Samstag, 5. Oktober 2013
Mittwoch, 18. Juli 2012
Climate induced migration is not just happening to low-lying islands. The catastrophic drought means thousands of Bolivians are simply walking away from their homes and land for cities already suffering from water shortages. Researcher Johannes Luetz takes us on a personal journey of Bolivia where people are leaving the land in droves.
Mittwoch, 15. Juni 2011
Climate induced migration is not just happening to low-lying islands. The catastrophic drought means thousands of Bolivians are simply walking away from their homes and land for cities already suffering from water shortages. Researcher Johannes Luetz takes us on a personal journey of Bolivia where people are leaving the land in droves.
Sonntag, 7. November 2010
In sum, I was in Papua New Guinea for 2 1/2 weeks, conducting a pilot study for my PhD to test out my data collection method. While it was a very difficult trip in terms of logistics and personal comforts, hygiene, etc., I'm glad I did it, but also relieved that I can now move to the analysis of my many filled in 12-page questionnaires.
PhD Pilot Study -- THE END
My video footage will not be ready until the next year, so I'm leaving you with this clip for an additional impression about the Carteret Islands and the fate of forced migration now faced by this friendly community of islanders. Take a look:
Samstag, 6. November 2010
Flying back from Buka to Port Moresby, catching a last glance of one of so many low-lying islands now increasingly at risk of sea level rise-related pressures.
Freitag, 5. November 2010
My last day in Buka. I do a total of three interviews, including with the Bougainville Regional Disaster Office Coordinator, and Division Primary Industry Coordinator.
The interviews bring out the significant threats posed by weather variability and climate change-reinforced drought. I learn that a particularly bad drought, reminiscient of the one in 1998, is expected to come up soon. If the 1998 drought was a precursor, then the coming drought could last up to 18 months.
Unfortunately I don't have time to verify sources because of time constraints, but based on my observations on the atolls I'm not surprised to hear that water stress poses huge risks in face of rainwater dependency, saltwater intrusion and freshwater decline.
Carteret Atoll, Huene Island: Being heavily reliant on rainwater harvesting, steady freshwater supplies present significant challenges for low-lying islands.
Donnerstag, 4. November 2010
We rise at around 6ish, Patrick feels miserable from the bout of Malaria, I can tell, although he is very brave throughout the day. I do a final interview with Daniel Bokoar after finishing a heavy fish-rice-chinese-cabbage-breakfast! We also put some of the interview on video camera. Then we walk back down to the water for our trip back to Buka.
This time the trip across the open ocean takes us through a localised bad weather system with some rough rain and big waves. At 12:15 noon we briefly call in at the Island of Pororan en route back to Buka, primarly because I conducted interviews on this island in 2008 and want to revisit people and places.
Francis Giran is there to meet me -- again. He shows me the well and explains that the water is salty. Although I want to stay on and film I am mindful of Patricks Malaria condition and want us to hurry back to Buka. We reach back just after 3:00 pm.
Leaving Nissan Atoll after four days with Daniel Bokoar and his wife Nina from the Solomon Islands (right). This trip to a second atoll dissimilar to the Carteret Islands afforded me a uniquely different and more nuanced perspective on climate change-related forced migration.
Mittwoch, 3. November 2010
People are up again early, from 5:30 am. I try to "sleep in", but it's difficult to do so from 6:00 am, although I do make it a point to prolong some more "rest". We also eat a full blown rice and smoked fish breakfast with plenty of brown-sugar-water-coffee. Then we trudge down to the Nissan District Office where I conduct two interviews which are very fruitful.
However, the really big event today is a chance encounter with a live bomb from WWII. After doing "walkabout" to the Waor Village I can hardly believe my eyes as a number of children, guessing at another photo opportunity coming along, run right up to the bomb, jumping up and down and posing for the camera. I immediately retreat, wondering whether I'll come out alive. Apparently the villagers have already dragged it with them two or three times, whenever they move their village to a new location. I'm told that they use it to "flatten" the ground in each new place they visit.
I definitely want to do something about this. This is dangerous! With the detonator gone, this bomb can go off when no one expects it. It should not be in the vilage. Apparently there are other WWII relics lying around, but this one is the only one I saw -- as I said, it's only a few metres outside someone's house. Can anyone please help?
Waor Village, Nissan Island: Unexploded live WWII bomb. According to some villagers's accounts the PNG Defence Force has not been able to defuse it due to the absence of the detonator. Who can help to remove this grave danger from this village? While this has nothing to do with my research, it has everything to do with my responsibility as a fellow human being. I promised to raise the issue upon my return, who can help?
