Talanoa Group Names
Each of the seven talanoa groups for the May Sessions is named after an area in Fiji that is affected by climate change. Below are some of the ways each of the places is impacted.
Kadavu Island, in southern Fiji, has a narrow economic base with a high dependency on subsistence agriculture and marine resources, which are both impacted by climate change.
The increased frequency and intensity of rainfall, king tides, storm surges and saltwater intrusion have all been threats to crop production, resulting in low crop yields in recent times. Fresh water supplies are also under threat from salt water intrusion. And important coastal plants, such as coconut trees and pandanus, are constantly washed away.
In addition, the sediments from erosion caused by tidal inundation has led to the death of coral reefs, which in turn has caused a decline in fish stocks.
Waciwaci District School is located on Lakeba Island in the Lau Group, east of the main island of Viti Levu. The school continues to experience flooding during heavy rain and very high tides. The encroaching shoreline has already reached the school quarters. The main school compound and playground experiences flooding during very heavy rain or very high tides. The effects of climate change has a direct impact on the students’ education as far as outdoor activities are concerned.
Waciwaci District School has been earmarked for a pilot relocation program for those schools in Fiji that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Preliminary work has been conducted by the Fijian government on identifying the relocation site for the new school.
The whole of Ba, a district in the north-western part of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, experiences devastation from the increased frequency of natural disasters. For example, the town of Ba suffers from frequent and damaging flooding during torrential rain. During every flood, the entire urban centre is closed, having a devastating impact on economic activity. Floods also affect transportation, keeping students from their classes and workers from their jobs. And after the flood waters recede, there is usually an outbreak of dengue fevour because disease-carrying mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. In some parts or Ba, there have also been landslides, which have completely destroyed plantations.
Sea Level Rise
Tailevu is a province in Fiji east of the capital, Suva. The people of Kumi Village along the coast of Verata in Tailevu (home of Fiji’s High-Level Climate Champion) have long struggled with the effects of rising sea levels. The village’s third seawall currently stands where homes and the village green once were.
The Kumi Village Coastal Protection Project, an initiative of the Fijian government, will see the construction of a 120-metre stone masonry seawall to try to prevent further coastal erosion.
Tropical Cyclone Winston was the most powerful cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere. The eye of the storm passed right over Rakiraki. The coastal village had experienced cyclones before, but never one with the force of Winston. Miraculously, nobody was seriously injured in Rakiraki, but elsewhere 44 people lost their lives. Winston also caused 1.4 billion dollars’ worth of damage, equivalent to a third of Fiji’s GDP. Two years later, Rakiraki has still not fully recovered, as people struggle to juggle the cost of rebuilding and the cost of sustaining their livelihoods.
Villagers on Koro Island have had to adapt to many changes over the years due to the changing climate. The mangroves, which once protected the coastline from the storm surges have been destroyed by recent cyclones, and due to the increased frequency of cyclones, rehabilitation efforts are proving difficult. As a result, new homes are being rebuilt further inland due to rising sea levels and more frequent cyclones.
History, culture and ancestry
Like many other areas in Fiji, the province of Bua, which is located in the west of Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu, is being impacted by rising sea levels. Many of the coastal villages in Bua have already lost much of their foreshore and some, like Natokalau in Kubulau District, have already seen their water supply infiltrated by salt water. But in Bua, like other places in the country, climate change is also threatening Fijians’ spiritual connection with their past. Cemeteries and other culturally significant places that have long been beyond the reach of the sea are now being threatened by high tides.