It’s time to move

The remains of what were houses after the destruction of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in Nasau, Koro. Picture: JONA KONATACI

The remains of what were houses after the destruction of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in Nasau, Koro. Picture: JONA KONATACI

A study released by OXFAM International revealed between January to September last year about 14.12 million people globally had been displaced as a result of extreme weather patterns.

Of this more than 6.4 million were as a result of flood, 5.5 million because of storms, a further 1.89 million because of drought and more than 150,000 forced to leave their homes for other reasons.

Within the past decades every Small Island Developing States (SIDS) the island of Koro in the Lomaiviti Group and Fiji’s sixth largest island has been the many recipients of the impact of climate change mainly adverse weather patterns.

Coastal erosion is forcing villagers to ponder their future whether to remain on the island or move to the urban centres. Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston not only destroyed their homes, but also destroyed many aspirations.

More than two years on and while the island is on the verge of returning to normalcy, many are still affected by the worst natural disaster to hit the island. Their dalo farm is back and in abundance, however the main crop yaqona will need another two to three years for maturity. There are still house yet to be built as families still remain in tents and make-shift shelters.

In light of all of this, villages have been advised that it is time to relocate to higher ground because of rise in sea level.

Storm surges took away three row of houses at Nacamaki Village and also claimed the lives of Koro islanders on February 20, 2016.

The permanent secretary for Ministry of Lands and Minerals Resources while responding to questions from this newspaper stated their findings revealed that relocation is imminent for the villages that are located along the coast.

“The relocation assessment for Koro Island was based on storm surges and coastal inundation heights during the Category 5 – TC Winston cyclone and not solely on the fault line. MRD ensured that the relocation sites identified are safe and ground stability confirmed; therefore, geohazard like fault lines were also noted.

“All the villages on Koro Island have identified their relocation site which has been surveyed by MRD except for Tuatua Village, that is yet to confirm their relocation site and Vatulele Village, which is currently located on higher ground

“There are definite costs for relocation however assessment conduct by MRD did not cover financial costs assessment.

“Communities should seriously consider long-term solution against climate change and rising sea levels and one such recommendation is for communities to move/relocate to safe and stable ground sites in-land.”

Mr Malakai Finau added there are places on the island that are sitting on fault lines.

“Currently the Kade Village and the school are located within the fault zone with high raised cliffs behind the village and school.

“Considering the adverse weather and that climate change and sea level rise is imminent, it is recommended that people should consider moving inland. MRD has carried out the relocation assessment and the report with recommendations was submitted to National Disaster Management Office.

“All the field findings and recommendations made are included in the report which was submitted to National Disaster Management Office. The manager of the school confirmed that the new relocation site for the school would be close to the proposed new site of the village. The proposed relocation site is large enough to accommodate the village and the school.

“The fault zones are considered to be an unstable area, where slight ground movement can result in rock fall and landslides. Adverse weather such as heavy rainfall can also trigger the landslides and geological hazards. This was evident when assessment was conducted after TC Winston with fallen rock (boulder sizes) noted around the area.”

The OXFAM report “Uprooted by Climate Change – Responding to the growing risk of climate change” stated climate change is already forcing millions of people from their land and homes, and putting many more at risk of displacement in the future.

“Supercharged storms, more intense and prolonged droughts, rising seas and other impacts of climate change all exacerbate people’s existing vulnerabilities and increase the likelihood of being forced to move. While climate change affects us all, the risks of displacement are significantly higher in lower income countries and among people living in poverty.

“Oxfam’s analysis reveals that between 2008 and 2016, people in low and lower middle income countries were around five times more likely than people in high income countries to be displaced by sudden onset extreme weather disasters. Women, children, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups are also disproportionately affected. The loss of homes, livelihoods and ancestral lands through displacement epitomises the human cost and the grave injustice of climate change.

“Those least responsible for climate change are bearing the brunt of its impacts, and have fewest resources to cope with these new realities. The disproportionate incidence and impact of climate change related displacement both stems from and further drives inequality. Displacement is disruptive and traumatic. However, much can and must be done to minimize the risk of displacement linked to climate change, and to guarantee rights and protection for people who are forced to move.”

At Nacamaki Village while majority of villagers have relocated to higher ground a handful have refused to move from their ancestral ground. The story is the same at Sinuvaca Village and a few other villages on the island.

Is displacement really inevitable or is there a way we can avoid relocation and or displacement?

More Stories