Dienstag, 2. November 2010
The sun rises its usual 5:00 am, after which time people rise and begin to play, make noise, etc. I get up at around 6:20 am, feeling almost guilty about being so "late" get get going.
Today World Vision Officer Patrick comes down with Malaria. I am reminded that this killer disease is an ever present reality in Papua New Guinea, aware that after the mosquito assaults in the Carterets I myself am not beyond contracting it weeks later. Patrick takes his first sets of chloroquine tablets and spends the day resting, while I meet George Tarara, the Executive Manager of Nissan Atolls to present my research interests to him which meets with his support.
Conducting interviews in Rogos Village, Pinepel Island. This island community is especially hard hit by low-lying land, wind storm exposure and related food shortages.
Afterwards we take the boat to Pinepel Island where I do two interviews. My conversation with Conrad Willy is especially informative and engaging. When I ask this community leader how many people live in Rogos Village, he instantly spills out the number: 338 ("until last week we were 337, but on Thursday we registered a newborn child.") Wow! The words that immediately come to my mind are "initiative" and "leadership". While several communities sofar only knew that they were "roughly 16 familes" or so, this community knows its people precisely, a reminder that leadership is not an inherited but acquired skill which goes a long way as Conrad Willy humbly demonstrates by his fascinating answers to my research questions.
Rogos Village, Pinepel Island: Speaking to Conrad Willy I am reminded of the power of leadership to transform communities, evidenced by his discernible influence.
We take pictures and video of the whole community before eventually taking off to return to Nissan, dragging some lines behind the boat as we make our way back. David and Daniel catch a Rainbow Runner each, virtually at the same time. After another brief stop at a village that exhibits severe signs of coastal erosion we eventually return to Holy Cross Catholic Mission High School.
Montag, 1. November 2010
We spend the day again down at the District Games. I also do three interviews, one of which is especially informative. A young teacher from the Carteret islands provides an interesting perspective of the two atolls, so similar in terms of their remoteness, and yet so different.
The two skippers Justin and David, together with World Vision Programme Officer Patrick, go for a spin in the boat, catching a lot of big fish. Mrs Christine Siwo from the Carteret Islands prepares them for us in coconut cream and offers them to us with rice and sweet potatoe, yummy!
While I do my semi-structured interviews in the afternoon heat the boys take the boat for a spin, later parading their catch after I return from my interviews. My next PhD will be on game fishing which I decide is more fruitful more quickly :-)
At night, after another brief shower with the mug, I marvel at the fact that there is not a single mosquito in this breezy place. The wind constantly blows them away, a wonderful feeling of respite after the mosquito attacks suffered on the Carterets!
Sonntag, 31. Oktober 2010
I wake up at 4:30, the trip to the Nissan Atoll sees us getting totally drenched once again. We arrive at Nissan Atoll at around 9:00 am. It's a very different atoll, horseshoe shaped and not as low-lying. In fact, this atoll boasts one of the longest runways in the Pacific, a remnant from WWII left behind by the Americans.
We are fortunate to meet Daniel Bokoar, the District Community Development Officer. I can sense that Daniel cares deeply about the young people, a sentiment evidenced by his dedicated organisation of the District Games, a fabulous reconciliation/ rehabilitation initiative that sees young people from across the atoll come together for a day of sports and games (touch rugby, football, volleyball, darts), all accompanied by a DJ's selection of island style music.
Nissan Atoll District Games: This surprise event enables me to build relationship with the community. I may as well face the music: there is no place to hide. I'm the only white boy in town.
Samstag, 30. Oktober 2010
After a brief breakfast at the Lynchar Hotel I'm picked up and taken to the World Vision office where I meet staff to tie up various Carteret loose ends and prepare logistics for our planned trip to the Nissan Atoll tomorrow. After lunch we unexpectedly meet the politician Lawrence Belleh and give him a copy of Planet Prepare. I interviewed him in 2008 on the Island of Pororan (Download Planet Prepare, he and/or his island are featured on page 19 and 22). I also interview Boniface Wadari, a lot of really solid insights around development organisation engagement come out of this interview, I can see that World Vision is well integrated into the fabric of society and can even consider expanding its role around areas of training and local capacity building (hygiene, gender roles, literacy, sanitation, family planning, health and nutrition, HIV & AIDS).
In the simplest of terms roles and responsibilities could be shared as follows: 1. Governement: Coordinators; 2. Development Organisations: Facilitators; 3. Civil Society: Implementors.
