IMG_1451aThe Tuvalu Borrow Pits Rehabilitation Project, funded by New Zealand, aims to improve the living standards of communities living in Funafuti by filling in up to 10 borrow pits located on Funafuti Atoll and improving water and sanitation services. The project also aims to improve the Island’s resilience to the impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels, flooding and storm damage. Filling the Borrow Pits would increase the land available on Funafuti for housing, food production and recreation.

The project plans to obtain sand from Funafuti lagoon using a suction dredge to fill borrow pits on Fogafale and Tegako, to replace about 200,000 cubic metres of material that was extracted during World War II to build the runway. The dredging of materials from Funafuti lagoon will be done by an international contractor (Hall Contracting) who will bring the necessary equipment from overseas. The project will have a proper environmental management plan and dredging work would be carefully monitored.

DredgeThe dredged materials would be conveyed by a floating pipeline or barge from the extraction area in the sea, over the land and across the road (with covering to allow traffic to pass) and deposited into the borrow pits. Borrow pits would be over-filled in order to raise the level of the land in and immediately around each borrow pit. This will help protect the land against rising sea levels and flooding during high tides.  Leftover dredged material could be stored for other uses.  Filling the pits is not simple as the finished land levels need to fit with the existing houses that are built in the borrow pits and must not have adverse effects, such as draining stormwater into the houses.

At Tegako there is a breach in the ocean side storm ridge and this will be repaired as part of the filling of the Borrow Pit at that location. The existing rubbish in two of the borrow pits used as landfills in the past will be excavated and transferred to the landfill on Tegako. These excavated areas will be filled together with the rest of the borrow pits.

Initial Feasibility Assessments

Coral Monitoring copyFour different kinds of assessments were undertaken to ensure the project’s success, suitability and environmental safety.

Engineering Assessment: to make preliminary calculations based on detailed borrow pit survey data collected in February 2014. The data were used to work out where and how to procure the sand fill, to consider the most suitable levels to fill the pits, to confirm the best methods of filling the borrow pits and how to complete any other associated engineering work.

Unexploded Ordinance Assessment: to ensure that any leftover explosive devices from World War II were identified and can be removed prior to or during project implementation for the safety of all people.

BPsEnvironmental Impact Assessment: to ensure that environmental permissions are obtained and that any negative environmental impacts were fully understood and minimised. This includes impacts on marine resources where fill is obtained and on the land that is to be rehabilitated. A preliminary environmental assessment report (PEAR) was carried out in accordance with the laws of Tuvalu and Government of New Zealand policies to ensure that there will be no significant loss of resources or ecosystems. An Environmental Management Plan was also developed to include monitoring of all project work carried out.

Social Impact Assessment: to ensure that all those involved (including landowners, current residents of the borrow pits, Falekaupule (traditional island leaders), Kaupule (Island Council) and Government) and all groups of people (including women, youth and persons with disabilities) had the opportunity to express their views and become part of the design of the project. The assessment was based on a ‘do no harm’ philosophy that recognised the rights of all people who may be affected by the project and tried to find “win-win” solutions to any concerns or issues that were identified. This assessment recognized the rights and needs of borrow pit land-owners, land-users and current residents and the importance of full public disclosure of information about the project. Land owner and resident consultations were be used to ensure that the voices of all people were heard and that any issues of concern and ideas that people had were used in designing the project. A preliminary survey of borrow pit households was completed in April 2014 to ensure project stakeholders had a good understanding of the circumstances of people currently living in the borrow pits as this was recognised as important for project planning.

The Project is now Underway

The project has now received all approvals and is set to start this month, now that the Westerly Season and risks of cyclones has passed. The barge and equipment arrived this week and the work teams are setting up to begin dredging before the end of the month. More updates to follow as work begins.