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Fiji is an archipelago of more than 330 islands, but the two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 868,000, of which 53% is urban. The majority (57%) of the urban population reside in the Greater Suva Area which consists of Suva City—the national capital—as well as the towns of Lami, Nasinu, and Nausori and their surrounding peri-urban areas. By 2023, the population of the Greater Suva Area is expected to grow by 12.8%.
The Waimanu River is the only raw water source for the Waila and Tamavua water treatment plants which currently serve the Greater Suva Area. Due to rapid urbanization, both water treatment plants are running 24 hours per day at full capacity and at times cannot meet peak demands. In some of the peri-urban areas, families have traditionally relied on ground water and rainwater collection to supply water for domestic and agricultural uses. More frequent and longer dry periods have made these sources un-reliable, and have increased the demand for a connection to the piped water supply network. However, the existing system has no spare capacity to justify extending the network to peri-urban areas or new growth areas. As a consequence of increased demand for water, some of the served areas suffer intermittent service especially during drought periods, when the Waimanu River flow is insufficient to operate the plants at their full production capacity, and during periods of high rainfall, when the Waimanu waters become highly turbid, reducing the output of both plants as the filters require more frequent backwashing. These challenges will be further exacerbated by increasing climate variability due to the impending effects of climate change and the expected changes in rainfall patterns and increases in extreme rainfall events, which foreshadow more frequent interruptions to supply into the future.
The Water Authority of Fiji (WAF) proposed to design and construct a new water intake by the Rewa River as well as a pumping station, water treatment plant, treated water reservoir and a pipeline to boost the water supply by 40,000 m3 per day. In addition to the financial effort and technical complexities of delivering such a large infrastructure project, WAF had to include climate change considerations in the design of the project and adapt the proposed investment to increased risk of floods and droughts, and to mitigate against salinity intrusion due to the predicted sea level rise. The project adaptation measures will improve resilience through appropriate siting of the intake higher up the river catchment, beyond the projected limit of the salinity wedge moving up the river system due to sea-level rise, and lower river flows during pronounced droughts. While all the water sources are still reliant on surface water, the impacts on stream flows associated with future climate change are lesser in the much larger Rewa River system. By constructing a new raw water intake at the Rewa River an additional water supply source will be established. This will provide WAF flexibility to maintain supply in drought periods, meet the demands of projected growth in the greater Suva area, and to serve areas along the Korovou-Nausori corridor that are prone to severe drought and currently rely on on-site ground water sources. The program also proposes to develop Water Safety Plan and Rewa River Catchment Management Plan to safeguard the water source from the potential future impacts of development, ensuring long term sustainability.
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The Fijian Government is committed to increasing access to drinking water supply and requested the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support WAF investment to increase production of drinking water to ensure un-interrupted service to 291,000 people, which is the projected population within the Greater Suva service area in 2018. Although improving water supply and wastewater management is considered essential to Fiji’s sustainable development, Fiji’s current debt levels constrain its ability to fund such vital adaptation measures. The Government of Fiji therefore solicited financial resources from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) through ADB, as accredited entity lead financier of the project. The project is among the first projects that were approved by the GCF Board in November 2015.
These adaptation measures, needed to ensure the long term sustainability of the water supply system, are a substantial component of the cost of providing such infrastructure. While investments in water and wastewater treatment have a strong social, economic, and environmental return to Fiji, the financial returns are limited. Recognizing the vulnerable situation of Fiji as a small island developing state, the GCF agreed to provide $31.04 million in grant funding to allow Fiji to undertake vital adaptation measures, as part of the overall $128 million required for the new water supply system, without either reducing funding for other high priority development needs or increasing its risk of debt distress.
What we have learned
Large climate infrastructure projects may require significant concessional co-financing. The adaptation measures under the project will be made possible through the GCF grant. The Fiji Ministry of Economy is supporting this initiative through additional financial support. The ADB, the EIB, and the GCF are providing financial assistance to Fiji for this project as part of a larger $405.1 million investment program.
Large infrastructure projects are complex and require the commitment and strong ownership of different agencies and organizations. Climate change considerations add to the complexity because it is a new area of expertise and available data required to carry out analysis and development of adaptation strategies is limited, particularly in countries with weak institutional capacity. Coordination among the different institutions was only possible thanks to the strong ownership by the Fijian Government and to the long and trusting working relationship between the WAF and the ADB.