USAID - CASE STUDY Flood Planning and Coastal Resources
Leading Organization:United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
La Ceiba is a city of over 150,000 people on the northern coast of Honduras. It is situated between the Caribbean Sea, Nombre de Dios Mountains, and the Cangrejal River. La Ceiba and the surrounding mountains receive a considerable amount of precipitation (1.5 m annually), and the city and its river are subject to frequent flooding events. Because it is situated in a low lying coastal area exposed to hurricanes, La Ceiba is also particularly susceptible to storm surges. Hurricane Mitch, the most severe storm known to have hit the region, deposited 0.88 m of rainfall in one week,1 flooded two-thirds of the city, and had severe impacts on lives and infrastructure. La Ceiba has strong but largely untapped potential as a tourist destination, due to its easy access to both the Caribbean, and excellent outdoor recreation opportunities in nearby Pico Bonito National Park. It is also economically important as the administrative hub for the Standard Fruit Company, a major exporter for Honduran agricultural products.
Manejo Integrado de Recursos Ambientales – Integrated Management of Natural Resources (MIRA) is a USAID sponsored project working in 12 of 21 watersheds in Honduras. One of the focal areas is La Ceiba, where the goals are to improve watershed and natural resource management, while stimulating economic growth. At the time of this case study, MIRA was in the early stages of design and implementation.
To develop infrastructure and strategies to address the city’s serious urban drainage and flooding problems, which are expected to worsen due to climate change and lack of action.
- Change in local perceptions: This project had a major impact on local perceptions of the need to consider climate variability and change during development planning activities. USAID work was featured three times on local television, and Ken Strzepek has presented results of this study to relevant governmental ministries in Tegucigalpa. The mayor of La Ceiba, who had little prior familiarity with climate change issues, has expressed a strong desire to implement appropriate flood control measures, and has given impassioned speeches about the significance of this problem.
- Development of high quality data: The stream flow data obtained during this project indicates that La Ceiba is at much greater risk of flooding than previously believed. High quality information, such as this, is necessary for the development of an appropriate adaptation plan.
- Identification of ways in which USAID can help La Ceiba cope with its problems of flooding and urban drainage include: a) Working with disaster management officials to develop a risk management strategy; b) Promoting zoning strategies that limit or prevent development in areas most vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding; c) Improving risk awareness and community preparedness through measures such as a flood warning system; d) Improving both watershed management and the opportunity for tourism by preventing further deforestation of the Cangrejal watershed; and e) Identifying partners to help implement adaptations requiring large capital investment, such as pumping sand to protect against erosion, raising the levees, and developing an urban drainage system.