Pacific Swamps Nauri & Sri Lanka Faces Up to Climate Impacts
A message from Marcus Stephen, Nauru’s
President: Nauru’s coast, the only habitable area, is steadily eroding, and
communities in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands have been forced to
flee their homes to escape record tides. The low-lying nations of Tuvalu,
Kiribati and the Marshall Islands may vanish entirely within our grandchildren’s
lifetimes. And in the Indian Ocean, the nation of Sri Lanka, also threatened by
climate impacts, a major community project has been launched to help change the
attitudes towards climate change and its effects.
On Nauru, a Sinking Feeling
By MARCUS STEPHEN
Published: July 18, 2011 New York Times
Op-Ed Contributor: Life After Land (July 19,
I FORGIVE you if you have never heard of my
At just 8 square miles, about a third of the
size of Manhattan, and located in the southern Pacific Ocean, Nauru appears as
merely a pinpoint on most maps — if it is not missing entirely in a vast
expanse of blue.
But make no mistake; we are a sovereign
nation, with our own language, customs and history dating back 3,000 years.
Nauru is worth a quick Internet search, I assure you, for not only will you
discover a fascinating country that is often overlooked, you will find an
indispensible cautionary tale about life in a place with hard ecological limits.
Phosphate mining, first by foreign companies
and later our own, cleared the lush tropical rainforest that once covered our
island’s interior, scarring the land and leaving only a thin strip of coastline
for us to live on. The legacy of exploitation left us with few economic alternatives
and one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, and led previous
governments to make unwise investments that ultimately squandered our country’s
I am not looking for sympathy, but rather
warning you what can happen when a country runs out of options. The world is
headed down a similar path with the relentless burning of coal and oil, which
is altering the planet’s climate, melting ice caps, making oceans more acidic
and edging us ever closer to a day when no one will be able to take clean
water, fertile soil or abundant food for granted.
Climate change also threatens the very
existence of many countries in the Pacific, where the sea level is projected to
rise three feet or more by the end of the century. Already, Nauru’s coast, the
only habitable area, is steadily eroding, and communities in Papua New Guinea
and the Solomon Islands have been forced to flee their homes to escape record
tides. The low-lying nations of Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands may
vanish entirely within our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Similar climate stories are playing out on
nearly every continent, where a steady onslaught of droughts, floods and heat
waves, which are expected to become even more frequent and intense with climate
change, have displaced millions of people and led to widespread food shortages.
The changes have already heightened
competition over scarce resources, and could foreshadow life in a world where
conflicts are increasingly driven by environmental catastrophes.
Yet the international community has not begun
to prepare for the strain they will put on humanitarian organizations or their
implications for political stability around the world.
In 2009, an initiative by the Pacific Small
Island Developing States, of which I am chairman, prompted the United Nations
General Assembly to recognize the link between climate change and security. But
two years later, no concrete action has been taken.
So I was pleased to learn that the United
Nations Security Council will take up the issue tomorrow in an open debate, in
which I will have the opportunity to address the body and reiterate my
First, the Security Council should join the
General Assembly in recognizing climate change as a threat to international
peace and security. It is a threat as great as nuclear proliferation or global
terrorism. Second, a special representative on climate and security should be
appointed. Third, we must assess whether the United Nations system is itself
capable of responding to a crisis of this magnitude.
The stakes are too high to implement these
measures only after a disaster is already upon us. Negotiations to reduce
emissions should remain the primary forum for reaching an international
agreement. We are not asking for blue helmets to intervene; we are simply
asking the international community to plan for the biggest environmental and
humanitarian challenge of our time.
Nauru has begun an intensive program to
restore the damage done by mining, and my administration has put environmental
sustainability at the center of our policymaking. Making our island whole again
will be a long and difficult process, but it is our home and we cannot leave it
for another one.
I forgive you if you have never heard of
Nauru — but you will not forgive yourselves if you ignore our story.
Marcus Stephen is the president of Nauru.
Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka, (14 August 2011)
Kelani Nadee Yathra:
A journey for climate justice
By Dhaneshi YATAWARA
Nature has no boundaries. It never laid
boundaries for countries and regions. What happens to nature in one country
could affect the entire earth. All of us are siblings of the earth whether black
or white, Western or Asian.
Located between 6-10 degrees of the north
latitude and between 80-82 degrees of the east longitude, the pearl of the
Indian ocean – Sri Lanka is becoming a victim of climate change too.
Scorching heat, irregular rain patterns,
increase in vector borne diseases with bizarre names are becoming quite common
and yet never was it realised that climate change, global warming has a part to
play. Climate change impacts become significant through vector ( specially
mosquitoes) and rodent borne diseases, food and water borne diseases, changes
in nutritional levels and many other environment related health disorders.
