Water crisis, over-population present stark choices for Kiribati
Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 01:51
June 13 - Rising sea levels and a booming population are presenting the Pacific island nation of Kiribati with stark choices that could determine its survival. Migration from smaller islands and a lack of fresh water have some experts predicting dire consequences for the country and its people if action is not taken. Rob Muir reports.
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The low-lying South Pacific Island nation of Kiribati is being overwhelmed by the ocean.
The sea level is rising at a rate of approximately three millimetres per year. And with an average elevation of just two metres, the nation has become a global emblem for the consequences of climate change.
The rising Pacific is having a serious impact on fresh water supplies, but that, according to residents like Peter Itibata, is not the country's most serious problem.
SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER ITIBATA - MEMBER OF MORMAN CHURCH SAYING:
" What we are facing right now is, I think, is population is the major issue, that I think is the number one issue that we should face."
The land mass of the main island, South Tarawa, is shrinking, but the population is booming.
A generational resistance to contraception, and increasing migration from smaller islands, is putting Tarawa's limited resources under enormous pressure.
Today, 50,000 people are crammed into an area of 16 square kilometres and the government fear that number could double by 2030 unless action is taken.
The infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the region. Here at the island hospital's crowded maternity ward, the lack of fresh water is an ongoing problem, according to nurse Rina Tabu.
SOUNDBITE) (English) RINA TABU, MATERNITY WARD NURSE - NAWEREWERE HOSPITAL, SAYING:
"Sometimes there is no water. Sometimes we have to ring the water man, you know. Sometimes we deliver babies, we don't have water to wash our hands. We have to ring them up to for the water."
Island leaders are looking for solutions. They're calling on powerful church group to promote family planning and with their limited income, they're looking at relocating some of the population to other countries like Fiji.
They say that if the island nation's problems aren't addressed, and soon, within sixty years, Kiribati may be uninhabitable.
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