Mon, December 21, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > UN Climate Change Conference 2009

Pacific islanders fear rising sea levels

2009-12-21 05:29:38 GMT2009-12-21 13:29:38 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SUVA, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- People living in coastal areas in the Pacific island countries including Tuvalu and Fiji are indeed worried that one day their homes may be washed away as a result of climate changes but at the moment they are reluctant to move as their dwellings have sentimental meaning to them.

It is difficult for Pacific islanders to leave their ancestral homes for many reasons including the fact that their loved ones are buried there and some of them have never traveled overseas.

Such sentimental attachments are best described by the islanders but the emotions that flow when you talk to someone affected reflects just how passionate they are about their land.

Tuvalu Island reporter Diana Semi said on Monday that while the decision to relocate them had been discussed, Tuvaluans themselves were reluctant to move elsewhere.

She said last year the islanders were coming to terms with the factual realization of climate change and its implications.

"I think old people of my country are getting to understand this issue of climate change but they do not want to leave their homeland, where they were brought up," she said.

"Nothing they say will move them from there, not even the tsunami and sea level rise," said Semi.

"This year, it has been sad for our people because industrialized countries did not agree to sign the binding agreement in Copenhagen to save the small island countries and the lives of hundreds of our people," Semi added.

Semi said that she has noticed the change in her people's attitude from being care free to being concerned.

"As more people (locals) understand the issue, I noticed that they are a bit worried especially seeing the high tide flooding low lying areas. The people are beginning to talk about relocating even though there are no immediate moves ...it is definitely in their thoughts," she said.

Those in Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu, are getting more and more worried as they watch the areas that the tide is reaching because they are experiencing it first hand and Semi admits it is frightening.

Semi said people are thinking of moving somewhere and maybe to New Zealand, Australia or some other countries bigger than Funafuti.

"Money is an issue and the question is who will pay these people's fare if they relocated," said semi, whose island is one of the most affected countries in the world by climate change.

Semi said Tuvaluans are more worried now as they head toward the King Tide period from January to March.

She said they expect tourists to flock to their home for the King Tide Festival in January.

"Tuvalu will celebrate this event in a big way and we are preparing already because tourists are expected here to watch the tide that is anticipated to be bigger and stronger in light of climate change implications," said Semi.

Semi said while the problem of climate change is huge it was created by humans who should resolve it.

She asks scientists and world leaders to end nuclear tests as it has a great impact on small island states.

Another islander who resides in Fiji by the sea said the water levels have definitely risen.

"It is so obvious even my back yard now gets flooded during high tide and I am worried that what people are saying may happen," said Margaret Marama.

She said the way to go was to raise the land and maybe build on stilts was a good idea.

Marama said that while people in the islands were reluctant to move to higher grounds what they witnessed during high tide today should drive them to plan ahead.

She urged the Pacific governments to wake up as their countries were drowning by rising sea levels.

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