A lesson in local governance and environmental management for small island states
Seychelles, April 16, 2016: A three-day study tour to Seychelles organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), under the UN joint programme Low Emmission Climate Resilient Development (LECReD) concluded today. This was the first international study tour conducted under the LECReD programme, currently being piloted in Laamu Atoll, which seeks to mainstream issues such as low carbon lifestyles, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction into local development planning and service delivery for greater community-level ownership and sustainability.
“Despite the differences in how the Maldives and the Seychelles are formed, both are Small Island Developing States, and there are similarities in the social and environmental issues we face,” Director General of the Laamu Atoll Council, Mohamed Jameel stated as the group concluded the final day of their study tour to Seychelles. Along with Jameel, the study tour was attended by 14 participants from Laamu Atoll, and one from the Local Government Authority, along with LECReD staff of UNDP.
This study tour focused on the local governance system in the Seychelles, as well as the management and benefits of protected areas, low emission and climate resilient projects, and how environment and disaster related activities are carried out in addressing these issues. On the first day of the study tour, information sessions were held for the participants on environment projects supported by UNDP Seychelles. Sessions also focused on Seychelles environment policies and best practices; protected areas and marine spatial planning; Disaster Risk Management and disaster preparedness; information on the Local Governance Bill of 2015; and an information session by the Department of Community Development on district representation.
“The information provided by the experts in various areas, especially areas such as water, waste management and disaster preparedness has made us realize how similar the issues faced by the two island nations are. The need for a sustainable development plan is very much evident in both countries,” stated Hussain Nizam, a council member representing Laamu Atoll Maavah Council, following the sessions on the first day.
As Seychelles gears towards protecting 30% of its marine environment, a field visit was conducted to the St. Anne Marine National Park on the second day of the tour. Experts shared their knowledge on how they rehabilitate coral ecosystems in the Seychelles, and the various methods they use to mitigate impacts of coral bleaching. Participants had the opportunity to see the bleaching conditions of the reefs, and were given an informative tour around the island which showcased the land based protected areas.
“Laamu can also be made a protected area. Having a similar protected area in the Maldives will attract more tourists, which will definitely be economically and ecologically beneficial for not only the entire atoll, but the country as well,” observed Farhadh Mohamed, Vice-President of Gaadhoo Council.
On the final day of the tour, participants had the chance to see the watersheds in the area of Baie Lazare - an area where water shortages occur annually. The community of Baie Lazare works together to ensure water sustainability by investing in the growth of native vegetation, and getting rid of invasive species to sustain wetlands in its natural ecosystem.
“I have learnt that communities can work together towards finding solutions to issues they face, without depending too much on their governments. I know that we can do the same thing in our islands. We can incorporate what we learnt, as we prepare our local development planning processes, so that we can find ways to bring our own voice to our development script,” President of Laamu Fonadhoo Council, Ahmed Riyaz said.
In addition to the sessions and field visits, participants also had the chance to see energy efficiency projects. They visited the Central Bank of Seychelles, where its entire energy source was derived from solar panels installed on the roof. The group also visited the Wind Farm in Mahe’ – the largest island in the Seychelles, and observed the mechanisms of wind turbines. “We learnt that at maximum yield, the 8 turbines can produce enough energy to drastically cut down diesel consumption, which results in immense annual savings for the national economy,” said Aishath Nashfa Ismail, a LECReD project officer from UNDP.