Climate Change, Palau, Sea Levels

Climate Change, Palau

Tides of change: Rising sea levels threaten homes on pristine paradise of Palau

Tides of change: Rising sea levels threaten homes on pristine paradise of Palau

14.9.2019

Tides of change: Rising sea levels threaten homes on pristine paradise of Palau

As Singapore looks to develop initiatives to deal with rising sea levels brought on by climate change , CNA visited the tiny Pacific island nation ...

Huddled in her home, Mdm Remiang Skebong was about to feel the ripple effects of climate change.

As Mdm Skebong stood in ankle-deep water in her living room, it was clear no amount of soaked towels could stem the flow.

“We were praying that the rain would stop and the tide would go down,” she said. “(But) it went inside the house, all the way in.”

That incident was the first time the realities of climate change hit home for the small village community – but it is unlikely to be the last.

As with a number of low-lying islands in the Pacific, Palau is particularly susceptible to rises in sea level.

25 per cent of Palau’s landmass is less than 10m above sea level. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

In Palau’s main town of Koror, some residents living on the coast have begun to experience sea water encroaching onto land, creeping closer to homes and threatening to destroy communities if the tide cannot be turned.

A resident of the tiny community, Mr Jack Meltel believes the effects of climate change in the area are clear for all to see.

"You have to secure your stuff by the houses because it can float away - even the cars you park on the side because water can enter them.”

Mr Tavao explained: “I just brought in this yellow sand last Friday to raise the ground so that when the tide comes up, my vehicle will not be wet.”

Further east in the hamlet of Iyebukel, eight solid slabs have been placed on the caked mud, a makeshift path that 15-year-old Morris Barcinas uses so he can get home from school without getting wet.

Residents have shared their concerns about rising sea levels with Koror state delegate Mengkur Rechelulk, he said. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

To raise awareness of the issue, some have even gone to the extent of going ‘live’ on Facebook when the extreme high tides strike every month, he added.

“Our backyards used to be at about sea level (but) now given high tide, salt water overcomes the barriers and literally floods our backyards,” he explained.

Calling it a “disturbing” issue, the president described how within his lifetime the highest tides have gone from a rise in sea level of 1.5 metres to around 2.25 metres.

“But what can you do? You have to move, you have to do something - it can’t be the same status quo as before.”

Said Mr Remengesau: “They have to relocate to higher grounds, they have to elevate their existing structures. Even in some places they are building kind of water walls to prevent more incoming tide, it's going to be quite expensive to deal with it.”

“You hate to move away from either a leased land or clan land and look for new areas to build your home, because properties are scarce, it's expensive and as much as possible, people want to stay where their roots are, “ said Mr Remengesau.

She mused: “We wonder: 'Why it is like that, what is happening?' Sometimes we joke: Maybe the ice in Alaska has already melted.

“We have to do it, otherwise we cannot go to sleep at night.”

Read more: CNA

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