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Upheaval of Fiji communities as climate change impacts are felt

Climate change has forced the relocation of a whole community in Fiji, costing the government FJD 988,228.89, close to a million dollars. The Fijian village of Vunidogoloa was the first to be relocated this year under the country’s climate change programme as climate change impacts have resulted in seawater flowing into the village compound at high tide, damaging homes and crops.

Here in Lima, Peru over the next two weeks Fiji is one of many that have come together to address climate change so that Pacific islanders can sustain island life. 1.5 to survive has been the slogan for the Alliance of Small Island States, the negotiating bloc which include the Pacific islands, this is in reference to the AOSIS call to keep global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees celcius by 2100.

For many of the Pacific islands the effects of climate change are being felt and in Fiji the relocation of Vunidogolo may be just the start. The village of Narikoso in the South of Fiji is also being reviewed for relocation with over 30 coastal villages also possibly under threat.
To help address this growing concern the Fiji Relocation Guideline is under development requiring further consultations with stakeholders, different line ministries and partners before being finalised and endorsed by government.

This guide will help ensure the process of relocation is well coordinated and planned, it is expected that relocating coastal villages in Fiji will continue as life grows more difficult for the families living
“The initial requests for help come from the communities themselves and this then goes through our government processes which include a rapid assessment followed by a Vulnerability and Adaptation assessment. If results show the situation for the village is dire, we then bring a multi-sectoral team on board,” said Mr. Mahendra Kumar, Head of the Climate Change Division of Fiji.

“We work together with the community throughout this process, it’s a partnership yet there are very high costs so we will need to start reaching out to the international community for support.”

The Fiji Government spent over USD 800,000.00 to relocate Vunidogoloa, the cost included the construction of 30 new homes, fish ponds, copra drier, farms and other projects established in the new village site.

” While the communities involved and other partners provide funds there is still the costs that government must fund, infrastructural costs such as schools, water, waste and sewage, power reticulation. It’s a very costly and complex process, not to mention the emotional cost for the families themselves that must uproot their life as they know it, to move.”

In cases where the coastal community has relied upon the ocean for sustenance and livelihoods, the Fiji government must work with the communities to look at alternative sources in their new relocated areas. Sometimes these themselves must be established such as aquaculture ponds to replace coastal fishing.

“A lot of this work has linkages to the UNFCCC process, especially in terms of looking at human mobility as the relocation as climate change is human induced. The response to slow onset events in this case is relocation and we want to ensure that for our people, this relocation is implemented with dignity.”

The 20th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is held in Lima, Peru from 1 – 12 December 2014. Pacific islands represented at this annual conference are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

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