Global Warming Force Islanders to Move

December 07 22:19 2005 Print This Article

Global Warming Force Islanders to Move Inland, Says UN

Rising seas have forced 100 people on a Pacific island to move to higher ground in what may be the first example of a village formally displaced because of modern global warming, a UN report said.

With coconut palms on the coast already standing in the water, inhabitants in Lateu settlements on Tegua island in Vanuatu started dismantling their wooden homes in August and moved about 600 meters inland.

“They no longer live on the coast,” Taito Nakalevu, a climate change expert at the secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), said during a 189-nation conference in Montreal on ways to fight climate change.

So-called “king tides” often whipped up by cyclones, had become stronger in recent years and made Lateu uninhabitable by flooding the village four to five times a year.

“We are seeing king tides across the region flooding islands,” he said.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) said in a statement that the Lateu settlement “has become one of, if not the first, to be formally moved out of harm’s way as a result of climate change.”

The scientific panel that advices the United Nations projects that seas could raise by almost a meter by 2100 because of melting icecaps and warming linked to a build-up of heat trapping gases emitted by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and autos.

Many other coastal communities are vulnerable to rising seas, such as th U.S city of New Orleans, the Italians city of Venice or settlements in the Arctic where a hawing of sea ice has exposed coasts to erosion by the waves.

Pacific islanders, many living on coral atolls, are among those most at risk. Off Papua New Guinea, about 2000 people on the Cantaret Islands are planning to move to near by Bougainville Island, a four hour boat ride to the south west.

Two inhabited Kiribati islands, Tebua Tarawa and Abenuea, disappeared underwater in 1999.

“In Tegua, the dwellings are moving first. The chief has moved, he has to start the process, so his people are now following,” Mr. Nakalevu said.

A church would also be dismantled and moved inland.

Mr. Nakalevu said the rising seas seemed linked to climate change.

It was unknown if the coral base of the island, about 31 square km, might be subsiding. Most villagers rely on yams, beans and other crops grown on higher grounds…

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