- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
The Pacific nation of Kiribati is negotiating to buy land in Fiji so it can move islanders under threat from rising sea levels, in what could be the first climate-induced relocation of a country.
Anote Tong, the Kiribati President, said he was in talks with Fiji’s military government to buy up to 2000 hectares of freehold land on which his 113,000 countrymen could resettle.
Some of Kiribati’s 32 flat coral atolls, which straddle the equator over 3.5 million square kilometres of ocean, are already disappearing. The total land area is 811 square kilometres and the average elevation is less than two metres above sea level.
Relocation is still a last resort. Kiribati President Anote Tong is hoping to start by relocating some of this citizens to the Fijian island, to farm, and haul away landfill by barge to stop the sea’s encroachment on his own country.
Obviously relocation on this scale would be unprecedented, but Kiribati isn’t the only Pacific island facing this dilemma. Now-ousted Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed tried to highlight this emerging crisis with his underwater cabinet meeting in 2009.
Since 2003, the government of Papua New Guinea has been slowly evacuating the entire population of dwindling Cataret Islands. Sun Come Up, a 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary on the Cateret evacuation is well worth a watch.