I also pick up my laundry, absolutely amazed at how stained my pants and shirt still are. These marks and smears will be lasting "souvenirs" from the Carteret Islands.
Freitag, 29. Oktober 2010
We get up early again -- about 5:30 am. After packing up I interview Rufina Moi on video camera down by the ocean. It's a scenic spot, although the temperatures fast heat up, even in the wee morning hours.
We finally leave at 7 am. Once again we get sprayed soaking wet by every wave that bounces off the boat. The sun also beats down on us, although we don't feel it as much because we're all totally drenched. We see lots of flying fish.
After nearly 3 hours we reach Tinputz, Bougainville. Coming here is useful for my PhD pilote study because I can investigate climate change-related migration (interacting with other non-environmentment related drivers) as it plays out in both "origin" and "destination" communities.
Tinputz, Bougainville: My first of two semi-structured interviews in the newly established "destination" community Tinputz where the first resettlers have begun to rebuild their lives. Other family members still on the Carteret Islands are expected to arrive as soon as construction levels have reached the needed capacity.
I manage to do two interviews in Tinputz. Into the second, I feel really dizzy and dehydrated from the noonday sun. I also fast develop a throbbing headache and eventually lie down to close my eyes and rest. After days of rushing around I'm tired. Two cups of sweet tea, plus two hours of rest put me back on my feet and enable me to reach Buka huddled together in the back of the boat with a mother and her small child.
Back at the guest house I cannot believe how dirty my clothes are. I think I can nearly stand my pants upright in the corner, I've never seen clothes this dirty. Then I go off to sleep at 4:00 pm, awaking briefly at 6:00 pm, only to go back to sleep for straight 12 hours -- from 6 to 6.
Mittwoch, 27. Oktober 2010
As I conduct interviews on the Islands of Iolasa, Huene, and Han, today's field research clearly brings out the importance of family planning and community consultation, roles that development NGOs are well placed to play.
Carteret Atoll, Huene Island: According to Runina Moi this island was split into two islets in 1968, Huene One and Huene Two. The place where we are standing [Huene One] used to be connected to Huene Two. The "channel" between the islets is widening.
Carteret Atoll, Huene Island: Huene Two contains only food gardens.
Carteret Atoll: Conducting semi-structured interviews in the shade of some trees on the Island of Huene One.
Carteret Atoll, Iolasa Island: This interview brings out the importance of community consultation. Julie Krista's husband recently returned from the resettlement site in Tinputz after someone reported that the family hut in Iolasa had been destroyed by strong wind. Because there is no communication between the atolls and the mainland he returned to Iolasa to investigate the rumour for himself.
Carteret Atoll: Semi-structured interview with Rufina Moi (67) who was born on the Island of Han. Rather than resorting to the word "refugee" to describe her fellow islander who are forced to leave, Rufina Moi prefers the terms "resettlers" which in her mind also encapsulates the reality that much of the resettlement is reinforced by the overpopulation problem. One islander interviewed has 12 children, with his wife currently expecting the birth of their 13th child.
Dienstag, 26. Oktober 2010
I get up at 3:15 am, pack, get ready, but don't actually get picked up at the guesthouse until about 5ish. We finally leave by boat at 6:00 am, apparently the sea is most "peaceful" during the early morning hours. Just before we depart I call Wendy on her mobile phone in Bolivia to let her know that for the next few days I'll have neither internet nor phone nor any other means of connectivity. Being more than 80 kilometres in the open sea northwest of Bougainville, the Carteret Islands are prohibitively challenging to reach.
While I talk to Wendy I marvel how modern connectivity has made it possible to bridge the gap from one developing country to another -- we understand each other reasonably well today, another reminder of the very high development value of "connectivity".
Travelling to the Carteret Atoll we get absolutely sprayed. I had absolutely NO idea I would be getting a constant shower for more than 3 hours of travelling through the waves. After a couple of hours on the way I feel my ears to scrape out what feels like sand -- only to discover that the "kernels" of sand are actually solid salt. I am soaking wet! I might as well not have worn my only long pair of pants which have streaks of white from the salt all over, but then again, the sun is really powerful as well and I'm glad I covered up.
We reach the Carterets at 10 am. After some time of sitting and resting under the shade of some coconut trees I do my first interview with Pauline. Afterwards I circle the island on foot with her husband Kingsford -- everywhere are signs of erosion and evidence of sea level rise.
Coconut trees being gradually eroded away by the daily tidal energy. All over the island signs of sea level rise are blatant.
