Kiribati’s sandy beaches are a key defence against strong tides, currents and waves. For many years, those beaches have also provided sand and gravel for construction, leading to erosion along parts of the South Tarawa coastline.

Working with European Union (EU) and the Pacific Community (SPC), the Kiribati Government is taking steps to protect the fragile beaches of their small island nation.

The Environmentally Safe Aggregates for Tarawa (ESAT) project began in 2007 with funding from the EU. Key to success is a 40 metre steel barge, MV Tekimarawa, which extracts aggregate gravel from the lagoon floor, reducing damage to
South Tarawa’s beaches caused by unsustainable sand and gravel mining.

Land-based aggregate processing equipment and vehicles are also part of the package provided to the state-owned company, Te Atinimarawa (TACL), that employs around 30 people.

The EUR 5.2 million project is being implemented by the Kiribati Government with scientific and technical assistance from our Geoscience Division, with extensive community involvement. It is a pragmatic response, providing an environmentally sustainable alternative to unregulated mining, said SPC Deputy Director-General, Audrey Aumua. It bolsters resilience in natural beach systems, while calling on people’s entrepreneurial spirit to create a state-owned enterprise, she said.

The ESAT project has shown that high-quality aggregate can be extracted from the lagoon environments in a sustainable way, supported by accompanying environmental impact studies.

This is particularly important as the small island nation of just 811 square kms had had no alternative to the beaches when seeking construction materials.

An Environmental Management Plan is now in place, developed by the government and the SPC and managed by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development and the Ministry of Fisheries, Mineral Resource Development.

The project highlights the positive results of climate change adaptation that is empowering communities to protect their fragile beaches while creating jobs and boosting development.

This long-running project will finish in December 2016 and be handed over to TACL, one of Kiribati’s first state-owned enterprises (SOEs). “TACL, was the first new SOE to be set up completely under the 2013 SOE legislation,” said Kiribati Minister for Finance and Economic Development, Dr Teuea Toatu. It now has 29 staff and a revenue in 2015 of more than a million dollars.

Visiting the project in June 2016, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said that the European Union has been and will remain a reliable partner to Kiribati. “My visit here confirms our cooperation in addressing the socio-economic development and challenges related to climate change. We value the strong foundations of our partnership and remain committed to contributing to the wellbeing of Kiribati people.”

Highlights

Sand and gravel mined for construction work has eroded beaches on Kiribati
The ESAT project is working to protect the beaches, with support from the government, SPC and the EU
Aggregate gravel is now taken from the lagoon floor via a 40-metre steel barge

Related links

ESAT Project