I’ve discovered that the more I write, the more I love it. To be honest, I’ve never considered myself much of a writer but I really enjoy it. I find that it allows me to articulate my own thoughts on things about Kiribati. Having said that, I haven’t been able to have a chance to sit down and write for a month or so. I’ve started countless amounts of posts but I’ve struggled to find the time to finish them! Apologies, what a pathetic excuse.
Of late, Kiribati has been in the news quite a lot. Well more than usual anyway. With Anote Tong being voted in for his third and final term as President of Kiribati, he has announced that the new cabinet have agreed to try and buy land in Fiji. This is to prepare for the future should Kiribati eventually have to be evacuated entirely due to rising waters.
Yeah, pretty crazy hey? Now I’m not really too sure on how it would legally work and since this is new territory for Kiribati and Fiji it would obviously have to be figured out. So if Kiribati buy land, would Kiribati citizens need a visa to live there? Would babies that are born there be eligible for Fijian citizenship? This block of land is approx 6,000 acres and is currently owned by a church group. This land is on the main island of Fiji not a separate island all together so to be honest I kind of find it a bit unsettling. It’s for sale for $9.6 million and to be honest I really doubt Kiribati even has that amount of money to spare. On average, each Kiribati person has approx $1,600 and a shitload of coconuts to their name. It really is new ground but the reality is, is that sea levels are rising and fertile land on Kiribati is descreasing so Kiribati need to think of options.
I have read some really ridiculous reports of people saying that the islands are actually expanding, that atolls are always changing, that these things ‘happen all the time’. I find it so frustrating to read these. Yes may be they have expanded in terms of sand bars rising to cover more ground but the actual fertile land that is habitable is shrinking. How do I know? As most of you know, I’m not an expert on these things. All I’m going on is what I have seen with my own eyes. The water has risen. More people are inhabiting the main island for supplies while the Tarawa struggles to provide for the amount of families on the island. More and more babies are being born, fresh water in the wells are getting contaminated with salt water, the sun is getting hotter (or ‘closer’ as my uncle would say), disputes on land ownership are increasing and the land is struggling to provide for all the people on the islands – not just Tarawa but all the outer islands.
The more people there are on the island means that there is less land to grow vegetables, to keep pigs and chickens, to have fresh water wells to provide the amount of people in the area. At the moment Kiribati is hurtling towards problems that are growing bigger by the day.
Here is a video that I took of my cousins playing at our house on Tarawa. Please excuse my horrendous grasp on the language. it goes for a while so if you don’t want to watch all of it, I encourage you to skip through a watch the level of water. This is what I see. Although I understand we need them, I’m not talking about scientific reports, statistics, climate change supporters or deniers right now. This is just what I see when I visit my family. There are people out there trying to deny that water isn’t rising but as you can only imagine that the water never used to be as high as what it is in the video.
Now compare that footage to this photo of my Grandparents with my Auntie, sister and myself in 1985. This is the exact same spot. There is no sea wall nor was there a need for it. There is no denying it. The landscape has definitely changed.
So maybe buying land from Fiji is the answer. I’m don’t know. I just know that Kiribati is an incredibly poor country and that this land purchase would certainly increase their financial problems. It would also create problems in terms of land ownership on Fiji and Kiribati. I’m assuming that both parliaments are trying to figure out whether this would be possible. Pacific Islanders do have a history of moving around island to island, I suppose I’m just concerned with the all the red tape. How much in debt will Kiribati be? How will Kiribati govern their people if their living in Fiji on Kiribati land?
I have so many questions I want to be answered but at the moment it’s just a waiting game. Fiji have to approve Kiribati’s proposal to buy the land from them to start off with. If this comes through I suppose that’s when a lot of these questions can be answered. In the meantime, I’ll keep going through my emails, chatting to people who know more than me, reading articles.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear any suggestions for topics on future posts.