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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Fiji Government Promotes Awareness Of Rising Sea Levels
Relocations planned for certain villages on Vanua Levu

By Serafina Silaitoga

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Aug. 29, 2012) – The iTaukei Ministry in Fiji has started working with villagers through provincial council offices to increase awareness about the effects of climate change. This follows reports of villages affected by rising sea level.

Deputy ministry CEO Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga said provincial council offices around the country had been working with villagers.

"It is very important that villagers know about climate change and its effects on the environment like rising sea level which has become quite visible in some villages," he said.

"We are aware of villages being affected by climate change and it is a concern for all — it's equally important for villagers to understand the effects of climate change. There is one village I know in which relocation has started, so we are working with villagers through provincial offices to take heed of signs of climate change."

Col. Kurusiga said a committee to look after sustaining the environment would soon be formed with the first in the province of Macuata.

"We can already see the effects of climate change, so the committee that will be responsible for sustaining and preserving the environment will also work with villagers on this matter," he said.

Col. Kurusiga said the formation of the committee would be spearheaded by the Macuata Provincial Council office.

He said the committee would include villagers as their views were important.

Divisional planning officer north Alipate Bolalevu confirmed reports of sea water entering village compounds have been received by his office and there was government assistance available through the Climate Change Project. But villagers would have to follow proper channels for assistance. "Reports of villages being affected by rising sea level in Vanua Levu have been discussed in district and provincial council meetings. We are aware of a few villages that are affected by climate change with rising sea level entering village compounds and the issue will be discussed again in upcoming district meetings to identify the villages," Mr. Bolalevu said.

"Work for the relocation of the first village in Vunidogoloa, Cakaudrove will start this week with delivery of building material to the new site. We hope the villagers can be relocated to the new village site before the end of this year."

He said 30 houses would be built at the new village site.

The villagers, Mr. Bolalevu said, provided timber for their new homes while government assisted with the leveling of the new site and other building material.

But he said there were procedures to be followed before government could assist with the relocation of villages.

"The villagers will inform government through district and provincial council meetings of the situation they face in their villages as a result of climate change. Then they will have to identify a new piece of land for relocation and liaise with the mataqali for consent. When that is done, the villagers together with the consent from the mataqali will inform their provincial council offices and then it will come to the Ministry of Provincial Development where assistance and other relocation details would be attended to."

Mr. Bolalevu said having villagers follow proper procedures was imperative to avoid unnecessary hiccups later.

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