Na Gone Turaga na Tui Macuata;
Kina Yavusa Matainubulevu;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
It’s wonderful to be back in Raviravi Village.
When I was here this past June, you told us your community needed a new seawall. We listened. Then and there I made you a promise that one would be built to keep you safe from the rising seas. Today, that promise has been delivered.
This 146-metre long seawall was built by the Ministry of Waterways and Environment in 45 days –– a remarkable efficient effort suited to the urgency of your situation.
This seawall is an ingenious combination of human-made and nature-based solutions to provide protection that is more effective and less expensive than a concrete wall. The use of boulders reduced construction costs, and the mangroves planted in front of the wall and vetiver planted behind the wall provide extra protection for their ability to absorb and contain tidal flows.
The mangroves are the first line of defense, as they have always been in Fiji, and the vetiver is the last line. The vetiver forms a strong hedge. Its deep roots hold in the soil, and it can thrive even in soil that has been inundated by seawater.
Friends, Raviravi is not alone in needing such protection. Across Fiji, sea level rise is eroding shorelines, threatening communities which have thrived on our coasts for generations. Depending on the area, seawalls can sometimes suffice. In other instances, entire communities must be relocated. My friends, this is the sad reality of climate change –– a crisis Fijians have done next to nothing to cause, but which is hitting our people extremely hard.
No one living in Raviravi needs a lecture on the costs of climate impacts. Your community has already seen three (3) homes lost to the rising seas.
But this new seawall now forms a powerful buffer between you and the continued heartbreak of watching the community you have built be washed away.
Raviravi is a special community with a special relationship with the natural world. As we all know, many here make a living sustainably cultivating pearls. Now, your community is home to a new seawall which offers more than protection, it is an entire
eco-system itself. The mangroves take carbon out of the air, protect coral reefs by holding in soil, and are home to shell-fish and other marine life, providing your community with a new source of sustenance. So, this nature-based solution does more than build resilience, it strengthens our protection of nature and the life which shares our planet. And it strengthens the bond with nature your people share.
Friends, this past week I took part in the United Nations General Assembly, the annual meeting between the world’s Leaders. Due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, I did not go to New York. Instead, I took part virtually. That was okay with me –– I’d much rather spend my time here with you. But even an ocean away, Fiji made our voice heard loud and clear on the issue of climate change.
At the UNGA, Fiji delivered a powerful message on the need for the highly industrialised nations to reduce their carbon emissions which, the science tells us, are responsible for the stronger storms, rising seas, longer droughts and more serious flooding seen in Fiji and around the world. When I press the world for climate action, I do so for the villagers of Raviravi. I do so for vulnerable communities everywhere who are on the frontlines of climate impacts. And I do so for our children whose future lies within our collective hands.
But while there is still a tremendous amount of work that must be done, the good news is that Fiji is not alone. We have many friends around the world who speak together with us on this issue. Together, we are making a difference, we are helping build a world where all people can live with security, and where all life on the planet is protected.
Still, we cannot relent until our mission is achieved. Here at home, we must do everything within our power to protect our people from the climate change impacts which are already upon us. Your Government’s ears are open to the challenges you face, we will hear your concerns. But we will do more than listen –– we will deliver, as we have delivered today.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.