Coastal communities in Fiji are having to move inland due to climate change. Its community leader, Barney Dunn, has been forced to witness his ancestral homeland being engulfed by the rising waves of the sea.
“You see your ancestors swimming in the see if you live there you will know how it feels,” he told 1 NEWS Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver, who visited Togoru.
Toguru has lost half of its land. Around 10 years ago, it was discovered that Togoru was losing up to 1½ meters of land per year. What was once 10 acres is now 5. Soon, the villagers of Togoru will join the other 5 villages in Fiji — they will have to relocate before their homes are completely submerged. “We keep moving back, moving back. We have no other place to move back [to],” Dunn says. He showed Dreaver what was left of his childhood home: pieces of aluminum siding.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced a $2 million funding project that will help Fijian communities that are displaced by climate change relocate to a safer area. This funding comes from a $150 million package for Pacific-focused climate change projects. This was an endeavor announced by Arden at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu last year.
Her speech focused on the values of globalization and international cooperation. “The artificial lines between what we call domestic policy and international policy are just that — artificial. When we’re trying to address issues such as climate change, or infectious diseases, or trans-national crime, borders do not matter. These are borderless challenges and they demand a collective response,” Ardern said.
New Zealand is helping Fijians by contributing to the establishment of Fiji’s Climate Relocation and Displaced Peoples Trust Fund for Communities and Infrastructure that was launched in 2019. This is a world-first initiative that will sustainably and sensitively help Fijians relocate. Five communities have already relocated and 42 more have applied for aid.
Fiji is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels. Many of the islands are low and remote. In fact, the only thing many people think of when they hear the word “Fiji” is water. Togoru, having been almost swallowed up by the waters, has already been wiped off of Google Maps.
This isn’t just Fiji’s reality, but also the fate facing Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and many other islands that are under climate-related threats. “Togoru will disappear soon. And our history with it,” says James, an Irish-Fijian headman of Togo. “Fleeing is not an option. Fiji is not big, you can’t keep on moving.”