May 12, 2021 Last Updated 12:56 AM, May 11, 2021

Pacific water woes

  • May 13, 2021
  • Published in March

Earlier this month the world learnt of the plight of Banabans, who had been living without fresh water for a year according to residents.

A social media post from an overseas-based Banaban gave a stark insight into the dire water shortages, and rallied support for the island’s estimated 12,000 inhabitants. Within days the Kiribati government dispatched bottled water, a desalination plant, water tanks and cement to repair existing but damaged water tanks.

One elder, Roubena Ritata told Pacnews it is a long-standing problem. “This water crisis goes back years and yet we do not have a permanent solution. While we are thankful, we are calling for an ambitious rehabilitation plan for Banaba which has been devastated by 80 years of mining.”

Yet the water shortages  on Banaba are far from an isolated situation. Approximately 45% of all Pacific Islanders live without access to basic drinking water facilities, and approximately 70% don’t have access to basic sanitation. That’s the highest rate (as a proportion of population) of any region in the world. Some Pacific Islanders are living on close to the SPHERE standard, the minimum required fresh water needed for human survival, or what would fill a large biscuit bucket, per person per day.

David Hebblethwaite,  the Water Security and Governance Coordinator at the Pacific Community (SPC) says while the numbers are alarming in terms of Pacific Islanders’ access to water and sanitation, our region faces many other complex and complicating issues.

“We are the most disaster impacted region in the world and 75% of our disasters are hydro-meteorological disasters, they’re related to water in some way,” he says.

“The water cycle in our small island communities is really small,” he continues. “We’re talking harvesting rainwater, and of course that can go in and out of drought really quickly, but also using groundwater that is so easily impacted by land use.

“So even the countries that against the SDG goals are doing pretty well compared to some of the other Pacific Island countries, they still have some really significant challenges going forward.”

To read the full story, login to your account or subscribe today.



Rising bill of PNG’s El Nino disaster

EL Nino battered Papua New Guinea is bracing for more serious onslaught with predictions for worse in months ahead and into next year. The El Nino extreme weather has peaked across the country resulting in lower than normal rainfall, with rivers and dams drying up causing water shortages, lower crop yields, food shortages and big impacts on the country’s all important mining industry.

Almost two million people have been affected by this extreme weather, representing more than a quarter of PNG’s 7.8 million population. Of the number affected,1,303,000 people are classed as being in the most at risk, category four, drought. Those affected severely were mainly from Highlands part of the country who have faced months without food from local gardens after being destroyed by frosts, schools and health institutions shutting down due to lack of water, destruction of wild fires on properties and health related diseases arising from the dry weather conditions increasingly rife.

It has also forced the closer of Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) gold and copper mine in Western Province, as a result of low water levels on the Fly River, which is used to transport copper concentrate to Port Moresby. The temporary closure of the Ok Tedi mine could potentially last for up to a year with the loss of mining income could be as much as K2.77 billion (US$974,046m) a year.

The PNG Government has scrambled to cobble together K5 million (US$1.8m) to help those affected but the PNG Disaster Centre has indicated more money would be needed as the weather conditions intensified. The National Weather Service said the country should brace itself for the El Nino which could last until the middle of 2016. read more buy your personal copy at

Training, acceptance to boost profits

Conventional logging delivers a body blow to forests by stripping 80 to 90 per cent of target tree species. This shock erodes biodiversity, damages ecological function and contributes to climate change. Sustainable forest management (SFM), on the other hand, can profit landowners and deliver valuable timbers to market with minimised disturbance to ecosystems.

A project spanning more than 20 years on Fiji’s Viti Levu that has recently come to fruition is proving the point. It also shows the potential for sustainable forestry to coexist with conservation regimes that offer potentially lucrative royalties through the international REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) mechanism. In 1989, Fiji’s forestry department with financial support from the German Government leased 309 hectares of virgin forest in Nakavu.

Designated as the Natural Forest Management Pilot Project the site was comprehensively mapped and divided into lots that received different logging treatments. Some plots were intentionally left untouched, some were logged using conventional methods, and the remainder were logged at ‘light’ (15 per cent), ‘medium’ (33 per cent) or ‘heavy’ (50 per cent) intensities using the principles of SFM.

The mapping and logging operation was finished by 1994 and the forest remained undisturbed for 20 years, permitting regrowth. In 2013, a comprehensive scientific study began elucidating comparative results between the different forest treatment methods. It examined biodiversity and ecological function, forest carbon stock, and further log harvest potential. read more buy your personal copy at

Light at the end of climate change tunnel

Monday 19 November saw a Pacific High-Level Dialogue on climate change take place at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia. The principal guest was Francoise Hollande, President of France, who attended the dialogue to discuss the pressing issue of climate change with leaders from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and other Pacific nations. The dialogue was an historic occasion on the road to the crucially important Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Paris in December 2015. Referred to as ‘COP 21’ this meeting expects to see the international community commit to new, legally binding targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The importance of this process for humanity and for the Pacific region especially cannot be understated. Not one to mince his words, SPC’s Director-General, Colin Tukuitonga, told the gathering in Noumea: ‘COP 21 needs to deliver appropriate commitments to support developing countries with extreme vulnerability and very limited capacity to cope. Failure to do so will basically relegate the Pacific to oblivion. For us, here, climate change is a very real and very human emerging crisis.

We must aim for at least a 40 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2060 if we are to have any hope of containing climate change to manageable levels. Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialised nations committed to modest binding emission reduction targets. But the reality is that global emissions are now 30 per cent higher than they were when Kyoto was signed,’ he said. President Hollande saw light at the end of the tunnel. France will chair the upcoming COP 21 and he is determined to achieve a robust outcome. Speaking in Noumea, he said, ‘I am here because the situation is urgent and we must be successful, this is an appeal for mobilisation that I am launching.’ read more buy your personal copy at

Technology predicts catastrophe

More than 3000 people displaced by coastal flooding and large sections of Vanuatu’s two main towns inundated is the catastrophic scenario predicted by the end of the century. Coastal flooding is expected to reach disastrous levels in 90 years with the risk increasing significantly with current sea levels already affecting Vanuatu. This is the dire prediction from the Vanuatu Meteorology Services(VMS) and is based on the latest technology available. In a partnership between the Australian and Vanuatu Governments, the latest technology has been employed to look at the vulnerable coastal areas of Vanuatu.

A VMS spokesman said in these areas there is now an urgent need to better understand risks from sea level rise, coastal erosion and extreme events. The technology involved the collection of high resolution topographic and bathymetric data through Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology which was deployed for priority areas in Vanuatu – Efate, Malekula and Espiritu Santo.

He said that LiDAR is an optical remote sensing technology that provides extremely accurate, high resolution elevation data. Airborne LiDAR measures distances (and therefore height or depth) by sending a pulse of light from a laser scanner towards the area being surveyed. It then measures how long it takes for the light pulse to return. For establishing what is at risk in the coastal areas, this data is critical as it measures inundation levels, catchment boundaries and water flow. read more buy your personal copy at

Page 1 of 2

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.