MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the governments of Japan and New Zealand are helping Cook Islands prepare an infrastructure development plan that will include climate proofing projects to mitigate the impact of severe weather events.

Islands in the Pacific are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Extreme climatic events in Cook Islands such as cyclones have had a significant impact on the nation's physical infrastructure, impeding development and economic growth. The Government's Preventative Infrastructure Master Plan found that the lack of investment in maintenance, rehabilitation and rebuilding has resulted in poor infrastructure systems that threaten health and hygiene standards in Cook Islands.

"Upgrading the country's infrastructure - particularly power, water, and sanitation services on the country's two main islands - will help Cook Islands sustain its economic growth through increased employment opportunities and improved service delivery," said Richard Phelps, Infrastructure Specialist of ADB's South Pacific Subregional Office in Fiji Islands.

The Japan Special Fund is providing a $500,000 grant and New Zealand is providing $200,000 equivalent on a grant basis. ADB will manage the funds. The Government of Cook Islands is providing $125,000 to complete the funding for the technical assistance.

The plan aims to help Cook Islands achieve environmentally sustainable economic growth and development by improving infrastructure and the delivery of basic social services as well as support good governance and fiscal management. Climate proofing is a key feature of project design and will aim to reduce climate-related risks in a cost-effective manner.

A total of 15 isolated islands and atolls make up Cook Islands. Around 70% of the country's 20,300 people live on the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. The main source of income is tourism, which accounts for half the nation's gross domestic product.