PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
RISING PACIFIC SEA LEVELS
WASH HUMAN REMAINS OUT TO SEA
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (November 4, 1998 - AFP)---Rising sea-levels in the
Pacific are eroding burial grounds and sacred places, the South Pacific Regional
Environmental Programme (SPREP) said Wednesday.
The Samoa-based inter-government agency said cultural and spiritually important
sites in the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati were "crumbling"
into the ocean.
"Second World War graves on Majuro atoll in the Marshall Islands are slowly
being eroded by wind and surf, which breaches the sea walls and strews debris
over the headstones," the agency said.
"In Niue and Palau, where the dead lie in caves near the ocean, people are
now discussing moving their ancestors further inland because of the threat from
the rising ocean."
The agency said on many atolls people were radically changing agricultural
practices because rising sea levels were seeping into the soil making it too
salty to grow staple crops such as taro, pulaka and yams.
In Tuvalu, farmers used to dig pits in the sandy soil, fill them with compost
and plant their root crops.
Now increasingly brackish water is poisoning taro planted in pits in low-lying
Some farmers have relocated their plantations to higher land, but there is only
limited land available in this nation of atolls. Others are growing taro in tin
Rising sea levels have already swamped some motu (small islets) in the Pacific.
In Kiribati, the motu of Tebua Tarawa which used to be a landmark for fishermen
has now gone.
In Tuvalu, the motu of Tepuka Savilivili has lost its coconut trees and its
sand-banks and the ocean is slowly moving up its remaining rock.
Michael J Field
Auckland, New Zealand
TEL: (64 21) 688-438
FAX: (64 21) 694-035