By PISAI GUMAR
PRAYER has become the basis of 700 Taemi Islanders that keeps them adrift on the two islets and four smaller atolls north of Gagidu station, Finschhafen, Morobe.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding their future, the inhabitants have no answer to impacts of climate change instead trying to adept taking great risk.
“Much of our traditional norms and cultural way of living have disappeared caused by continuous sea level rise since Aug 10, 2001” says community elder Gemtausu Daniel.
“Our islets is drifting upon our prayers as its basis strengthened by the mercy and love of our God in Heaven.
“I am old and will die tomorrow but I am uncertain where will our children and grandchildren go after 2020, if Taemi islet is submerged by sea rise in near future”.
“Han blo God holim pasim mipela istap” Daniel says.
Daniel fought back tears while describing impacts of sea rise posed by climate change affecting human livelihoods of 700 population on Taemi islets.
Sitting on a platform underneath the incomplete resource centre at the middle of Kalal village with colleague scouting member Gerson Gideon, one could see the sea at either side of the islet.
A few minutes tour up the small hill to Lutheran guest house and that is where the islet ends.
It is a miracle to experience people withstand rough coral reefs to dig through to plant yams, cassava’s and banana and they yield though there is no land for gardening.
Taemi consists of main Kalal and Wanam islets including Pangu islet with three other smaller atolls these lovely people called it sweet islet home.
It is 25 minutes by dinghy north from Gagidu station.
Economically, fishing and eye-catching carvings (artefacts) are main cash activities for ends meet.
Back in 1886, when locals first settled, the islet was beautifully decorated with bright coral reefs complemented by sparkly sandy beaches surrounded by turquois sea gently comes crashing on shorelines.
The swaying coconut palms and Kalapulin trees not only withstand the northeasterly gales but provides wonderful shades for picnic and snorkeling to visitors and locals alike.
Until Aug 10, 2001, the islet people experienced an earthquake that shook-off to disappear some portions of reefs and sandy beaches.
Slowly, the remaining land portions and beaches are disappearing at the blink of an eye caused by sea rise.
According to Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) managing director Ruel Yamuna, climate change is real and here to stay.
“Climate change issue is akin to HIV-AIDS and no one has the remedy to this issue” Yamuna says.
As such, Morobe provincial government and administration need to capture respective districts and wards climate change activity plan and funded under functional grants.
The CCDA is working in partnership with Climate Investment Fund and Asian Development Bank (ADB) including various agencies like National Agriculture Research Institute, National Disaster Centre and National Maritime Safety Authority among others to address the issue.
Yamuna launched the five year activity plan for building resilience and climate change for Taemi islets, Aromot, Mandok and Malai islets in Morobe at Kalal islet on June 27.
“It is saddening to experience the loss of local traditional and customary way of life in atolls and islands communities posed by sea rise each day”.
“Though policy makers sit in Waigani never feel the reality of climate change pose daily challenges to people’s livelihoods on atolls and islands” Yamuna said.
The Taemi islet activities will include water and sanitation, early warning systems and small grant facilities to sustain local living and economy.
Climate change has no boundary and cuts across all government sectors and villages determined by nature.
Human habitats and cultural heritages, sacred sites and norms from across the atolls, islets, islands, lowlands up to hinterlands and highlands are affected by climate change through continuous floods, landslides and droughts affecting fishing grounds and reefs, soil fertility for gardening and water sources.
Besides, it creates internal migration and refugees that wander in search of greener pastures whether it be urban and per-urban centres nor nearby local villages where there is land to make ends meet.
All rural communities need to work together in sharing local skills and knowledge with responsible government agencies like CCDA, National Agriculture Research Institute, National Maritime Safety Authority, National and provincial disaster office, Department of Works, Health, Education among others.
The impacts of populations increase will also demand for services and hinder development, if not reversed.
The adverse impacts will compromise our country’s ability to meet and sustain national and international policy objectives including millennium development goals.
There is a genuine need for adaptation programs and plans all stakeholders needed to embrace and encouraged.
Although humans have been adapting to climate instability over centuries, the force, occurrence and the magnitude of climate change impacts as a result of global warming that reduced traditional survival techniques become outdated.
There needs to be a financial source at provincial and district level to support delegated CCDA functions and other related demands on the economic resources available to provincial governments.
The rural communities across PNG are highly helpless to the adverse effects of climate change.
There is no accurate guess over magnitude of these climate related effects and challenges due to uncertainty of climate projections.
No amount or degree of cleverness can precisely predict when and where climate change will likely to hit or affect human livelihoods and economy sources.
We agree that eradicating climate change impacts is not possible but we can develop appropriate strategies to enhance our adaptive capacity, increase resilience and reduce the level of helplessness of our people in rural communities.
PNG received support from the group of development partners through bilaterally understanding especially UNDP, DFAT, ADB and USAID to name a few.
International financing facilities such as the Adaptation Fund, Climate Investment Fund and the emerging Green Climate Fund are helping CCDA to develop projects that ultimately contribute to fulfilling our national development aspirations.
The developmental programs, projects and activities was designed to address climate related hazards such as coastal-inland flooding, water-sanitation, coral reef decay, food insecurity, vector borne diseases, land slips and climate induced migration.
However, not all affected communities in rural PNG are beneficiaries of such initiatives. It is therefore important to document some good lessons and practices already implemented in order to redo them in other similar communities throughout country.