Rather than safeguarding ourselves and
preparing to face the possible fiasco we prefer to sit and watch while blaming
the developed world for their higher carbon emissions. Fortunately Sri Lanka is
one of the countries which emits carbon less than 1 metric ton. According to
recent statistics carbon emitted by Sri Lanka is around 0.6 metric tons whereas
the world average is 4.5 metric tons and in USA alone carbon emission per person
is 25 metric tons.
The ‘Kelani Nadee Yathra’ A journey to raise
awareness on adversities of climate change will take place from August 15-29
organized by eco friendly Volunteers. Twenty young nature enthusiasts, between
the age of 18-20 will start the journey for climate justice from Nallathanniye
on ‘Sripada’ (Adam’s peak) and will be trekking, floating and cycling along the
Eco Friendly Volunteers is a non-profit
organisation to conserve nature. The Provincial Environment Ministry of the
Western Province, UN Volunteers and the Sri Lanka Scout Association jointly
supports the endeavour. Among the volunteers are rehabilitated ex-LTTE military
cadres who are now enjoying their lives with their families.
“The community project will help change the
attitudes towards climate change and its effects,” on nature at grassroots
level, said Western Province Minister of Environment Udaya Gammanpila. “Many
people are not aware that climate change is one of the main reasons for
agricultural, health and climatic problems we face,” Minister Gammanpila said.
Highlighting the importance of choosing Kelani river minister Gammanpila said
that with the rise in sea water levels more salt water tend to flow inland thus
making the water of the river unusable. “Extracting river sand despite the ban
and limitations imposed on the trade has aggravated the situation,” he added.
Western Province Minister of Environment
Udaya Gammanpila addressing the media conference
The salt water has caused irreparable damages
to arable lands at certain locations along the Kelani river.
“Climate change has not been properly
discussed at grass rootlevels. People need to understand how to change their
lifestyles and adopt strategies in their day-to-day life to mitigate the impact
of climate change,” said President of the Eco Friendly Volunteers (Eco-V)
“We need to educate the younger generation
how to adapt eco-friendly habits. It is high time that a national awareness
campaign is launched to enlighten people on climate change rather blaming the
developed world for their higher carbon emission,” Weerakoon said.
Weerakoon said sensitivity of the community
towards environment issues should be elevated and the best way to educate the
younger generation and develop these skills. “We hope to enlighten
policy-makers by bringing to their notice issues among communities. Kelani
Nadee Yathra highlights these issues among the residents along the Kelani river
which is polluted by human activities.
Armed with Sri Lankan youngsters the Scout
Association Colombo District branch joins hands with Eco-V into this group of
Samaritans. “Scouts enjoy the outdoor life for over 100 years and have always
considered environment as a key part in the success of an individual,” said the
Assistant District Commissioner of the Colombo District Scouts Darshana
Ranathunga. “Hikers would stop at the Salawa Camp in Kosgama of the Scout
Association on August 25 and several programs will be conducted before leaving
to Wattala to end the journey,” Ranathunga said.
This camp site located along the Kelani river
is providing the scouts a place to enjoy nature and outdoor life, he added.
For the scouts it is also the Scout Centres
for Excellence for Nature and Environment. Sir Robert Baden Powell, the founder
of the Scout Movement said “For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear,
the forest is at once a laboratory, a club and a temple. The UN Volunteers
supports the Eco-V effort as 2011 is the UN year for volunteers. Representing
UN Volunteers Fadhil Bakir Marker said it is high time to appreciate and
recognize the hard work of volunteers.
Starting a long walk the ‘Kelani Nadee
Yathra’ will start the campaign from the ‘Sama Chaithyaya’ in Siripada and
journey along the Kelani river. The Eco-V targets communities to live along
Kelani River, people in Sri Lanka and later the Asia_Pacific region as a
post-project activity. The whole travel will be done as segments with
stop-overs by bus, bicycles and on foot at pre determined places. Once the
journey starts several awareness workshops for the respective communities with
presentations, film shows and discussions will be organised at seven different
stations where the trekkers will be camping overnight. The tree planting
campaigns at which 100 trees will be planted at each stop will be organised at
those stations with the support of local governmental agencies.
Energy saving bulbs and water saving tips
will be introduced at the same stations where local environmental groups can
continue promoting them even after. Final day gathering will be held at
Kelaniya Temple where experience will be shared with the government officers,
and various stakeholders.
All the participants and organisers will
maintain an environmental friendly lifestyle during the river campaign and the
carbon footprint will be minimized. Local environmental groups will be
empowered by sharing information.
A community action plan and a final report of
the outputs will be prepared by the youth group with the support of ECO-V and
will be presented to the higher government authorities. Each youth traveller
should initiate a project related to climate change issues at local level and
the best project will be selected and rewarded. According to Weerakoon
necessary guidance and support will be given by Eco-V to the travellers.