Very unfortunate for Lelata residents
I think it is very unfortunate for the residents of Lelata what has happened to them in terms of the flooding events of the past few years.
They do have to understand however that these events are going to repeat, and likely more frequently, in the coming years. Mr. Bartley is correct, and the engineers know, that the bridge raising is not to save the residents from flooding themselves, that much is obvious.
Here we’re seeing a very real impact of climate change. The more intense rainfall events leading to these flash floods are the norm for the future. Lelata residents may be the first example of those living next to rivers that will have to look at their options of building river walls (not seawalls), or leaving the area altogether.
Government agencies like MNRE and MWTI should do assessment works in follow up to their vulnerability assessments of years past to identify new risk areas to people like the Lelata residents and develop options for them, and assign the responsibility of actions to follow.
In my view, I would rezone the areas along the banks of the Lelata river, from its maidenhead all the way down to the Vaisigano bridge.
The Government then work with communities along the river to rezone those areas considered of high risk to flash flooding so that no new houses and other infrastructure are built along the riverbank.
I feel for the families in Lelata, they are in a flood plain now, and there is no longer much value other than their personal assignment of it, to their lands and properties; these will clearly wash away along with the river in the future.
But if government is kind enough to act fast enough and accordingly seek some assistance to develop some civil defenses such as the walls they are asking for, then a technological advancement of a kind not seen before as a direct CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISASTER ADAPTATION/RESILIENCE measure, can be made an example of to the world.
For now, while there remains three more months of the cyclone season for Samoa, I wish the Bartley’s and other Lelata residents the best.