Zanzibar — ANXIETY about circumstantial eviction is growing among more than six thousand people living on Kisiwapanza Island, one of the inhabited islands in Pemba due to rising sea level.
They now fear they may in the near future be forced to leave their beloved homes for safety.
People living on Kisiwapanza have been witnessing negative impacts of climate change and yet adaptation and mitigation efforts in the area are just beginning to take course. Mzee Chum Abdallah 'Lambika', 71, a resident of Kisiwapanza says the destruction
of historical graves near the beach, salinization of boreholes (traditional wells) and farms are some of the visible problems caused by rising sea.
"Some years ago, one of the Zanzibar leaders jokingly said that we should vacate this small island because it was about to sink, but the joke may turn to be true in the near future. We are trying to apply adopting methods, but our grandchildren may not have the chance to continue living on this beautiful island," Mzee Chum says. Mr Sihaba Haji Vuai, acting director of environment in the First vice president's office says that negative impact of climate change in Kisiwapanza is devastating.
He also mentioned Tumbe and Nungwi as other areas being affected by climate change, but also attributes to unfriendly human activities. "As mitigation and adaptation strategies we are discouraging people from unnecessary cutting down of trees, mainly the mangroves, avoid farming close to the sea, enforce the law restricting the construction of tourists hotels close to the beach (30 metres away from the beach), and construct new boreholes free from salinity," Vuai said.
He says that effective mitigation and adaptation methods would be applied after the planned study by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) on the impact of climate change on people and national economy. An environment expert from DFID is expected to arrive in Zanzibar next Friday for the study. "The finding will give an idea on the scale of the problem in Zanzibar, but it is still too early to think of evicting people from Kisiwapanza isle although it is worrying.
Proper mitigation and adaptation method will help minimize the problem," Vuai said. Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein and his assistants Mr Seif Sharif Hamad, and Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi have also raised concern over the negative impacts of climate change saying warning at different occasions that Zanzibar faces considerable environmental challenges which include indiscriminate felling of trees, poor solid and liquid waste disposal, sand quarrying, stone quarrying, electronic garbage and plastic bags.
The problems were also reflected in recent 'International Symposium on impacts, Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in small Islands Developing States; Implications to poverty reduction' as speakers at the 1st ever international gathering on climate change in Zanzibar gave different presentations. Sheona Shackeleton from Rhodes University- South Africa said at the gathering that "climate change is a reality and adaptation a necessity not a choice, and this applies nowhere more so than amongst small island states and coastal areas."
Ahmada Khatib of the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) was of the opinion that despite the approval of the disaster management Act. No.20/2006, nothing has been put into practice, suggesting some alert warning system as a practical method to 'disseminate the information towards the forthcoming dangers, improvement of disaster management unit, enactment of laws and regulations, public awareness campaigns, strengthening disaster management training, and launching of the disaster relief fund.'
Pius Yanda from University of Dar es Salaam argues that most small islands are highly vulnerable to climate change; sea level rising is
causing beach erosion and degradation of coastal areas. "Sea level threatens tourism industry through damage to tourism infrastructure, and loss property which would consequently reduce the potential economic benefits of tourism, due to reduced tourist arrivals," he said.
Kelly Horton from Australia also observed that Zanzibar Islands are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate, many of which have already begun to be experienced. But, he says despite the acknowledgement of a need for swift and meaningful action on climate change in Zanzibar, this has proved slow and inefficient as result of structural challenges within the Tanzania and Zanzibar Governments.
He said that the mainland Tanzania's submissions to the UNFCCC under the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) have not effectively addressed the Zanzibar specific impacts and island-appropriate adaptation strategies, leaving a gaping hole in climate policy and neglect of the citizens of Zanzibar. To overcome this, Horton suggests a re-designed framework of climate change governance and that environmental autonomy is needed to ensure the most positive outcomes for the Zanzibar archipelago, "the provision of enhanced autonomy for Zanzibar from Tanzania government in regards to climate change adaptation would likely prove to be highly effective due to the unique challenges faced by Zanzibar."
This, he argues, would allow Zanzibar to pursue funding and support from the UNFCCC for adaptation and mitigation to climate change, as well as to focus upon successful models of adaptation and mitigation from other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) namely the strategies outlined in the Mauritius Strategy.
A new framework for climate change governance would allow Zanzibar to hold a significantly stronger position in tackling the complex challenges posed by climate change, as he warns that without this Zanzibar is at great risk of falling further behind its SIDS neighbours, and will face an uncertain future for both people and environment. President Shein also observes that small island communities, such as Zanzibar, are very vulnerable to climate change and yet have limited capacity to respond to the impacts caused by environment disasters.
He said rising of sea level, failing monsoons, food insecurity, recurring droughts, depleted fisheries, and the increased coastal erosion have been unbearable in east African region including Zanzibar. "With land becoming a scarce commodity under forces of beach erosion, and the recorded cases of salt water intrusion in all the districts of the islands of Unguja and Pemba becoming conspicuous, the hazards of coastal flooding have already been rated very high in six out of ten districts of Zanzibar," said Shein as he pledges to work with development partners to ensure the long-term goal of sustainable development as the world head to green economy.
He said failure to act now would give Zanzibar communities less time to adapt to the impacts of climate change and the consequences would be more costly especially if mitigation efforts and adaptation measures are postponed through lack of finance or human skills.