western Samoa are amongst the interested countries, in addition to the Solomon Islands.
  3. More extensive social and technical studies will be conducted on one or more sample catchments to calibrate the comparison methods.
  4. Preference would be given to sites suitable for multi-disciplinary studies, such as: traditional forest uses ("People & Plants" initiative), traditional and community knowledge of land and water resources, effects of runoff on nearshore marine resources, in addition to hydrological studies. For this reason, a site bordering Marovo Lagoon (Solomon Islands) was suggested. This area is being affected by logging and is also being studied for possible nomination as a World Heritage site.

Comparison techniques
Two types are currently being looked at by group members:

  1. the application of remote sensing,
  2. the use of biological monitoring in rivers to compare catchments. Investigations by several group members indicate that more extensive work is needed to determine suitable approaches, and that ecological parameters may be more useful than indicator organisms. Work is continuing.

Organizational support
Through its Division of Water Sciences, UNESCO has ensured that funding is already in place for community awareness work on possible sites in 1996 through the Solomon Islands Development Trust, a community development NGO. If the site to be selected is Marovo Lagoon, where WWF lead work at the community level, WWF are ready to cooperate. A decision on a Solomon Islands site is awaited. Once the technical possibilities are clearer, a fresh assessment of available resources and possible funding for the study will be made.

Atoll groundwater recharge
Study two examines how the amount of rainwater that enters the fresh groundwater lens on an atoll island is affected by the vegetation present, and the actions and attitudes of the local community. A literature survey has been completed by the main consultant, Dr. lan White, Australian National University, Canberra. The first phase of the study will be initiated on 9 August 1996 in Bonriki island, Kiribati. An experienced team of resource people has agreed to participate, including the same social science consultant as for study three, Dr. Leonie Crennan. This will help link the two groundwater studies. Field work will commence immediately following a SOPAC Workshop on Sanitation in Tarawa allowing sharing and interaction with SOPAC resource persons. Over a two-week period, the team of three resource persons will install equipment, train counterparts, conduct social studies and commence measurements. The main consultant will return for a second visit in October 1996. Equipment needed has been ordered by SOPAC using UNESCO funds. Training aims have been defined, and SOPAC have invited overseas trainees from the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Tuvalu, to be funded by the Commonwealth Science Council and SOPAC multi-donor funding. Local counterparts will come from several Kiribati government bodies.

Climate change & island resources
The IHP Pacific Working Group stressed that the field studies should include study of the effects of climate, linked with other regional climate work. Discussions have been held with USP and SPREP on this aspect of the project. SPREP programmes are already working to build usable climate data archives in the countries concerned. UNESCO will concentrate on collecting community knowledge.

Groundwater pollution in villages
Study three links household attitudes to the choice, siting and use of their water and sanitation facilities to the extent and characteristics of polluted groundwater in a Tongan village built on coral sand. The first field period was from 29 April - 8 May 1996. Equipment was supplied under contract through SOPAC. A team of three resource persons, hydrogeologist, social scientist and SOPAC sanitation engineer conducted initial field work with three local counterparts and two overseas trainees (Tuvalu & Western Samoa). A third trainee (Niue) was unable to attend. The science adviser attended the opening day. The equipment available was successfully installed, and the counterparts are installing some late items. Measurements were completed as planned, and in most cases yielded clear results. First indications were that the lateral movement of groundwater is very slow and hard to detect. Nonetheless it appears that, as in similar situations elsewhere, there is extensive contamination of private wells by sewage and other pollutants in the study area. The social science studies revealed a wealth of new and in some cases surprising information on household knowledge and attitudes on the siting, construction and use of private water supplies and sanitation facilities. The hydrologists, despite extensive technical experience in serving that particular community, found this information most illuminating, and it is clearly of great importance for policy determination. The training aspect of the study will be reinforced by feedback of the overall results to all trainees. Further short visits to Tonga by the main consultant, Mr. Lindsay Furness, Douglas Partners, Brisbane, and the social scientist, Dr. Leonie Crennan, University of Tasmania, will take place in the period September-November. The local counterparts will participate in field trips.

