DIS­AP­PEAR:

mailife - - Advertorial - Pho­tos by SPC

We are fa­mous for our white sandy beaches and crys­tal wa­ters in the Pa­cific but our re­gion is also amongst the first to wit­ness dis­place­ment of peo­ple caused by cli­mate change.

Be­ing at the fore­front of cli­mate change means for Pa­cific peo­ples that the risk of dis­as­ters such as cy­clones, droughts, storm surges and land­slides are pre­dicted to worsen, with many com­mu­ni­ties al­ready wit­ness­ing changed weather pat­terns. The Pa­cific has in­evitably found it­self also at the fore­front of adap­ta­tion to strengthen its re­silience: we are learn­ing how to adapt to the risks brought on by cli­mate change and dis­as­ter through nav­i­gat­ing the chal­lenges pre­sented by it. The Build­ing Safety Re­silience in the Pa­cific (BSRP) Project, funded by the Euro­pean Union and im­ple­mented by the Pa­cific Com­mu­nity, is a project that pro­vides 15 Pa­cific coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ti­mor-Leste, with sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise to re­duce the vul­ner­a­bil­ity caused by dis­as­ters and cli­mate change, in­clud­ing the re­duc­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal losses, so­cial im­pacts and eco­nomic costs. The re­al­ity of cli­mate change and in­creased sever­ity of dis­as­ters mean many com­mu­ni­ties are at risk of los­ing their tra­di­tional home­land, as tides chip away at the shore­line, sea lev­els con­tinue to rise and in­land com­mu­ni­ties are struck with dis­as­ters such as land­slides; leav­ing many com­mu­ni­ties de­void of safer and more dis­as­ter re­silient land. Re­cently, the BSRP project, in part­ner­ship with the Fijian gov­ern­ment, as­sisted with the suc­cess­ful relocation of Tuku­raki vil­lage, the first in­land in­dige­nous com­mu­nity to be re­lo­cated in the coun­try. In Fiji, 600 com­mu­ni­ties have been iden­ti­fied for relocation from the im­pacts of cli­mate change, Tuku­raki Vil­lage is one of the 46 pri­or­ity com­mu­ni­ties for im­me­di­ate relocation. The story of re­silience dis­played by the peo­ple of Tuku­raki vil­lage, amidst dis­as­ters, serves as a les­son for all, on the re­al­ity of what cli­mate change looks like in the Pa­cific and how we, as a re­gion, should adapt devel­op­ment prac­tices to sup­port sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. One of the sig­nif­i­cant les­sons of re­lo­cat­ing an en­tire vil­lage is the im­pact it can have on tra­di­tional roles and cul­tural im­pli­ca­tions. The loss of land and how the adop­tion of new land af­fects the way peo­ple re­late to their tra­di­tional prac­tices and each other is a chal­lenge that Tuku­raki Vil­lage had to care­fully nav­i­gate through dur­ing its relocation process. In Jan­uary 2012, Tuku­raki Vil­lage re­ceived more than 939mm of rain­fall in three days, more than dou­ble the av­er­age monthly rain­fall for Jan­uary, caus­ing a land­slide that buried the com­mu­nity and trag­i­cally killed a fam­ily with two small chil­dren. The land­slide dec­i­mated 80% of the vil­lage – de­stroy­ing road ac­cess, wa­ter sup­ply, homes and crops crit­i­cal for the com­mu­nity’s sub­sis­tence living. The Min­eral Re­sources De­part­ment which had to use a helicopter to ac­cess the re­mote vil­lage deemed it un­sta­ble for habi­ta­tion and the com­mu­nity now had to flee their homes, just eight hours af­ter the dis­as­ter. For in­dige­nous Fijian com­mu­ni­ties, to re­lo­cate also means leav­ing be­hind cus­tom­ary land which are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to their tra­di­tional prac­tices and iden­tity. Li­vai Ki­didromo, the vil­lage spokesper­son said it was an emo­tional time for his com­mu­nity. “For al­most two years we lived in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions with­out our ex­tended fam­i­lies,” he said. “As Fi­jians, the land is ev­ery­thing, it con­nects us to each other and it is what keeps us grounded. Through the land we know where we stand. When we lost our vil­lage, we didn’t know whether we would ever get it back. We were lost.” Flee­ing their vil­lage frag­mented the com­mu­nity: some mov­ing to ur­ban ar­eas to live with rel­a­tives and oth­ers choos­ing to weather the storm and build tem­po­rary homes along the nar­row edges of road­way, in the hope the com­mu­nity could re­build. How­ever, their doubts and fears about the fu­ture of their vil­lage wors­ened when they were hit by Cy­clone Evan (Cat­e­gory 4) 11 months af­ter their ini­tial dis­place­ment (2012) and in 2016, Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston (Cat­e­gory 5), the strong­est ever recorded cy­clone to dev­as­tate Fiji’s shores, de­stroyed their makeshift vil­lage. These mul­ti­ple dis­as­ters forced the com­mu­nity into caves where they lived for weeks, to pro­tect them­selves from the de­struc­tion

Aerial shot of Tuku­raki vil­lage

Li­vai, the vil­lage spokesper­son Tuku­raki - Honey Boxes as part of the sustainble liveli­hoods project im­ple­mented by the Fiji Gov­ern­ment

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