September 15, 2008

Papua New Guinea to Resettle Islanders Facing Rising Sea Level

Text of report by Papua New Guinea newspaper The National website on 15 September

[by Nelson K. Philip] The Carterets Islanders will be relocated to Tinputz on mainland Bougainville, 10 families at a time. The Autonomous Bougainville Government had endorsed the atolls development policy to relocate the islanders starting next year. It is expected to be completed by 2020.

The Catholic church of Bougainville gave 81 ha of land in the Tinputz area to accommodate the 3,320 Carterets islanders who feared they would be losing some of their basic human rights, especially land ownership.

Coordinator for the relocation Ursula Rakova recently presented a documentary to the Individual and Community Rights Advocacy forum on human rights entitled "The plight of the Carterets Islanders on the sinking atolls. Do we have rights?"

The Carterets Islands, home to about 3,320 people, comprise six coral isles located 86 km northwest of Buka and Bougainville islands.

Due to global warming and climate change, sea water is swamping the islands, making them uninhabitable and forcing the population to relocate to mainland Bougainville, especially to the Tinputz area.

"The Carterets Islands are sinking and I am here to present and share with you the anguish and uncertain feeling of my people," Mrs Rakova said. She said that in the Carteret Islands land was held by women, as in Bougainville where the land ownership was passed from mother to daughter.

Mrs Rakova said people had lived on these islands for many generations and they wanted to stay where their homes, gardens, ancestral burial sites and all the sacred things were but the islands were sinking and every year the sea moved farther inland.

"Palm trees fall over as the land gets smaller. We were told that in 10 to 15 years, the islands would be completely under water," she added.

Mrs Rakova said education and health services for the people and children, job creation, cultural preservation and community partnerships with traditional landowners were some of the issues they were looking at.

"It does not matter whether people were born on Carterets Islands or any other place that becomes uninhabitable; they still deserve the same basic human rights as others," she added.

Originally published by The National website, Port Moresby, in English 15 Sep 08.

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