Tuvalu – The Disappearing Island

Tuvalu is a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean located midway between Hawaii and Australia. Also known as the Ellice Islands before independence, Tuvalu is home to more than 10,000 people who are primarily of Polynesian descent. The total land area of Tuvalu is about 26 square kilometers and Tuvalu’s history dates back to about 300 years when the first settlers made it their home.

The island nation of Tuvalu consists of 9 islands of which Funafuti is the capital and to the naked eye, the islands appear thin ribbon like strips in the vastness of the Pacific. The highest point on any of these islands is about 13 feet above the sea level, which is a major factor causing the natives sleepless nights. With the rising sea levels over the last 3 decades, it is predicted that Tuvalu will disappear from the face of the Earth by 2090.

The islanders in Tuvalu have been campaigning globally against the rising levels of greenhouse gases across the world and its particular impact on their own island nation. Some of the smaller islands that were favored picnic spots of the natives have been eroded by the rising sea levels and now lie abandoned. The annual cyclones have increased in numbers and their impact can now be felt for further inside the island than earlier.

During some of the high tides, practically the whole island is a few feet under water, though the water recedes later.

Environmentalists warn that the people of Tuvalu will be the first official “climate refugees” if action is not taken globally. Each small increment in temperatures spells doom for Tuvalu because it leads to corresponding rise in sea-levels.

The residents are looking into grim future where they will be displaced from their own country and will have to live like refugees in another. More than 3000 residents have already migrated to New Zealand and the number is only going to rise in future. For long-timers on the island, the land does not promise any hope for their descendants.

Though the water that the waves bring in is a major cause of worry, it’s not the only one. The rising sea levels cause the water to rise up from below land and leads to flooding, loss of crop and disease. Though the coral reefs around the islands bar the water damage to some extent, if the rate of the rise in sea levels is more than the rate of coral growth, then the island will not be able to save itself.