Maloa Urban Resilience Initiative
Lead implementer: Mercy Corps
Partners: Maloa Watershed Management Council (MWMC), the National Disaster Management Directorate (NDMD), the Secretary of State for Civil Protection, the Ministry of Public Works, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Forestry, as well as five local organizations.
The impacts of climate change are particularly severe for poor and marginalized populations, who are more dependent on the environment for their livelihoods, and who have few resources or capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Many people in the Maloa watershed in particular depend on the stability of the watershed area for income, and their economic situation is threatened by climate change and increasing shocks and stresses, made worse by poor governance and city planning. In early April 2021, severe flooding and landslides brought about by Tropical Cyclone Seroja affected approximately 33,177 households across all 13 municipalities of the country, the majority in Dili. Most households (78%) surveyed by Mercy Corps in the Maloa watershed reported being affected by the flooding. Climate projections show that wet season rainfall will increase by 20% by 2070, with greater variability in the wet season, alongside increasing temperatures and sea level rise of around 0.76 m by 2100. This is likely to worsen major flood events and periods of drought and water scarcity, especially for the poorest and marginalized populations.
To improve the climate resilience of the Maloa watershed, through landscape and ecosystem management to support environmental, economic and social development in Dili.
The urban population of Dili, the capital and largest city in East Timor, accounts for 30% of the population of Timor-Leste. Dili is expanding into some of the most economically attractive but ecologically vulnerable terrain, including coastal areas and flood plains, where the natural environment is being compromised by infrastructure growth; leaving concentrated populations more vulnerable to extreme weather events and the effects of climate change. Heavy rain during the wet season, coupled with widespread deforestation, road construction and soil-degrading agricultural techniques in the mountainous rainfall catchment area around Dili, results in regular urban flooding and occasional rapid river level rises.
Through landscape and ecosystem management, the project aims to support environmental, economic and social development in Dili so as to increase sustainable and ecosystem-friendly socio-economic development in the Maloa watershed, strengthen communities’ resilience to shocks and stresses, and promote recovery from COVID-19. The Maloa Urban Resilience Initiative expects to build a successful governance model for urban resilience that includes mobilizing and building consensus among diverse stakeholders, enhancing access to information for decision making, and testing solutions that motivate follow-on investments.
The establishment of a transboundary watershed management committee, participatory land-use mapping, risk assessments and risk management plans will both mitigate risk and improve watershed and landscape management. An early warning system will be created in the watershed to support flood contingency plans, and drills will be conducted for preparedness. An awareness campaign will also be planned for flood risk. Participatory workshops will be planned for young people to increase civic engagement in land use and planning conversations, and a market assessment of key value chains will be conducted in the wake of COVID-19 to identify the impact of COVID-19 on businesses in Dili, then improve skills to build resilience.
Jules Keane, Mercy Corps, Jkeane@mercycorps.org