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02/03/2014

Flooding forces one Fiji village to relocate, others may follow

Fifji

A file photo of a man playing with children at Pacific Harbour Beach in Fiji.

It is happening: in one Fiji village, people have packed their bags and moved to higher ground.

Residents of Vunidogolo, a Fijian village where farmland and homes got regularly flooded during the high tide, have relocated under the country’s climate change refugee program, says a report in the Fiji Times. The report says that relocation included the construction of over 30 houses, fish ponds, and farms, which cost the island’s government about $900,000.

“This cost includes the construction of the 30 houses, fish ponds and copra drier, farms and other projects we have set up in the new village site,” a government official told the Times. “It is to help the villagers earn an income while living in their new village.”  

The houses have been fully constructed, painted and prepared well, he said.

Other villages, where seawater flows into the village compound during high tide, are also being considered for relocation.

Fiji, in the South Pacific Ocean, is considered threatened by climate change.

The country’s National Climate Change Policy says it expects global sea level changes to more than double by the end of the century, based on projections from the fourth U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report.

(The IPPC’s Fifth Assessment Report released in September 2013, however, was worse and predicted that ocean levels would rise by as much as three feet by the end of the century due to climate change.)

While Vunidogolo’s residents are in-home climate change refugees, a Kiribati man asked a New Zealand court to grant him refugee status because rising sea levels make it too dangerous for him and his family to return home. The judge ultimately rejected his claim.  

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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