Coconut and smoked fish is the only diet locally available. Fruit trees and vegetable gardens were destroyed in the 2008 King Tides. Islanders interviewed believe the islands will be submerged within 10-15 years.
Then in the late afternoon we circle Han Island by boat, filming. We can make out a number of areas where the sea walls are clearly covered by ocean water, offering nothing more than a reminder of where at some point in the past someone tried to protect an area of land from saltwater intrusion -- and eventually gave up and let the sea come in.
Flooded sea wall made of "gabion baskets", wire-enforced structures that lessen wave energy.
Carteret Atoll, Han Island: Circling the island by boat we pass this coconut tree stump, a reminder just how much bigger the island must have been only a relatively short time ago.
There is no doubt about it: the Carteret Atoll is disappearing under the sea. This coconut tree stump lies about 20 metres from shore. All older islanders have stories to tell of where their land and huts used to be -- now covered by water.
This islander collects rocks from the ocean floor to reinforce "gabion baskets". These structures are wire-enforced sea walls that can reduce some of the ocean's wave energy (albeit, they cannot prevent the sea from spilling over the wall or offering lasting protection . Since there are no more "spare" rocks on the island all hard matter has to be mined from the seabed.
At night I interview the Paramount Chief Stephen. The little head light attached to my forehead with a rubber strap is the only source of light I have to write down my answers. Swarms of insects are buzzing around the lights, forcing me to squint constantly.
Interview with Paramount Chief Stephen, swarms of insects and mosquitoes providing us company. The daily tides provide a perpetual supply of stagnant water in the swamps, creating ideal breeding grounds for malaria carrying mosquitoes. You can't see them on the photos, but they are everywhere by the zillions!!
Montag, 25. Oktober 2010
Although we had planned to leave for the Carteret Atoll today the trip never happens. Sorting out the boat which needs fixing, connecting with the skipper from the Carterets (we don't want to chance it with another skipper who is not himself from the Carterets), chasing down people, purchasing supplies, getting things in place... sometime after noon we call off the trip, postponing it instead for tomorrow morning. My heart sinks a bit, I'm reminded of my first attempt to travel to the Carterets in 2008, a trip which I aborted halfway between Buka and the Carterets due to high waves. I hope this time I'll be successful to go. If one thing is certain it's that the Carterets are extremely remote and very difficult (and risky!) to reach. The banana boats used to perform the journey often drift off course and get lost in the open sea.
To make good use of the time this afternoon we decide to make for the island chain of Saposa, trying to meet Island Chief Joash Kela who I interviewed in 2008. I have been looking forward to seeing him again to hand him a copy of Planet Prepare, the report for which I interviewed him two years ago.
Torotsian, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea: Island Chief Joash Kela with a copy of Planet Prepare. Download Planet Prepare (Mr. Kela is pictured on pages 8 and 19)
When I see him again on the Island of Torotsian I can tell he is proud to see his photo, I'm glad and slightly relieved that today's meeting went so well. We also do a semi-structured full interview together. Although Chief Kela doesn't fully appreciate some of the nuances in my questionnaire, he certainly has a strong opinion when it comes to stating his views on how to call people displaced by sea level rise-related problems. He dismisses all possible suggested answers in my questionnaire, and to my surprise volunteers a new term from the local Pidgin dialect which in his view far better reflects the transient nature of displacement.
I am happy when he gives me permission to film his response on video camera. I'm intrigued. He certainly raises a good point, reminding me that "labels" should be permeable and temporal, not rigid and permanent. As we part company and I ask him whether there is anything else he would like to say, he emphatically reiterates that the "sea is rising really fast." After taking some more photos of him and his friends pointing out noticeable signs of erosion we make our way back to Buka by boat.
Torotsian, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea: pointing out signs of erosion, Island Chief Joash Kala emphatically maintains that the "sea is rising really fast."
After a quick crayfish dinner I try to catch an early night. Tomorrow we have to rise at 3:00 am for our trip to the Carterets, I had better catch some sleep...
Day 5 – Sunday, 24 October 2010
Today's surprise power cut lasts more than 10 hours, from 8am - 6:15pm. It has nothing to do with Ahsley's work laying the cable, but to me it's another reminder that electric power is essential if local communities are to be "empowered"... I also interview Theresa Jaintong from the National Council of Women, a senior woman leader. Like Paul Tobasi, she also strongly resists the characterisation of people displaced from the effects of climate change as "refugees". Her strong preference is to call them by a more neutral term, namely "displacees" or "displaced people". As I listen to her views I learn a lot from her about what she thinks could or should be the role of national governments, humanitarian organisations and civil society. She also highlights her "number one priority" concern: protecting the displaced people's cultural identies from outside influences "before, during and after the move".
