Rising sea forces islanders inland

2012-11-06 10:34

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Climate Change
    Read more about the environmental changes and challenges the world faces. Now R261.00
    buy now
Carti Sugdub - Every rainy season, the Guna people living on the Panamanian white sand archipelago of San Blas brace themselves for waves gushing into their tiny mud-floor huts.

Rising ocean levels caused by global warming and decades of coral reef destruction have combined with seasonal rains to submerge the Caribbean islands for days on end.

Once rare, flooding is now so menacing that the Guna have agreed to abandon ancestral lands for an area within their semi-autonomous territory on the east coast of the mainland.

“The people know this isn't normal,” said Francisco Gonzalez (38), the school principal on Carti Sugdub. “When the water comes in, they can't do anything but wait.”

It is the largest of the Guna's 45 inhabited islands, and its planned evacuation is among the first blamed largely on climate change. Scientists say worldwide sea levels have risen about 3mm a year since 1993. Recent research suggests they could rise as much as 2m by 2100.

Threat

The phenomenon threatens low-lying communities around the world. Central America, a strip of land between two oceans, is particularly vulnerable. In western El Salvador, rising tide has swallowed up at least 300m of mangroves separating residents of La Tirana from the Pacific.

“It's another example that climate change is here, and it's here to stay,” said Hector Guzman, a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

The Guna have accelerated change by mining surrounding coral reefs to build up the islands. From 1970 - 2001, nearly 80% of the peripheral coral disappeared as the Guna population more than doubled, Guzman and other Smithsonian researchers found.

They say the dilemma faced by the Guna is a harbinger of what might happen to other low-lying lands protected by reefs. The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide makes oceans more acidic, killing off coral.

In April, Guna leaders signed a resolution agreeing to move, saying, “Climate change will sooner or later affect the islands... it's our responsibility to prevent a catastrophe.”

Some Guna are resisting. One of Latin America's most independent and politically active indigenous groups, the Guna rebelled against Spanish conquistadors and Panamanian rulers, and they have lived on the islands for decades.

In Carti Sugdub, residents say they're ready to go.

“The children get sick. The trash flows in the street,” said Laura Sanchez, a 53-year-old teacher dressed in the bright colours for which Guna women are renowned. “We've had enough.”

Impoverished

The overpopulated island is also running out of space. Families squeeze up to 15 people into huts measuring barely 5m², sleeping side by side in narrow hammocks.

The Panamanian government has agreed to help fund the relocation. But progress has been slowed by bureaucratic struggles and a lack of resources. The mainland's thick jungle, home by dengue and malaria, must be cleared.

Leaders are also pressing for better-planned communities for the largely impoverished Guna, with the running water, electricity and plumbing many currently lack.

“People thought this was going to happen really quickly,” said Blas Lopez, secretary of the Guna General Congress. “But this is a massive undertaking,” he added, noting it would take about a decade to settle all 65 000 Guna inland.

Carti Sugdub residents are expecting to leave in late 2014. On the mainland, construction is set to start on a school that would include a gymnasium and two soccer fields - which school principal Gonzalez said could bring other benefits.

“Maybe we could finally win a game if the kids have space to practice,” Gonzalez said.
Read more on:    panama  |  climate change
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
11 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Movies
Traffic & Train Alerts
Traffic
Cape Town 06:03 AM
Road name: MetroRail

Train services between Nyanga/Chris Hani (Khayelitsha) and Nyanga/Kapteinsklip remain SUSPENDED - all stations on these sections are CLOSED

Kuils River 17:58 PM
Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound

ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - expect delays

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Jan 21 - Feb 18
Jan 21 - Feb 18

You may be inspired to do things that expand your mind in a big way today. You have a need to explore and a need to please....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.