Follow up of groundwater studies
Literature surveys for the two groundwater studies will be published in late 1996 as a technical document in hydrology. Full accounts of each study including technical, social and application aspects will be prepared and published as Studies and Reports in Hydrology. Consultations will be held late in 1996 to review the initial results of the two groundwater studies and decide on a follow-up. Possibilities include:

  1. Preparation of educational material. Preferred media are videos and quality visual teaching aids for community level workers, e.g. nurses, health inspectors.
  2. Preparation of manual on conducting low cost studies of groundwater flow and pollution.
  3. Follow-up workshop to integrate study outputs.
  4. Presentation of results to Pacific Science Association Inter-congress, USP, July 1997, and other professional meetings.
  5. Further research work on same sites.
  6. Studies on new sites (possibly through UNESCO's Participation Programme). The IHP Pacific Working Group (Suva, Fiji, April 1996) also identified needs for technical and social science research on the behavior of rainwater catchment systems, and for professional development in groundwater modeling.

WASP under threat
UNESCO's main collaborator in the field studies has been the Water and Sanitation Programme (WASP) executed by SOPAC with UNDP funding. Present funding stops at the end of 1996; after that the future is uncertain. At its April meeting in Suva, UNESCO'S IHP Pacific Working Group formally recommended that 'every effort be made to secure funding for the Water and Sanitation Programme beyond 1996". The Group pointed out that "these (IHP) field studies benefit strongly from the continuation of support by a regional organization such as the Water and Sanitation Programme in SOPAC to achieve their stated educational, scientific and socioeconomic goals."

People & Plants surveys start
Pacific people have always used the plants around them to survive. To keep this culture alive, they must be able to find the plants they have traditionally used. UNESCO is funding the Pacific People & Plants network to identify culturally important plants which are now endangered. Then action to preserve them can be taken. Led by USP Professor Randy Tbaman, two community workshops in Fiji have been held, and another in Tonga is planned.

Assessing traditional forest use
A new report, commissioned under UNESCO's People & Plants programme, provides "A blueprint for assessing the impact of coastal deforestation on the traditional uses of rainforest plants in Western Samoa'. Authors were Apia based environmental forestry consultants James Atherton and Francois Martel. The report starts with a brief overview of coastal plant communities, the spread of deforestation and the main traditional uses of forest plants. It then sets out a methodology for assessment of a pair of villages with different forest resources but otherwise similar characteristics. A random sample of households would be surveyed using a questionnaire given in the report. Coupled to this would be interviews with healers, house builders and other key plant-users, and field assessment of village forest cover. All this data would be analyzed together to provide an overall assessment of the impact of deforestation.

Shore Ecology handbook
Editing work is continuing at UNESCO Office Apia to produce a new edition of the handbook "The Shore Ecology of the Tropical Pacific". Consultations with USP have provided valuable guidance.

Could an earthquake drown Suva?
Scientists at the SOPAC Technical Secretariat are looking for answers to this question, helped by a UNESCO grant. In 1953 the Suva earthquake damaged buildings and produced a tsunami wave. Using modern instruments, the study team are searching the sea floor around Suva for underwater "landslides" or slumps caused by the earthquake. By measuring the shape and properties of the slumps, the team work out how they happened, and if future slumps are likely to cause a damaging tsunami wave. Combined with other research, the study will help scientists understand the effect a large earthquake would have on present day Suva. The information is being presented in a local workshop to researchers and government officers responsible for reducing disaster risks.

Travel - Travel - Travel
Visits made by Science Adviser
15-16 April Port Vila, NatCom & science
17-19 April Honiara, Catchment study preparation
22-24 April SOPAC, Suva, IHP Pacific WG
25-26 April USP Suva, Science & geography
29-30 April Lifuka Is., Tonga, groundwater pollution study

Planned visits by Science Adviser
(Subject to confirmation)
23 August Pago Pago, Pacific Water Assoc.
2-8 October Rarotonga, SOPAC Annual Session
21-24 October Suva, Study follow-up & planning
12-14 November Nuku'alofa, Study follow-up
18-22 November Jakarta, Project prep. training
25-28 November Paris, CSI Experts meeting

For more information
For more information, please contact.
Trevor Sankey, Science Adviser
UNESCO Office Apia
P.O. Box 5766, Matautu uta P.O.
APIA, Western Samoa
Tel. No: +685 24276
Fax No: +685 22253
Email: trevor.sankey@unesco.org
If you have any comments or queries on this Update, we would be happy to hear from you. Views expressed in this Update are not necessarily those of UNESCO. Material in this Update may be reproduced freely provided acknowledgement is given.

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