Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Climate change and the Pacific

from w
On the agenda of the South Pacific Forum will be the topic of 'Climate change' and how small atolls in the South Pacific are faring as the sea rises. Here is a discussion on ABC radio on Pacific Beat/
Kiribati issues highlighted to UN Sec General

Updated September 6, 2011 10:20:14
A climate change action group in Kiribati is seeking international help to fund water tanks for outer islands. Many of these communities are only three metres above sea level and get their water from wells which have become contaminated with salt water. And with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on a flying trip around the Pacific, the social and economic impacts of climate change are in the world spotlight again.

Presenter: Cameron Wilson
Speaker: Linda Uan from the Kiribati Climate Change Action Network
Listen: Windows Media
UAN: What's happening is that it's affecting the lives of the most vulnerable, young children as well as the ageing community, so we have people having diarrhoea, vomiting, all the diseases that come with water that's not suitable for drinking.

WILSON: Where is the fresh water coming from then at the moment? Do these people have any access to fresh water?

UAN: At the moment, we have a water lens, it is under the island and this lens collects fresh water with people collecting every day from the wells and also with the water system from the government going in the pipes to other settlements, that water becomes thinner and when it gets thinner, it also becomes salty and brackish.

The alternative is rainwater, of course, but we need to have water tanks to collect them in.

WILSON: So what is it that you're actually asking for to get this program of water tanks up and running?

UAN: Well, fresh water is a need and without water tanks, it is not easy to collect water in quantities. People at the moment are collecting in buckets, 20 litre buckets and coolers, but they are not big enough to sustain them for months. With water tanks 5,000 litres, 10,000 litres, they're very good because they can sustain families over a longer period of time.

WILSON: Is there enough reliable rainfall though to make use of five 10,000 litre water tanks?

UAN: Before we had a drought, now we're in the rainy season and we have rain about two, three, four times a week, so there is a lot of rain coming and we need to have the containers or the water tanks to be able to collect them in.

WILSON: And where do you want these tanks located?

UAN: There are many places that have iron roofing, there are also community centres in all villages who have permanent buildings with iron roofing to collect the water for the communities.

WILSON: Do you know how much money you need for this?

UAN: No, because we're not talking about just one island. We are talking about the whole nation.

WILSON: So where are you or who are you asking to help fund this?

UAN: NZAID has been doing a lot of water work here with the different groups in the government, like the Kiribati adaptation program, so it is one area that has been very active in this research. I suppose NZAID will probably be one that is looking into this, but other donor countries will also be able to look at this real need.

WILSON: Now the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, has just been in Kiribati to talk about climate change and the associated problems like this water shortage we're discussing. How hopeful are you that his discussions internationally will draw more attention to this issue?

UAN: Well, just by his coming here, there was a great moral boost for everybody in the country, there was live broadcasts to all island communities in the whole of Kiribati. He spoke to children, he spoke to everybody and it was really good to hear what he was saying about his own campaign as he said, seeing the problems is also believing. And I suppose that is what we have been trying to get out to them, to the international community, because they don't see and experience the challenges that we're having to live with everyday.

WILSON: So in many ways, someone of his standing I guess helps tell that story?

UAN: Yes, we certainly hope so. We've been doing our bit to raise awareness, but to have such a wise and respected leader in the Secretary-General to the UN adds more weight to what we are saying. We're not pretending, we're not making up things. These are the realities of living in Kiribati.

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