Buka, Bougainville: I interview Theresa Jaintong from the National Council of Women, a senior woman leader. She strongly resists the characterisation of displaced islanders as "refugees" and is happy to say so on video camera as well.
Samstag, 23. Oktober 2010
Day 4 – Saturday, 23 October 2010
After being taken to the airport by World Vision's PNG security chief, I find my check-in queue and wait for an hour while the line inches forward at a snail's pace. Moreover, people are constantly cutting in which stalls what little momentum there is... When I finally reach the check-in counter I'm informed that due to numerous people having done "pre check-ins" (what the heck is a pre check-in?) the flight is full, meaning that I should fly to Buka on the next flight tomorrow. After a lot of fussing around with other agitated travellers, supervisors, and airport officials I eventually get my boarding pass -- and fly to Buka via Rabaul. To my pleasant surprise I meet David Hapoto on the plane, a man from Buka who I had worked with in 2008 when we surveyed a number of islands together. The Air Niugini in-flight announcements make me smile: "A friendly reminder that government regulations prohibit smoking or chewing beetle nut on board this air plane."
After meeting World Vision's Boniface and discussing plans over lunch at Hani's we drive to meet Paul Tobasi, the Bougainville Executive Manager of the Atoll District. I remember Mr. Tobasi from my last trip in 2008, he was very friendly, humble and helpful! He takes care of the resettlement effort for the Autonomous Bougainville Goverment (ABG) and only travels to his Carteret Island home about once every quarter. He asserts that he can really tell the difference both in the islands and islanders whenever he goes home. In his view the islands are shrinking, as are the islanders who are increasingly starving due to rising food scarcity. He says he first became aware of the changes in his islands after returning home after nine years in 1994 which clearly brought out the changes. That's when he first noticed that the land was fast eroding away and that the outlook was dire.
The interview opens my eyes for numerous realities, including his resistance to the word "refugee" which he associates with negative and discriminating images and associations. I learn a lot today from this humble and helpful man, I can see that he really cares deeply for his people and has many good ideas about how to resettle them in "Karoola Plantation" in the days ahead. Secretly I hope that he will be able to come with us to the Carterets on Monday, he indicates this as a possibility...
At night I meet Ashley, an interesting man who came over from New Zealand a few days ago to lay the power cable through the channel to "empower" the south side. Having written about how electricity can "empower" the development of people in my book Opportunities for Global Poverty Reduction in the 21st Century we have a lot of interesting talks around sustainability and development issues.
After the driver takes me to the World Vision National Office I arrive just as their bi-weekly "devotions" are about to commence. The talk that day is around "work" -- Gerard starts his talk with a quote: "Find yourself something to do you like, and you'll never have to work another day in your life." Have I found such "work" yet? I think about the security briefing and the prospect of breathing my last here in PNG... Anyhow, after meeting Wendy on skype and letting her know that I'm alive and well (emphasis on "alive") I print my questionnaires, check my e-mail, then find a driver and rush off to conduct my first interview at the Office of Climate Change and Development. I also get myself a Digicel prepaid SIM card for my mobile phone. By and large I'm beginning to feel a bit more upbeat about this trip. The reception received by the World Vision National Director Curt, himself a Third Culture Kid, was warm and welcoming, I feel at home in this World Vision tribe...
Freitag, 22. Oktober 2010
I stay at the World Vision Team House all day, fleshing out some remaining details of my 12-page long interview questionnaire. My plan is to keep the questions simple and broad enough to test out my empirical data gathering method. I can always fine-tune it later on. I also feel a bit better. I find myself praying quite a bit as well...
I sense this research trip could be challenging in terms of logistical uncertainties, personal comforts and assumed risks.
Donnerstag, 21. Oktober 2010
I fly up from Sydney to Port Moresby (via Cairns). My objective is to meet and engage with people displaced by climate change-related problems. In my view they are the real climate change migration management experts because they have "lived" the experience. In fact, I've been getting rather weary lately of the self-appointed academic "experts" who seem to know so much "about" environmental change-related migration from behind the safety of their desks. So I've come to learn from the real experts about how to "manage" climate change-related migration. With significant sea level rise reported in the area, Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) is a good place to start my investigation.
