South Pacific island declares state of emergency as rainfall disappears

October 3, 2011TUVALUA New Zealand Defense Force C-130 arrived in Tuvalu Monday afternoon to deliver Red Cross supplies and personnel to address severe water shortages on the South Pacific Island. Months of below average rainfall have resulted in severe water shortages on the island, which boasts a population of just under 10,500. New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Monday: “Tuvalu has declared a state of emergency relating to water shortages in the capital, Funafuti, and a number of outer islands. “A New Zealand Defense Force C-130 left this morning to take supplies and personnel to Tuvalu. The supplies include two desalination units as well as water containers. Two Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff on board, including our Wellington-based High Commissioner, will remain in Tuvalu to help assess needs on the ground. “New Zealand will be working with partners and other donors to consider the best medium-to-long-term response options”, Minister McCully added. Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls. Its population of 10,472 makes it the third-least populous sovereign state in the world.IWO
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4 Responses to South Pacific island declares state of emergency as rainfall disappears

  1. Tomwe says:

    Is this one of the islands where bottled water companies are draining the water table like Fiji?


  2. Pagan says:

    Tuvalu is in extreme danger of being swamped from rising sea levels. It has been said that within fifty years this small nation will cease to exist. It’s not just the lack of rain that is causing these water shortages – entire islands have already disappeared, low level areas are filling at high tide as water rises through the porous coral ground, freshwater swamps used to grow crops are being contaminated by rising seawater. Kiribati is another tiny South pacific nation in the same predicament.

    According to a report published by the World Bank in 2000, “the Pacific Islands are becoming increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events as growing urbanization and squatter settlements, degradation of coastal ecosystems, and rapidly developing infrastructure on coastal areas intensify the islands’ natural exposure to climate events. Among the most substantial impacts of climate change would be losses of coastal infrastructure and land resulting from inundation, storm surge, and shoreline erosion. Climate change could also cause more intense cyclones and droughts, the failure of subsistence crops and coastal fisheries, losses in coral reefs, and the spread of malaria and dengue fever.”

    There is a tendency in much of the world to view climate change as a slow and gradual process where the harmful effects will be able to prevented before they occur. What is happening in Kiribati is evidence to the contrary. Kiribati is “like the canary in the coal mine in terms of the dramatic impact of climate change on a whole civilization of people,” says Harvard University biological oceanographer James J. McCarthy. “They didn’t cause the problem, but they are among the first to feel it.”



  3. Clare says:

    I too have been concerned when reading of sea level rises…. but there are dissenting points of view.

    NZ research shows Pacific islands not shrinking
    Published: 6:06AM Thursday June 03, 2010 Source: NZPA

    An Auckland University researcher has offered new hope to the myriad small island nations in the Pacific which have loudly complained their low-lying atolls will drown as global warming boosts sea levels.

    Geographer Associate Professor Paul Kench has measured 27 islands where local sea levels have risen 120mm – an average of 2mm a year – over the past 60 years, and found that just four had diminished in size.

    Working with Arthur Webb at the Fiji-based South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, Kench used historical aerial photographs and high-resolution satellite images to study changes in the land area of the islands.

    They found that the remaining 23 had either stayed the same or grown bigger, according to the research published in a scientific journal, Global and Planetary Change.

    “It has been thought that as the sea level goes up, islands will sit there and drown,” Prof Kench told the New Scientist. “But they won’t.

    “The sea level will go up and the island will start responding.

    One of the highest profile islands – in a political sense – was Tuvalu, where politicians and climate change campaigners have repeatedly predicted it will be drowned by rising seas, as its highest point is 4.5 metres above sea level. But the researchers found seven islands had spread by more than 3 percent on average since the 1950s.

    One island, Funamanu, gained 0.44 hectares or nearly 30 percent of its previous area.

    And the research showed similar trends in the Republic of Kiribati, where the three main urbanised islands also “grew” – Betio by 30 percent (36ha), Bairiki by 16.3 percent (5.8ha) and Nanikai by 12.5 percent (0.8ha).

    Webb, an expert on coastal processes, told the New Scientist the trend was explained by the fact the islands mostly comprised coral debris eroded from encircling reefs and pushed up onto the islands by winds and waves.

    The process was continuous, because the corals were alive, he said.

    In effect the islands respond to changes in weather patterns and climate – Cyclone Bebe deposited 140ha of sediment on the eastern reef of Tuvalu in 1972, increasing the main island’s area by 10 percent.

    But the two men warned that while the islands were coping for now, any acceleration in the rate of sea level rise could re-instate the earlier gloomy predictions.

    No one knows how fast the islands can grow, and calculating sea level rise is an inexact science.

    Climate experts have generally raised estimates for sea level rise – the United Nations spoke in late 2009 of a maximum 2 metre rise by 2100, up from 18-59cm estimated in 2007.


  4. Thank you Pagan for this information. It is much appreciated. And thank you Alvin for all of the news you post. Without your site, I would not be aware of all of these Earth changes.



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