Vanuatu to include future climate change impacts in roading projects

Future roading projects in Vanuatu will now have to consider the projected impacts of climate change.

The new Vanuatu Road Design Guide was a joint project between Climate Information Services for Resilient Development Planning in Vanuatu (VanKIRAP) and the Vanuatu Public Works Department (PWD).

The new guide incorporates the projected impacts of future climate change into the nation's official manual of road construction. This will allow PWD's road engineers to factor in projections for extreme rainfall and sea level rise into the planning, construction, and maintenance of the nation's road network.

In a ceremony on Friday, September 8, at PWD headquarters, the PWD director Henry Worek accepted the updated Vanuatu Road Design Guide from VanKIRAP consultant Robert Hardy, who produced the guide, together with the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD) director Montin Romone, and VanKIRAP's Project Management Unit's Moirah Matou.

PWD's acting principal road engineer Nathan Tabi said the new guide "will be a huge help to Vanuatu's road maintenance".

Factoring climate change into the design of future roads is crucial, as Vanuatu has been described as one of the most vulnerable nations in the Pacific.

Matou said in the past years standard practice had been to use historical data as well as climate data to give guidance on how to design better roads based on past records.

"But with new enhanced information through the project, we have integrated it into the road design guide, so that the designs look into the future of the roads, example how big they should be and how wide they should be. So that it can withstand extreme heavy rainfall, and flooding."

PWD engineer Raviky Talae said the guide, which now sits with PWD, is a step in the right direction.

"This will be one of the key documents that they will have to follow to review the designs for them to actually to confident that they are building a resilient infrastructure."

Talae said that PWD cannot design for total resilience due to budget constraints, but at least they have a fair idea of what's coming and then can decide on which design parameters are more applicable to cater for these kinds of events.

SPREP's representative in Vanuatu Sunny Kamuta Seuseu said the increased frequency of cyclones and hazards like flooding and strong winds can impact key infrastructures like roads or bridges, creating problems elsewhere.

"Other parts of the economy are also impacted like people visiting hospitals, trade, and businesses, so we need to ensure that these infrastructures' lifeline, infrastructure that connects people, and that the economy continues to be able to operate even after tropical cyclones and severe weather events," Seuseu said.