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People, Planet, Prosperity Cook Islands Pilot Project: Financing Nature as a Solution for Flood Mitigation and Water Quality

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This project will develop a guide for using natural capital approaches and economic valuation of ecosystem services in Cook Islands context and in ADB loan processes; conduct a baseline assessment and valuation of green infrastructure for the Muri Lagoon; and train local experts. Key collaborators: Asian Development Bank (ADB); Cook Islands National Environment Service; Cook Islands Ministry of Finance and Economic Management. The project is funded by the Moore Foundation. This is a pilot project within the People, Planet, Prosperity project.

The Challenge

The Cook Islands is a nation of 15 islands, scattered over an exclusive economic zone in the South Pacific Ocean of 1.8 million square kilometers. The country is vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters, and its economy is largely driven by tourism. The Muri Lagoon on the eastern coast of Rarotonga (the largest island in the Southern group) attracts the most tourist revenue in the Cook Islands. However, there are serious issues with coastal flooding and wastewater pollution. 

The Solution

Currently, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting the government and coastal communities with research to inform the design of nature-based solutions to mitigate flooding and water quality impacts.There is now an opportunity to seek creative co-financing opportunities and ensure the values nature provides to both the local community and the private sector are factored into decisions.

Working with different groups within ADB (Economic Research and Development Impact Department; Water and Urban Development Sector; and Climate Change and Sustainable Development Department), this pilot project will identify entry points for incorporating natural capital assessments and economic valuation of ecosystem services into ADB’s loan process for urban and water projects. They will also co-design training material to increase literacy around established methods to assess, account for, and value natural capital in the Cook Islands; equip local government enforcement officials to undertake natural capital assessments and use results for outreach with local community members. They will pilot key elements of these approaches using the Muri lagoon wastewater infrastructure project as a test-case.

Project Category: Sustainable Development, Resilient Coastal Communities
Project Status:  Current

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