40 years on and still in the wild


Ontong Java island of Luaniua from above. Photo: Beni Knight.

LOW lying atolls like Ontong Java are faced with a grim future because of the impacts of climate change. Despite asking for help and assistance, the people there are still left to fend for themselves.

In 2011 a report titled ‘Vulnerability and assessment report for low lying atolls – Ontong Java’ was released with key findings and recommendations a key area for government and stakeholders to consider.

Seven years on, the people from Ontong Java are singing the same song, and still asking government for assistance in their everyday living to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The report pointed out that the impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture, Food Security, Land Degradation, Forestry, and Biodiversity are far ranging.

The impacts includes salt water intrusion in the garden land coupled with coastal inundation and erosion has highlighted big concerns for the people’s livelihood particularly on the food security and fuel wood.

Land degradation needs to be corrected while food security improvement depends very much on how agriculture, land degradation, forestry and biodiversity are improved.

“New sustainable and permanent farming systems need to be designed and developed to enhance the production of food and other livelihood needs in order to meet the demands of food security” the report stated.

The report stated that human Settlements will be affected by impacts of climate change especially due to sea level rise and coastal erosion. Pelau community for almost a decade has already moved further inland because of king tides and storm surges.

“A temporary village on an island was almost eroded away. The people had expressed concern and in the household survey 100percent of the respondents showed that they favour relocation if the Government offered alternative sites for people to move to.

“They have also expressed that all options for relocation, including external marriage with people on bigger islands, offering employment and study opportunities to encourage the young generation of islanders should be considered as self-attained adaptation options by the people themselves.”

The survey also gathered that the people from the low lying atolls, more so Ontong Java, wants the present or future governments, Non-government Organisations and all other stakeholders to demonstrate their concern about the climate change phenomenon and its possible impacts on man and the ecosystem by taking affirmative action to address it.

“Alternatives should be created which would serve as adaptation strategies for the citizens of Ontong Java and all others that are immediately affected by the impacts of climate change.

“It is imperative that the government institutes policies that will address all aspects of climate change, and effectively plan for and understand the short, medium and long-term response measures required to address all aspects cited in this report.

“What is urgently needed at present is the will to pursue a proactive approach to climate change and its impact on Ontong Java or those who are vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” the report stated.

It was found that some priority needs that has to be addressed include financial literacy programmes, climate awareness, education and training, capacity building for agriculture, sustainable environmental stewardship, resource management training and planning, and a phased out implementation of relocation options, plans and strategies.

Recently Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media had been to Ontong Java and revealed that the people there are still living on their own without much assistance from the government or stakeholders. Nor had the priority needs stated in the report had been addressed.

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