Fiji stories, Labasa, South Pacific culture, family, migration, Australia/Fiji relationship
Saturday, December 14, 2013
The sea level is certainly rising around Vanua Levu
Here is an example of what can happen when the sea rises. It's a village in Vanua Levu and not the only one who will have to be relocated higher up because of the sea level rising. Story is from the Fiji Times today.
The sea shore at the old Vunidogoloa village site shows how serious the damages, caused by rising sea level, has done to the village. Picture: SOLOMONI BIUMAIONO
Tevita Tuimalawai's tall, lean frame has weathered many storms and shaped by the rigours of village life.
The grey streaks on the temples of his head signifying that the 68-year-old has seen a lot of coming and goings in his village of Vunidogoloa at Koroalau in Cakaudrove.
He betrayed the anguish that he and his fellow villagers had been facing for many years when his eyes welled up with tears as he recalled how his village was decimated by nature.
He recalled days as a young boy in the 1950s when Vunidogoloa was a thriving village on the shores of Natewa Bay with many big and well-built houses.
Sadly those days are now gone as the sea and the river near the village are quickly reclaiming parts of the village.
Speaking in the iTaukei language, Tuimalawai cannot contain himself as he explained how much the villagers had to go through because of rising sea level.
"The long time I have been in Vunidogoloa, the village used to be well above sea level and used to have big houses. If you guys go to the village to the place where the sea meets the river, that used to be where some of the houses used to sit.
"Now there is only a small portion of the village left which is this side of the village. It is because of the washing away of the land by the sea and the river because of change in climate patterns, the waves and the winds.
"We are thankful for the hardships we have faced. Many of our elders who have passed on know the hardships they faced because of the change in climate patterns," Tuimalawai said.
He adds that not many years ago when a villager wants to dig for water, he would have to dig at least 20 feet before he would get a few drops of water in the hole but that has now changed, as the villagers would only have to dig only two feet deep before water starting seeping in like a fountain.
The middle of the village is riddled with holes, caused by the rising water and sinking foundations mark the places where houses once stood.
"Four months ago one day when we attended church the sea level was at our knee level, you will see the hardships we used to face at the old village site
Sometime ago the villagers received help from the Japanese government which funded their seawall building program but that too was destroyed by the waves and rising water levels.
Tuimalawai was regailing us with this story from a hilltop under the shade of a vakatunuloa where the villagers of Vunidogoloa are rebuilding their new village.
With government help, the villagers all agreed to relocate to this site, not more than a kilometre from their soon to be old village site but on higher ground and better yet, right next to the road to Savusavu.
"When I was a young boy, in 1952, the first house right down there (pointing to the house), this is the place where our elders had first thought of relocating the village. They had actually prepared the place to relocate the village to.
"At the time the road only ends at Matakunea and at that time too, we did not know that the road would run by the very place our forefathers had suggested the village should be relocated to.
"But that idea was soon lost. We are just thankful that we are relocating now and we are happy that it has happened," Tuimalawai said.
The village relocation project has been going on for the past nine months, and the villagers with the help of government agreed to provide the wood which the houses at the new village site will be built with.
The old village site has 19 houses but the villagers are now building 30 houses at the new village site and according to village headman Sailosi Ramatu, this was after the villagers decided that older and younger couples should be allowed to own their new homes.
The relocation project cost government more than $300,000 which is directed towards buying building materials, constructing fish ponds, building livestock paddocks and providing support for the village's pineapple farm.
Apart from this, government has also built a new water source and water tanks at the new village site and the second phase of the project is the building of a community hall and a church for the village.
The wood that the villagers of Vunidogoloa provide is cut down by Bhadur Ali and milled with the money given straight to government as means of their contribution to the relocation project.
The new village sits on a five acre parcel of land that belongs to the Mataqali Nadawa which is part of Vunidogoloa Village.
Introducing Peceli and Wendy. Babasiga (pronounced bambasinga) is the dry land of Macuata in northern Fiji - our place in the sun in Fiji. The town is Labasa and our village is Vatuadova and the beach is Nukutatava. We are part of Wailevu Fijian tribe with relatives in Mali Island and Naseakula village. Peceli was born in Labasa and Wendy is an Australian and today live in Geelong, Australia.