Climate change is causing serious repercussions on the economic competitiveness of Small Island Developing States, and is affecting their progress on their respective sustainable development pathways, said Mauritius Environment Minister Dev Virahsawmy.

He made these remarks at the kick-off meeting of the Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) project of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) Thematic Action titled “Marine and Coastal Management”.

The Secretary General of the IOC, Jean Claude de l’Estrac, was also present at the event, which opened Monday morning, 23 June 2014, at the Hennessy Park Hotel in Ebène.

This joint initiative of the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI), IOC and MESA lies in the context of the African Monitoring of Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) project.

Besides Mauritius, delegates from Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique, Kenya, Reunion Island, Seychelles and Tanzania also attended the meeting.

Apart from introducing the project to all key stakeholders, the meeting gave an overview of the services and products proposed under the MESA-COI-MOI thematic action and also provided opportunities to meet with the different regional partners.

Themes on the agenda included an overview of the MESA programme, marine and coastal management THEMA, improved tools for detection of potential fishing zones, introduction to Integrated Coastal Zone Management, roles and responsibilities of participating institutions, and coastline change survey by remote sensing.

According to Virahsawmy, climate change can jeopardize economic gains that countries in the Western Indian Ocean region have harvested in the recent past and adversely impact the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

Virahsawmy pointed out that the pooling of resources and the exchange of information at regional and sub-regional levels in line with AMESD principles are of utmost importance.

It is crucial for all countries to facilitate access to Africa-wide environmental information derived from Earth observation technologies, he said.

For his part, Jean Claude de l’Estrac said that the MESA project forms part of the technological upgrade of sustainable development in Africa, while adding that the MOI and the IOC have been mandated by the African Union Commission to steer and monitor marine resources management through Earth satellite data.

He stressed that resources management is a crucial issue since it has an impact on the local population and economies which depend on tourism and fisheries. This gives rise to a pressing need to assess scientific data, he noted.

Through MESA, several countries will be able to collaborate over creating a network of centres of excellence for sustainable development, he concluded.

The objective of the MESA project is to increase information management, decision-making and planning capacity of continental, regional and national institutions in Africa mandated for environment, climate, food security and related responsibilities.

By enhancing access to and exploitation of relevant Earth observation applications in Africa, MESA will consolidate and widen the operational environmental services developed in AMESD, and propose new services, such as African Climate Services.

The project is geared towards the strengthening of capacities for the use of Earth observation in Africa, with a dedicated focus on climate and environment applications.

Among other activities, MESA will secure the maintenance and upgrade of the EUMETCast reception stations deployed by AMESD and support the development of operational services based on Earth observation data.

The MESA project is being funded under the 10th European Development Fund of the European Union, with a budget of Euro 37 million. Like the AMESD project, it will be piloted by the African Union Commission and seven regional implementation centres will operate services on several themes.

Mauritius Environment Minister Dev Virahsawmy stressed that climate change is affecting the progress of SIDS on their respective sustainable development pathways.

More business news on AfricaMoney