Flying Cairns - Port Moresby aboard a QantasLink Dash 8 - 400
The security briefing at the Port Moresby World Vision head office is "crushing" in that I realise how "fear" is gripping my soul. The current overall "Security Status" of this country (as of December 2009) is "Yellow/Red". For Port Moresby this means a "high incidence of car-jackings, burglary and rape. Night movements are very risky." For Bougainville Island (where I'm going on Saturday) the security status is also "Yellow/Red", indicating "frequent abuse of alcohol and marijuana. Police are ineffectual, and the ‘Melanesian Way’ is used to resolve incidents or disputes." Some of the details of the 13-page "Security Briefing" document don't make for light bedtime reading, eg "never walk anywhere at night, always use a vehicle," or "under no circumstances are you to enter an out of bounds areas without approval from the National Director (except in the most extreme of situations)." It doesn't get more rosy in the "ANNEX F – Vehicle Operations" guide which deals at length with avoidance of car-jackings (Port Moresby's daily average is more than 10!) The check list goes like this:
Car-Jacking Avoidance Advice
In an effort to assist WV staff to avoid becoming a victim of this crime, the following information and suggestions are recommended;
1. Ensure car doors and windows are locked
2. Vary your routes to and from work
3. Maintain sufficient distance between you and the vehicle in front to allow action to be taken
4. Stay on busy roads and avoid less travelled roads
5. Always consider alternative routes should primary routes be obstructed for any reason
6. If vehicles are slow moving or braking constantly, this may be a sign that someone is trying to block your path in front or with the assistance of an accomplice in a vehicle behind you
7. Keep your house keys separate from your car keys, in the event that you have to give up your vehicle in a car-jacking
8. When approaching a gated driveway, scan the area before stopping at the gate. Avoid stopping directly in front of the gate, as carjackers can use this situation to their advantage by using their vehicle to trap you.
9. Always park in secure areas monitored by Security Guards.
10. Car-jacking can happen anytime and anywhere, however criminal activity in the evening increases. Minimize travel after dark. If you must travel at night, utilize the monitoring system we have in place with Protect Security
11. Remember, LOCK, START, GO!
In the midst of learning all about car-jackings ("Remember, the goal is to survive the incident without being injured. Nothing is worth more than your life and well-being and that of your family") I'm told by a friendly New Zealander how an Australian had the back of his car window blown out by shotgun fire a couple of weeks ago when he refused to stop for the would-be car-jacker and instead sped off...
After signing the World Vision Statements of Understandings (SOUs) at night I can't sleep, wondering why on Earth I even decided to come here to learn about climate change migration management. Would I live to tell the tales...?
A comment thoughtlessly made by one of my colleagues prior to leaving Sydney ("man, you're going to get killed there in PNG") does little to assuage my now lowly state as sleep eludes me until late at night...
Samstag, 2. Januar 2010
Climate Change Leads to Water Shortages in Bolivia
According to recent research many of the Andes’ tropical glaciers could disappear within 20 years, potentially threatening the water supplies of millions of people in the region, and significantly reducing hydropower production, which accounts for roughly half of the electricity generated in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.
Scientists monitoring the glaciers in the Andes say the glaciers are showing signs of melting faster than previously projected. When the melting rate is faster than the accumulation of snow, glaciers lose mass and no longer produce a steady flow of water. (Photos: Johannes M Luetz)
There has been a growing concern for the future of steady water supplies in some of Latin America’s fastest-growing urban conglomerates – Bolivia’s sprawling twin cities of La Paz and El Alto. In face of rapid population growth and a combination of glacial retreat and reduced rainfall, duty bearers (e.g. the Governor of La Paz, Pablo Ramos) have already suggested moving people to other parts of Bolivia.
Recently published literature suggests that growing water stress could contribute to forced migration in regions dependent on steady water supplies from glaciers in the Andes. This possibility was corroborated in my view during a recent visit. In Bolivia’s Chaco region climate change-related droughts are already inducing thousands of peasant families to migrate to the cities.
Freitag, 1. Januar 2010
This photo taken from a bus in El Alto speaks of the growing water pressures faced by the twin cities of La Paz and El Alto. In many neighbourhoods of El Alto taps have carried little or now water -- or only during a few hours each day. As the population continues to grow and the glaciers continue to melt, less and less water has to be shared by more and more people. There is simply less water to go around...
