'Building with Nature' Coastal Protection

The rising sea level and loss of mangrove forests are endangering the Weg naar Zee resort of the district Wanica, Suriname. This resort is well-known as the “vegetable-garden” of Paramaribo, the capitol of Suriname.

Due to frequent inundation, resulting from dam breach and/or overtopping of the dam during high water, the productivity of the farmers in this resort is decreasing. In addition, a community of fishermen is found here, whose conditions are worsening due to the strong on-going coastal erosion. There are also two important religious and cultural sites in this area: the pilgrimage of the Hindus and a traditional crematory.

The upwelling due to the storm surges and heightened spring tide cause increasingly high damage. This is especially true for locations where mangroves have been removed. The waves approach the shoreline with minimum loss of energy and hit hard on the shoreline. Since the coast is comprised of fine sediments originated from the Amazon catchment area, a relatively weak disturbance in the hydrology (and the hydraulic of sea water) may affect the unprotected soil at the shoreline. 

If sustainable measures remain lacking, these adverse developments will encroach further to other areas such as the north of Paramaribo. Untill the 'Building with Nature' project started no other mitigation measures have been taken in this area, only protection measures. Prior to 2013, earthen dams were constructed to protect the land from inundation, however these measures proved to be ineffective. In 2013, decisions were made to initiate concrete constructions. However, these constructions have been ineffective under the present climatic and geological conditions.

The Building with Nature Project: objectives
The main objective of this project is to prove the application opportunities of a soft technique to mitigate coastal erosion (drastically) through application of wave breaking and sediment trapping, thereby promoting the rehabilitation of the mangrove ecosystem. The hypothesis is that protection of the coast can only be obtained if there is a balance between deposition and erosion.

The above mentioned approach is based on the continue flow of sediments along the coastline in the west ward direction. Huge amounts of Amazon river sediment is passing by. Making use of this opportunity may approve to be a sustainable solution for coastal protection and coastal management in the future. This approach will further enhance the mitigation process through formation of additional new lands where mangrove will grow, an ecosystem which provides breeding and feeding place for a number of species, including the migrating birds from the north. 

Proposed Solution: Building with Nature
A narrow wooden dam, will be implanted in the shallow waters adjacent to the coastline of Weg naar Zee. This soft structure is called a sediment trapping unit (STU). This STU will mimic the root system of the mangrove in such a way that promotes deposition of the sediments. During the flood when the turbulent seawater, laden with sediment, penetrates into this sediment trapping construction, it becomes less turbulent or even tranquil, in the same way when the sea water penetrates mangroves; this promotes the depositions of the sediments.

The water flow out of the “sediment trapping system” is relatively weak and clean. The coast of Suriname experiences a diurnal tide, indicating that twice a day the flood and ebb tide occurs, bringing a huge amount of suspended sediments to the coastline. When this STU is established, degradation of the immediate coastline and the coastal zone is expected to reduce drastically, thereby creating new hydraulic conditions for mangrove juveniles to grow. With the recovery of mangroves, many species will return to this area and the ecosystem services may once again contribute to the livelihood of the community. In addition, the shoreline will get naturally adapted as the sea level will keep rising. Disaster risks due to climate change will be lower.

The deposition of sediment and return of mangroves will be monitored by the Department of Infrastructure of the Faculty of Technological Sciences of the Anton de Kom University of Suriname (AdeKUS), resulting in a new set of data. During the development of the STU’s open access data, products, tools and approaches will be used.

The largest part (3000 or more people) of the local community will benefit from this protection, including local farmers, bee keepers, and individuals associated with the Pilgrimage and the cremation sites. In a later stadium, the community will be trained in restoration techniques of the STU’s.

Conservation International aims to reduce the vulnerability of local communities by assessing the potential for Eco system based adaptation solutions for disaster reduction. We have done EbA pilots in the Philippines, South Africa and Brazil and are now implementing the developed EbA solutions for disaster reduction in other countries, like Suriname.

Local donors believe in the project
For this project Conservation International Suriname will partner with AdeKUS: The Anton de Kom University of Suriname. This institute is an authoritative and respected institute in Suriname and the region that stands for high qualified scientific education, research and services to sustainable social development. 

We will work together with the chair “Climate Change and Water” of Professor Siewnath Naipal, resorting under the department of Infrastructure of the Faculty of Technological Sciences (FTeW). The associated partner has the following research lines:
-  climate change and water resources;
-  climate change and adaptation.

The Friends of Green Suriname program have sponsored the construction of the first wooden dam in the pilot phase. After its proven success, the Dutch Embassy and the Staatsolie Foundation for Community Development sponsored the construction of an additional five wooden dams at Weg naar Zee.

The kick-off for the construction of these five wooden dams was given on May 17th. The Minister of Public Works was present and said he is keeping an eye on the project and its results. He gave a compliment to Professor Naipal for his work to protect the coast in this vulnerable area and said he is available for support during the remainder of the project.In a small ceremony the donors placed the first six poles of walaba wood at the mangrove information board.