Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Small islands await Haitian-scale disaster

Thalif Deen in IPS: The devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti last week has brought into sharp focus the threat of another natural disaster waiting to happen: a sea-level rise that could obliterate the world's small island states, triggering fears of mass migration. But contrary to initial reports, the Indian Ocean island of Maldives says it has no plans to relocate its 300,000 inhabitants or purchase land in neighbouring countries to re-settle Maldivians before the impending devastation.

"Maldives does not have a relocation plan and had at no time ever considered relocation to another country, either in the neighbourhood or any other area," Ambassador Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, the permanent representative of Maldives to the United Nations, told IPS.

Still, the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS), which includes countries such as Fiji, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu, have not ruled out the possibility of relocating before disaster strikes.

Ambassador Stuart Beck of Palau says that displacement to a neighbouring or third country "might be the only option if climate change continues at the current or increased rate without significant and urgent mitigation by the international community."

As they struggle to cope with the monumental disaster that may have killed over 200,000 people, hundreds of Haitians have been trying to find shelter in neighbouring Dominican Republic. Asked about this post-earthquake migration, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters he is aware that the government of Dominican Republic "is trying to accommodate as many as possible, those people within the existing rules and regulations of their country, but they have been very generous."…

In the Maldives, shot by Nevit Dilmen, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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