Graffiti in El Alto, Bolivia: "All people have a right to the water." (Photo Johannes M Luetz)
Numerous media have picked up the story:
Glacier threat to Bolivia capital
BBC World News, 4 December 2009: David Shukman gives a guided tour of what could be the world's first capital city to run out of water. Video:
A Tale of Climate Change
New York Times, 14 December 2009: The glaciers that have long provided water and electricity to a part of Bolivia are melting and disappearing. Audio slide show:
Montag, 1. Juni 2009
By Johannes M Luetz
There could be 200 million “climate change refugees” by 2050, according to a new policy paper (1) by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Aside from islands in the South Pacific and low-lying coastal countries like Bangladesh, the problem is also likely to affect the Maldives, where President Mohamed Nasheed recently announced the creation of a sovereign wealth fund to buy new land elsewhere should rising sea levels inundate the country and necessitate a forced relocation. There is no denying it: “climate change refugees” have joined the list of climate change issues, and the problem is increasingly filtering through to the public.(2)
Erosion is a big problem on the recently settled island of Dhuvaafaru. According to local eyewitnesses, in one week (May 2009) the west monsoon surges claimed 20 feet of land. Islanders have piled up rubble in an attempt to slow down the advancing ocean and protect their houses.
A few weeks ago I came to the Maldives to orient myself about the looming “climate change refugee” problem as part of a PhD project. (3) During a brief visit I enjoyed numerous positive encounters with policy makers, NGO workers, and local atoll islanders. Time and space constrain me to limit my observations to three challenges and possible guiderails en route to the future:
Easa Mohamed (52) moved to Dhuvaafaru on 10 December 2008. He is concerned that the island’s bad erosion problem could soon force him to abandon his brandnew house (pictured on the far right).
Easa Mohamed (52) with two of his grandchildren, Mohamed Yamin (left) and Abdulla Rizan (right). He says unless the coastline is reinforced, next year’s west monsoon surges are bound to wash his house into the sea.
1. BUILD UP: My brief visit to the recently resettled island of Dhuvaafaru reinforced my conviction that “elevated islands” are critical if infrastructural investments are to be successfully protected. Let me explain... After Kandholudhoo was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and rendered completely uninhabitable, millions of dollars were pumped into the development of Dhuvaafaru: thousands of trees were felled; hundreds of houses were constructed; community centres were built; health facilities were established; schools were designed; state-of-the-art equipment was put in place, including high-tech desalination plants and 24/7 power generators. These investments were made to facilitate the resettlement of 4,000 tsunami relocatees to their new island home. In face of sea level rise and accompanying erosion these infrastructural investments could soon be at risk. While erosion has always been part and parcel of daily life for thousands of islanders the world over, climate change and related rises in sea level have begun to intensify land loss in many parts of the world.(4) The Maldives is no exception. Once infrastructure is locked in place it is generally too late to elevate islands to a higher baseline level. I offer that to maximise both time and money low-lying islands could be elevated first, and costly infrastructure constructed second. This will not prevent sea level from rising, but it will buy more time. The Island of Hulhumalé is a case in point.
Brandnew diesel generators on the Island of Dhuvaafaru. This power house generates continuous (24/7) power supply and burns more than 1,000 litres of diesel fuel each day (i.e., 33,000 litres per month, 396,000 litres per year). CO2 emissions on that scale represent a significant obstacle to the Maldives’ ambitious plan to become the world’s first carbon neutral country.
Expensive infrastructural investments like these brandnew buildings on Dhuvaafaru are increasingly threatened by sea level rise and erosion. Once elaborate infrastructure is locked in place, it is too late to raise an island to a safer (“elevated”) height. Advance safety measures generally represent a large saving in terms of avoided losses and reconstruction costs and should be viewed as a way of lowering the overall costs of economic development. Prioritising preparedness protects progress.
2. TEAM UP: Despite valid criticism levelled at Dhuvaafaru by individual islanders about their new houses or town layout (5), in many ways the relocation of an entire island populace numbering thousands of people from Kandholudhoo to Dhuvaafaru can be regarded as a remarkable achievement. As I traversed the width and breadth of newly populated Dhuvaafaru I was reassured that the demographic planners had evidently succeeded to maintain the cohesion of the entire island community. In fact, in the face of global climate change, rising seas, and the looming resettlement of possibly millions of future “sea level refugees” (6) to new homelands, I was impressed to see that the island community had been corporately resettled from one place to another rather than dissolved and absorbed into the social fabric of multiple other island communities. On the contrary, its integrity and societal unity had been successfully safeguarded and maintained. And it showed. Despite the brandnew locality everybody already seemed to know everybody else — the harmony and familiarity between the islanders was apparent. This fact in itself makes Dhuvaafaru a fascinating case study. In the event that a doomsday sea-level-rise-scenario should eventually render small island states uninhabitable, refugee resettlement plans should invariably include measures to ensure the ongoing sovereignty, unity, integrity and cultural identity of affected island communities. This is a key success factor, and Dhuvaafaru is a case in point.
