Papua New Guinea is planning to move the 1,500 people of the Carteret or Kilinailau Island to another home as the rising sea moves up their coastline. Six islands form the almost circular Carteret atoll, which is about 10 miles in diameter. They?re sharing the fate of the Polynesians of Takuu, 105 miles to the east, whose community of 2,500 people is also sinking beneath the Pacific.
Carteret and Takuu lie at the intersection of two giant fault lines which routinely produce earthquakes of up to magnitudes seven and eight. While they seldom suffer damage to buildings from them since they are so small, the quakes are causing the islands themselves to sink.
In the last 2 weeks, seven families have been left homeless with their food gardens totally destroyed as high waves swept through the islands. There is no other alternative but to relocate the 1,500 islanders to a safer area. A seawall built some years ago by the provincial government was completely washed away.
Iolasa Island in Carteret, which still has people living on it, has been cut into half by the constant problem of the rising sea on the tiny low-lying atolls. Ephraim Eminomi, a local official, says, ?The lives of the people are at stake as the ongoing problem worsens by the day, months and year. Coupled with the high-seas problem also is over population on these islands. Irregardless of all the worthwhile efforts put in by the government and concerned authorities and people, it will be in the best interest of everyone if the islanders are relocated to a safer zone on Bougainville soon. It is increasingly becoming a very expensive exercise for the government to feed the people every day and the sooner it addresses the relocation program, the better.?
On the Polynesian island of Takuu, people have had little to do with the outside world and have retained their indigenous culture, which may be lost if they are relocated to New Zealand, as planned. University of Auckland ethnomusicologist Richard Moyle believes each adult on the island can sing over 1,000 songs from memory.
The sinking islands there have had their gardens destroyed with a growing threat of starvation for a people who have seldom needed to import food until now. Moyle says, ?They are in dire straits now. I asked a few people, ?Will you go, will you stay?? The older people said they wanted to stay and I asked them what would happen when the island was underwater. They said ?I will die.??
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