The tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu faces being submerged by rising sea levels. The Tuvaluan Government is considering abandoning the islands its people have lived on for thousands of years, believing the nation will be uninhabitable within decades. They have pleaded with Australia and New Zealand to help resettle its 11,000 citizens, but so far these countries have refused to accept them as refugees.
According to Pusinelli Lafai, Tuvalu?s Acting Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, farmers are already feeling the effects of coastal erosion, rising salinity and sea levels. Paani Laupepa, the acting assistant secretary at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, says, ?The island is full of holes and seawater is coming through these, flooding areas that weren’t normally flooded 10 or 15 years ago.? At its highest point, Tuvalu is only a few feet above sea level.
Mr Lafai says that Tuvaluans would like to begin resettling in Australia this year. But Australia has stated that Tuvaluans could not get special treatment as environmental refugees and would have to apply under the migration program like anyone else.
Meanwhile, another tiny, south Pacific group of islands is appealing to world leaders over the internet for help in what they see as a battle against the effects of global warming. Rising waters threaten the existence of the islanders of Takuu just east of Papua New Guinea.
Spokesman Dr. Teatulohi Matainaho says, ?The message from the people of the islands of Takuu is that global warming has had a tremendous impact on the islands. Over the last 20 years, there has been constant erosion of the islands. Pieces of the islands have been totally eroded. And if it keeps going at this rate, one is looking at islands that will be uninhabited perhaps in 15 years? time.
?They may not be submerged but there are lots of other factors associated with living on an island. The support for the life of the people in terms of gardening, for instance. They won’t be able to grow anything because of the intrusion of the salt water. The resources by and large – gardening and depleted fishing resources – are a combination of factors, and the people will, at the end, have to make a decision as to whether they can continue to survive on the islands.
?The islands are very rich in Polynesian culture. The singing in particular has been a central way of life for the island people. Their way of life is carefree. There is joy in the way they are able to express their love of an open environment, the beautiful setting of the ocean, sitting under the coconut palm tree on a beautiful beach.?
All that will end if the people of Takuu, like those of Tuvalu, have to move to another land, permanently leaving their homelands behind to drown in the rising ocean.
Should a typhoon strike either area at this point, there could be massive loss of life.
To go to Takuu’s Website and read their plea for help, click here.
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