“Bikini wear not allowed along the public beach area!” A big notice-board on Hulhumalé advocates proper beach wear. Similar signs could advocate proper trash disposal and environmental protection.
3. CLEAN UP: A more sobering impression was the amount of trash I observed in parts of the country. While travelling by speedboat I watched as half a dozen local passengers threw nonbiodegradable trash overboard (plastic bottles, Milo drink containers, plastic wrappers, etc). As the word suggests, “non”biodegradable waste does not decay in the water. Instead, such waste floats forever in the sea, tossed to and fro by the ocean currents, until it finally washes up on some shore. And it showed. In numerous places I was saddened to see the natural beauty of the Maldives tarnished by raw garbage, either bobbing up and down, floating in turquoise waters, or washed up on formerly pristine beaches. On the island of Hulhumalé I spotted a big bill-board which advocates proper beach wear: “Bikini wear not allowed along the public beach area!” I thought to myself that similar signs could advocate proper trash disposal and environmental protection. Moreover, additional rubbish bins could be set up to help keep the Maldives clean (I repeatedly found myself hard-pressed to find a rubbish bin where to discard my own emptied water bottles, etc). Why is waste management important? Simple. Rising sea levels progressively reduce the amount of available land. As time goes by, more and more people share less and less land. Hence it is helpful to make the best possible use of the available land and maintain high hygienic standards for the wellbeing of both people and biosphere.
Garbage washed up on the shores of Hulhumalé. Nonbiodegradable waste does not decay in the water.
In sum I offer one final point. Efforts to protect the biosphere are usually conceptualised as an additional cost. In fact, one of the principal arguments often used to justify a lack of progress in environmental protection is that developing countries have other priorities, e.g. economic development, and cannot afford the additional costs of protective measures. (7) I volunteer to reframe this view. Investments in safety measures and environmental protection generally represent a large saving in terms of avoided losses and reconstruction costs, and should be viewed as a way of lowering the overall costs of economic development. In the short run, building up “elevated islands” prior to their infrastructural development costs additional time and money. In the long run, however, such protective measures may save more money (and buy more time) than their initial investment cost. Safety measures and environmental protection are an investment, more than a cost.
Johannes M Luetz is the lead author of World Vision’s Asia Pacific Disaster Report ‘Planet Prepare’. He is currently conducting PhD research on ‘Climate Change Migration – Resettling Island Communities Displaced by Sea Level Rises’.
Contact the author at email@example.com
All photographs by Johannes M Luetz
(3) People displaced by rising sea levels have been called “Sea Level Refugees” (e.g. Special Report by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) The Future Oceans -- Warming Up, Rising High, Turning Sour (p. 61)
(4) See World Vision Asia Pacific Disaster Report “Planet Prepare” for more information on relocating coastal communities, including in Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh (124 pages, 8MB): http://www.wvasiapacific.org/downloads/PlanetPrepare_LowRes.pdf
(5) In a number of ways the houses on Dhuvaafaru reminded me of the tsunami survivor villages I visited some time ago along the western coast of Aceh Province, Indonesia. It is perhaps not surprising that such villages, often built by the international development community under significant time pressure, are prone to similar weaknesses. Criticism levelled at Dhuvaafaru during my visit (I repeatedly had to stress that I was not a representative of the IFRC) commonly addressed the following points: Many house entrances were designed to face west, which makes houses more vulnerable to sand, wind and rain entering in. Also some cultural and lifestyle needs were not properly taken into consideration such as fishing community-specific felt needs or the absence of corner shops (to buy basic household items people now have to walk long distances), etc. A better consultative process at grassroots level could have identified such potential flaws prior to the towns construction. This is especially important in the case of a slow-onset disaster like rising sea levels which allow more time for advance planning and preparation.
(6) Numerous studies have attempted to estimate the number of future climate exiles. One voice makes the point clear: “When we talk about a one metre rise in global sea level we are also talking about 500 million people who are going to have to look for new homes. So far we don’t have any instruments to manage this.” (Prof. Dr. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Chairman German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), Senior Advisor to the German Government)
(7) See also Disaster Risk Reduction Global Assessment Report @ http://www.preventionweb.net/english/hyogo/gar/report/index.php