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'There Once was an Island': Te Henua e Nnoho

What if your community had to decide whether to leave their homeland forever and there was no help available? This is the reality for the culturally unique Polynesian community of Takuu, a tiny low-lying atoll in the South Western Pacific, about 250km North East of Bougainville and is part of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville which is in turn part of Papua New Guinea.

As a terrifying tidal flood rips through their already damaged home, the Takuu community experiences the devastating effects of climate change first hand. Takuu atoll is an idyllic home to articulate, educated people who maintain a 1200

year-old culture and language with pride - but all is not well in paradise. Takuu is disintegrating and when two scientists arrive to investigate, the people realise their attempts to preserve the atoll are currently making the situation worse.

Parts of the gardens are becoming salty and this means that many families are losing part of their giant taro crops, creating food security issues. The community have built up seawalls around the majority of the island to protect against erosion. However these walls are causing sand to be deposited into the lagoon instead of up onto the atoll, making the erosion worse. During the big flood of 2008, debris from inside the walls was washed out and over the rest of the island, creating mess and causing some injuries.

The flood was a terrifying experience for the people on the atoll – there was no early warning of the danger and it was some weeks before a boat with relief supplies could be sent. Oceanographer John Hunter has estimated that flooding will happen much more often as climate change progresses. As a huge flood rips through the island, destroying homes and gardens, each family struggles with the reality of the atoll’s situation. Some community members are concerned that next time there is a disaster of this kind the island will be wiped out.

Read more at:'There Once was an Island': Te Henua e Nnoho

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