Climate Change Adaptation and Integrated Water Resource Management in La Ceiba, Honduras

Sep 2015
Ducci, Jorge
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has recognized that its activities in the countries of the Latin America and Caribbean region have significant potential to be impacted by the effects of climate change. This is particularly the case for projects in the water and sanitation (WSA) sector that are currently in planning and execution stages in the region. Most adaptation experiences in the WSA sector have been developed at a global scale, with limited experience existing at a local level (e.g., at the basin scale). This gap presents the challenge of developing on-the-ground knowledge that deepens the IDB's expertise on adaptation to climate change in the WSA sector and helps to define policies and better practices in adaptation at the regional and country levels. This is specifically applicable to countries in Central America. The objective of this Technical Cooperation is to support the process of increasing climate change adaptation capacity in communities in Central America. By taking into consideration the range of possible risks and vulnerabilities, plans for future investments in water and sanitation infrastructure can integrate concepts that reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to climate risks, leading to more sustainable development outcomes. Honduras is currently considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in Latin America given its high exposure to extreme meteorological events. Six of the twelve strongest hurricanes of the 20th century have impacted Honduras, including Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which has been the most severe storm known to have hit the region. The storm brought about flash floods and landslides, which caused an estimated 10,000 deaths, destroyed 70% of the country's road infrastructure and drinking water supply network, and led to extensive crop losses. Forecasts of climate change for Central America suggest an increase in the frequency and intensity of tropical storms and intense-rainfall events. In addition, climate projections also suggest that sea level may rise up to 60 cm by 2050, putting further pressure on already vulnerable coastal areas. These natural hazards are a particular concern in the coastal city of La Ceiba, Honduras. This case study exemplifies a potential approach to addressing adaptation and vulnerability reduction in a developing coastal city. This adaptation experience has resulted in a stakeholder-focused adaptation strategy in the WSA sector that combines infrastructure and policy-based measures to reduce vulnerability to a range of natural risks, from sea level rise to river and coastal flooding to the contamination of drinking water sources. Lessons learned in La Ceiba are likely to be applicable to other efforts in the region where addressing coastal sensitivity to climate change is a top priority. Going forward, the results of this Technical Cooperation project will be used to inform the design of local and targeted adaptation measures to address climate change impacts in the WSA sector.