Blog.Dec 21, 2023

Building climate resilience in Comoros

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Antoine Delepiere
Senior Programme Manager,
Water and Sanitation

In November 2023, SIWI facilitated a national level risk informed water sanitation and hygiene bottleneck analysis in the Comoros to a shift to climate resilience in the island state.

Aerial view of the Grande Comoro from the airplane
Flying in to Grande Comoro, you see the scale of deforestation

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The islands of the Comoros are among the nations that contribute the least to global climate change yet suffer the most from its effects. The Comoros is one of only two countries in the world classified as a Least Developed Country and a Small Island Developing State.

A visit to the Grande Comore island strikes one as to how it has been shaped by the natural environment. Dark volcanic rock limits infiltration and the few remaining sandy beaches are harvested for building materials. On Grande Comore, the largest of the islands, the Karthala shield volcano often leaves visitors in awe of nature.

Risk analysis

SIWI visited the Comoros to assist the Directorate of Water and Sanitation in developing a climate resilient action plan. SIWI’s work supports governance, and assessment of how decisions are made and enforced at different levels, how actors coordinate, and who decides and how much money is available. We posed the question: What needs to be done differently on islands where households have severe water shortages, and infrastructure needs in the face of climate change?

We reviewed existing material on the impact of hazards on water and sanitation, water resources and island populations. The aim was to consolidate this information to identify major risks and assess hazards. For example, where flooding occurs, at what intensity and frequency, and how that will behave with climate change.

Further, who is affected by flooding? In Comoros, flooding in the denser urban coastal communities is more severe than inland. But the watersheds are still affected by landslides, significant erosion and degradation of water sources.

A final review was made on household incomes, their support networks, enforcement of standards for infrastructure and how this affects women and girls differently.? Combining these aspects, we came to the country with a review of key risks, which was developed with a small technical group of members from different ministries.

The outcomes

The risk assessment identified the following climate hazards: flooding, drought, saline intrusion, coastal flooding and cyclones. Rainwater harvesting reservoirs are highly vulnerable to an increase in the severity and frequency of droughts, and that water systems that currently have low flows or are struggling to meet population demand have a high-risk score.

In Grande Comore, wells built in the coastal volcanic aquifer are threatened by high salinity, and households that purchase water are highly vulnerable to changes in the price and availability of water during droughts.

In Anjouan and Moheli, water sources are vulnerable to pollution and siltation during cyclones and floods. When floods occur in Anjouan and Mohéli, catchment areas with limited or medium vegetation cover and steep slopes are at risk.

Learn more about WASH-BAT

The WASH Bottleneck Analysis Tool enables the development of costed and prioritized plans to remove the bottlenecks that constrains progress in the WASH sector.

Group discussing the status of a specific climate change risk
Photo: SIWI

Working with the outcomes

The outcomes from the risk assessment were then used to inform a multi-stakeholder workshop to address the key risks and identify solutions that could increase resilience. In November, UNICEF and SIWI brought together key stakeholders from the WASH and environmental sector for the three islands. 43 participants were divided into three groups of urban drinking water supply, rural drinking water supply and sanitation. To start the workshop, we mapped out who are the responsible personnel for different services, the role between service providers, consumers and regulators, how people claim their rights, and if policies match reality.

The process assists people to map out accountability and reflect on the different roles and identify gaps. Then, climate risks were presented to the participants, who prioritised them in order of most significant to those that had made the least progress.

Defining bottlenecks

The next step was to pick the prioritised climate risks and define their bottlenecks. We asked the participants what causes the bottleneck, what can be done to address it. For example, for the criteria “There are guidelines and technical specifications for climate change mitigation and adaptation for water and sanitation technologies and services, developed in consultation with the institutions responsible for their implementation”. What is stopping this is a lack of understanding of the implications, challenges in bringing the different actors together, no clear institutional leadership. Then the cause of this challenge has been identified.

It is then possible to list the activities that can address the challenge. While the process is simple, we give it ample time during the workshop. The time is utilized for the process of reflecting on what needs to be improved, the roadblocks and ways for their removal.

The final step

The final step is to chalk out an action plan to remove every individual bottleneck with details on sub-activities, budgets, and assignment of responsibility with a timeline. These are still very broad plans to set the direction. Specific needs have to be worked out.

To conclude this robust process, senior members are invited, and the action plans and challenges are presented. This is to get political buy-in to the process and validate the proposed action plans. During this step, existing projects are considered and by having the key stakeholder present, we check how this relates to their ongoing plans. In the case of the Comoros, the final action plans identified the need to improve water resource management, prioritise an early warning system and ensure water suppliers are aware of the forthcoming application decrees of the “Code de l’Eau” (Water Code).


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