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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Kyoto SOS from Takuu islanders

A tiny, south Pacific group of islands is appealing via the internet to world leaders meeting in Bonn for help in what they see as a battle against the effects of global warming.

Rising waters threaten the existence of the islanders of Takuu just east of Papua New Guinea.

Christopher Gunness of the BBC's East Asia Today radio programme asked islander Dr Teatulohi Matainaho what he wanted to say to the officials in Bonn.

Teatulohi Matainaho:
The message from the people of the islands of Takuu is that global warming has had a tremendous impact on the island.

Takuu in trouble
13 islands
Total land area: 1sq km
Max ht: 4.2m (14ft)
Beaches gone
Freshwater supply spoiled by salt
Homes moved inland
Over the last 20 years, there has been constant erosion of the islands.

Often the people have not really understood the reason as to why this is occurring.

Pieces of the islands have been totally eroded. And if it keeps going at this rate, one is looking at islands that will be uninhabited perhaps in 15 years' time.

Are you saying that in 15 years' time the islands could actually be submerged?

Teatulohi Matainaho:
They may not be submerged but there are lots of other factors associated with living on an island.

The support for the life of the people in terms of gardening, for instance. They won't be able to grow anything because of the intrusion of the salt water.

The resources by and large - gardening and depleted fishing resources - are a combination of factors, and the people will, at the end, have to make a decision as to whether they can continue to survive on the islands.

You said that people did not really know what was happening. Why is there this ignorance about something that is so obviously alarming?

Teatulohi Matainaho:
Well, I think on a remote island, one doesn't expect people to be aware of climate change. Why should they care about global warming?

Their basic interest is to live on the islands and that is all they care about.

The people are not able to explain or to understand the phenomenon.

I think it requires a lot of education to try and properly educate the people - to explain that these changes are caused by men.

What about Takuu's culture? What will the world lose if, as you fear, in 15 years' time the islands disappear.

Teatulohi Matainaho:
The islands are very rich in Polynesian culture. The singing in particular has been a central way of life for the island people.

Their way of life is carefree. There is joy in the way they are able to express their love of an open environment, the beautiful setting of the ocean, sitting under the coconut palm tree on a beautiful beach.

It's the fact that the people who live on an island really are islanders.

And you cannot really take away that island feeling.

Although computer models predict that a warming world will raise the height of the oceans by anywhere from nine to 88 centimetres over the next 100 years, the acceleration in sea-level rise one would expect to accompany this change is not yet apparent in data recorded in the central Pacific. Click here for additional information.

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