In a first-of-its-kind project in the Pacific, the Sustainable Coastal and Oceania Research Institute (SCORI), funded by the Government of India and based at The University of South Pacific (USP), Laucala Campus in Suva, was officially launched by the Honourable Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi during the Third Summit of the Forum for India- Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC III) in Port Moresby (PNG) on May 22 2023, in the presence of Honourable Prime Minister of Fiji His Excellency (H.E) Sitiveni Rabuka and top leaders from thirteen other Pacific Island Countries (PICs) attending the summit.
Designed to be an apex centre for excellence, SCORI will serve as a focal point for research and development, catering to the needs and aspirations of the PICs. It will focus on some of the most pressing regional concerns, including Coastal Vulnerability, Coastal Erosion and Coastal Protection, Ocean State Forecast, Potential Fishing Zones, Tsunami Forecasting, etc. The institute will also help build the capacity of the Pacific region in these critical areas. The National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), Chennai (India), under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India and USP in Fiji, the apex tertiary institution in the Pacific, are the lead partner institutions for this path-breaking initiative.
A formal event to mark the institute’s inauguration was held on May 22 2023, at the USP Laucala Campus in Suva. Dignitaries present on the occasion included the High Commissioner of India to Fiji, H.E Palaniswamy Karthigeyan, the USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Assistant Minister for Education Hon. Iliesa Vanawalu, Heads of Diplomatic Mission and Representatives from the PICs in Suva, Government officials and senior academics from USP and other institutions in Fiji. The Director of NCCR Dr Ramana Murthy, scientists from various research institutions in India, and some students and scholars from PICs virtually joined the event.
Speaking on the occasion, the High Commissioner of India to Fiji, Mr Karthigeyan said the establishment of SCORI is a historic milestone in India’s engagement with the Pacific region and a testimony to India’s strong commitment to deepen its cooperation and development partnership with the PICs for the progress, wellbeing and prosperity of the people of the region. With the coming together of the best minds from both sides for the project, he expressed his confidence that the institute will not only help advance the scientific frontiers in the identified areas of research but also help find environment-friendly solutions for the region’s sustainable development. Commending all the stakeholders for their contribution to the project, High Commissioner Karthigeyan urged both sides to make it a benchmark project in every aspect and to fully operationalise the institute in a time bound manner.
USP VC and President Professor Ahluwalia acknowledged Indian High Commissioner, Karthigeyan, adding that his presence signified the strong cooperation between USP and India and the invaluable support extended by the Indian Government.
Professor Ahluwalia said, “With the establishment of SCORI, we embark on a new chapter of cooperation, one that makes this institute serve as a hub for exchanging knowledge, ideas, and cutting-edge technologies, ensuring that our work in climate change and ocean management remains at the forefront of global research.”
He said, “Through the collaboration of esteemed scholars from India and Fiji, we aim to publish ground-breaking research and set new agendas in coastal and ocean studies. This institute will greatly enhance our research activities and capacity building, contributing to the sustainability of the Pacific Ocean and aligning with the Blue Pacific 2050 Strategy launched by our Pacific leaders.”
The launch, as USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education Professor Jito Vanualailai described, heralds a new era of scientific exploration and collaboration and ignites enthusiasm and anticipation for ground-breaking research.
“With its new home here at the USP Laucala Campus, SCORI will serve as the central hub for research and development, catering to the needs of all Pacific Island countries in coastal and ocean, marine science, climate change, and ocean management. There will be a dedicated focus on areas of common interests, such as personal vulnerability, coastal erosion and protection, monitoring and mapping of marine biodiversity, ocean observation systems, seawater quality monitoring and capacity building,” Professor Jito added.
Director National Centre for Coastal Research under India’s Ministry of Earth Science, Dr Ramana Murthy, said, “The measurement of SCORI underscores our shared commitment to addressing pressing challenges of sustainability and coastal and climate resilience; it symbolises our determination to work hand in hand to find innovative solutions that protect our land and ensure our communities’ wellbeing.”
“Together, we will develop some new methodologies, explore innovative technologies, and find sustainable practices that can apply not only to our respective nations but also across the globe,” Dr Murthy added.
In moving a vote of thanks, Director of Research Professor Sushil Kumar acknowledged the Diplomatic Corp, Government Ministers of Fiji, India and regional countries, the USP Senior Management Team and university staff who were present for the official launch of SCORI.
“It is with immense gratitude and heartfelt appreciation that I, on behalf of The University of the South Pacific, extend our sincerest thanks to the remarkable individuals and organisations who have played an integral role in making this momentous occasion possible,” Professor Kumar said.
“To the team of Scientists from India, I acknowledge the four scientists led by Dr U. S. Panda, who visited us for a week and worked with my colleagues to find the areas of USP needs and aspirations. We look forward to the fruitful collaborations and ground-breaking research that lie ahead,” he added.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was officially signed between USP and NCCR under the Ministry of Earth Sciences with the Government of India and occurred on May 12, 2023, at the USP Laucala Campus. The MoU solidifies their commitment to scientific collaboration and educational exchange, significantly benefiting PICs.
The government of India will fund the institute for the first five years before it is handed over to USP.