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Monday, December 8, 1997 Published at 09:45 GMT


Rising tides threaten Pacific islanders

Tides threaten to swamp Pacific paradise

Rising tides caused by global warming in the South Pacific are threatening to flood low-lying islands.

Now some remote islands are in danger of disappearing altogether.

In Fiji, desperate efforts have to be made to hold the rising tide at bay.

[ image: Tidal erosion affects fishermen]
Tidal erosion affects fishermen
Inhabitants of fishing villages have become used to taking action against high waves flooding their houses.

But protection is no longer a matter of blocking doors and windows. Instead islanders are using lorry-loads of landfill to keep the sea back.

Despite a series of reinforcements, many feel that it is just a matter of time before villages are completely submerged.

Pacific island leaders are pessimistic about gaining international action.

At the South Pacific Forum in the Cook islands, a collection of island nations failed to convince their most immediate large neighbour, Australia, that they were in genuine crisis.

John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, said: "There is quite a bit of debate about the science, so far as greenhouse effects are concerned, and it's not all an apocalyptic view of the world."

Fiji's fishermen unexpectedly find themselves in the front line over global warming as the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions come rolling in with each high tide.

After centuries of sailing and fishing in the waters, they know the power of the Pacific Ocean and are watching it grow.

They warn of a refugee crisis and predict that thousands of islanders may be forced to take to their boats.

The crisis illustrates the urgency of the problems under discussion at the conference on global warming in Kyoto, Japan.

For islanders, the effects of diplomatic failure in Kyoto could be devastating.

But concerns of remote Pacific nations are often far from the agenda of the international community.

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