The coastal and oceanic ecosystems deliver services vital to the wellbeing and livelihoods of local communities. Fishing grounds provide food and sustainable incomes, and mangroves help manage flooding, prevent coastal erosion and purify water. Meanwhile the coastline’s considerable natural beauty attracts tourists from around the world, boosting the region’s economy.
The damage caused by urbanization, industry, agriculture, commercial fisheries and other socio-economic activities is a matter of grave concern to all who benefit from the marine and coastal environments. Pollution directly affects human health and degrades water quality. Rapid coastal development destroys mangrove forests, sea grass beds and coral reefs, thereby reducing fish stocks and biodiversity.
Population growth imposes further stress, with the inhabitants of many major coastal cities along the East African coast expected to double in the coming quarter century.
The project - Addressing land-based activities in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO-LaB)
Preserving the natural beauty and goods and services provided by these vital coastal and marine resources requires careful and coordinated management. Unfortunately competing economic priorities, the difficulties of transboundary governance and sometimes insufficient government capacity complicate the situation.
UNEP launched the WIO-LaB project in July 2004 to address these complex challenges. The project is funded jointly by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Norway, UNEP and participating governments in the WIO region: the Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, the Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania.
Implemented by UNEP and executed by the Nairobi Convention Secretariat and UNOPS, the project helps participating governments and institutions develop the capacity and regulatory frameworks needed to manage the ecosystem effectively. In particular, the Project serves as a demonstration project for the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA).
Significant successes have been achieved in each of the project’s three target areas:
Improving regional knowledge of environmental issues and establishing and demonstrating successful strategies in improving water and sediment quality
The project has addressed the need for knowledge and information about environmental issues. This has been achieved in several ways, including a region-wide water quality monitoring programme and the development of a Regional Clearinghouse Mechanism for information related to the WIO coastal and marine environment.
Demonstration projects have provided effective examples of how to address problems through innovative and cost-effective methods. Such projects include planting vetiver grass to prevent erosion and to control drainage from an abandoned landfill site in Dar es Salaam, and constructing artificial wetland systems to manage wastewater at Shimo La Tewa Prison in Mombasa (pictured above) and Chake-Chake Town on Pemba Island, Tanzania.
These projects have been designed to have low construction and maintenance costs in order to ensure sustainability, while producing significant environmental, social and economic benefits in the region.
They also contribute to achieving Millennium Development Goal targets on sanitation. Other efforts focus on community-based coastal zone management and mangrove forest conservation, as well as soil erosion control and solid waste management.
Strengthening regional legal systems to address land-based sources and activities that affect the coastal and marine environment
Major achievements in this area include the drafting of a protocol governing land-based sources and activities. At its fifth meeting in late 2007, the Conference of the Parties to the Nairobi Convention agreed on a process for finalizing and adopting the draft text.
National programmes of action are being developed for Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania and South Africa. The project has also elaborated regional guidelines for environmental assessment.
Develop regional capacity for sustainable, environment-friendly development
An extensive, transboundary diagnostic study has identified and analysed the region’s key environmental issues. On the basis of this comprehensive assessment, a Strategic Action Programme for land-based sources and activities management has been developed to pave the way for long-term cooperation among the countries of the WIO region.
The project has furthermore assessed regional capacities and has implemented numerous training, educational and awareness-raising activities. Various new platforms for cooperation between government agencies and institutions, NGOs, research and academic institutions and the private sector have been established.
As an executing partner UNOPS provides financial and administrative support such as contracting personnel, administering GEF funds, managing designated project activities and reporting to project oversight bodies. In performing this role UNOPS helps develop the capacity of government and non-governmental institutions that play a key role in the implementation of the WIO-LaB project.