Rising sea levels submerging islands in Papua New Guinea

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 13 Sep 2007

SYDNEY – Two local leaders from the Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea, arrived in Australia today to bring attention to the way climate change is likely to affect their lives.
Ursula Rakova and Bernard Tunim, arrived in Australia today to begin a speaking tour about their traditional home, the Carteret Islands, which are sinking and eroding due to rising sea levels.
The Carteret Islanders have fought for more than twenty years against the rising ocean, building sea walls and planting mangroves. Despite this, their entire culture is now facing relocation due to the impacts of climate change.
“People on the Carterets first started to notice changes in the 1980s. High tides would wash through gardens and the leaves of plants would turn yellow,” said Ms Rakova, who heads the organization that is trying to organize the relocation of over 2,000 people who currently live on the Carteret Islands.
Within the space of a generation, the shoreline of the Carteret Islands has receded by almost 20 metres. Salt water intrusion occurs during storm surges washing away gardens and homes, destroying vegetable gardens and contaminating fresh water supplies.
“We plan to relocate within Papua New Guinea, but we don’t have any help,” she added.
At the recent APEC summit world leaders pledged support to countries that are trying to adapt to climate change through “appropriate policy exchanges, financing, capacity building and technology transfer, ” she said.
APEC’s action agenda overlooked the negative impact that rising sea levels are already having on communities throughout the Pacific. Papua New Guinea follows Tuvalu and Kiribati as the third country where land is becoming uninhabitable due to climate change.
“APEC ignored the fact that climate change is having an effect right now. Our islands are sinking and we need help so that we don’t go with them,” said Mr Tunim.
Ms Rakova and Mr Tunim are seeking a meeting with the Government and raising awareness with the Australian community over the next two weeks on the need for financial support for relocation.
For more information or to organize an interview with Ursula Rakova or Bernard Tunim contact Melany Markham on 0407 515 559 or melanym@oxfam.org.au