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Reclaiming the land in the Seychelles

A year ago coastal erosion was making the communities on the west coast of Mahé worried, told Alain de Comarmond, Director General at the Ministry of Environment and Energy in the Seychelles. Soon children will be playing on reclaimed land. 

 

Alain De Comarmond from the Ministry of Environment and Energy in the Seychelles
at the coastal rehabilitation site in Anse La Mouche. 

 

"We came to the Seychelles to learn more about coastal management practices, coastal erosion and local land use practices," says Ilan Kelman, co-project leader for the Many Strong Voices programme.

The Seychelles is an Island country in the Indian Ocean. With about 90.000 inhabitants it is one of the smallest countries in the world. The Seychellois live across 115 islands, covering an area of 1.3 million square kilometers of the Indian Ocean.

As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), life in the Seychelles is characterized by a number of challenges relating to the small land area, limited land-based natural resources and high environmental vulnerability. The primary industries here are linked to tourism and the state of the natural environment, which makes the Seychelles vulnerable to climate change and the impacts of human activity.

The Many Strong Voices team was given a tour of the coastal erosion management site at Anse La Mouche on the island of Mahé’s west coast. One year ago this site was being heavily affected by coastal erosion.

Today coastal protection measures have regained 15 to 20 meters of land, explained Alain de Comarmond, Director General at the Ministry of Environment and Energy in the Seychelles, speaking of the site at Anse A La Mouche. 


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The government is now moving from phase one to phase two of the coastal protection work, and is initiating a landscaping project. It is not enough to reclaim the land from the sea, it also needs to be reclaimed by the local inhabitants.

"We are turning this area into a coastal park for the local community. This is to bring more ownership to the project in the local community," says De Comarmond.

According to De Comarmond, erosion worried many of the local inhabitants, and that it is now important that the reclaimed coastline is shaped in a way that the local community can start enjoying the place once again.

Coastal erosion is however not something that is exclusive to SIDS.

"Though the surroundings are different, the people of the Arctic region share many of the same challenges in the face of climate change as the people on SIDS," says Kelman.

Linking Arctic and SIDS

Communities in the Arctic and on SIDS share many of the same characteristics. They are isolated and their culture is heavily rooted in their environment. While rising sea temperatures may lead to coral bleaching, death to coral reefs and damaging the fishing grounds around islands, rising temperatures may also melt sea ice in the Arctic making hunting more difficult. Sea ice is a major transportation route for the Inuit and unstable or thinning ice, or ice melting at the wrong time, threatens both their ability to hunt and their lives.

Coastal erosion in Shishmaref, Alaska. Photo: Portraits of Resilience

Coral reefs often form a protective shield around small SIDS, protecting them from waves. Similarily sea ice often forms a protective shield against the winter storms roaring in from the Arctic's seas. The degradation of both sea ice and coral reefs may thus lead to increased coastal erosion in both the Arctic and in the SIDS.

"This is the aim of the Many Strong Voices programme, to link the two worlds," explain John Crump Senior Advisor for Climate Change at GRID-Arendal, and co-project leader of Many Strong Voices. 

"Both the SIDS and the Arctic are at the frontlines of climate change, and that is why we are working with these regions, and bringing them together," says Crump.