What's your only moment in Fiji

FijiHere was the Village Vunidogoloa - now is here the Pacific

Although Fiji and the other island states emit hardly any greenhouse gases, they are among the most vulnerable countries on earth. The village of Vunidogoloa on Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu, is one of the first villages in the world to be relocated due to climate change.

With Fiji, a small island nation from Oceania takes over the presidency of the UN climate conference for the first time. Fiji itself cannot host such a major conference, so the negotiations (from November 6th to 17th) will be held in Bonn, where the UN climate secretariat is based. Rising sea levels and violent hurricanes as a result of climate change are becoming more and more fatal for the islanders.

The resettled village of Vunidogoloa

A few years ago, the village of Vunidogoloa was on the southern side of Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu. Now there are only a handful of abandoned wooden houses, some of them sunk in the sand. The narrow coastal strip is devastated: fallen trees, kinked palm branches, rubble. A tree trunk protrudes from the sea about ten meters from the coast. So that's how far the Pacific has eaten into the country. In 2014 the village was relocated.

Sabine Minninger, Climate Officer for Bread for the World, accompanied Vunidogoloa's resettlement process. The villagers of Vunidogoloa would even have accepted to raise the necessary money themselves, says Sabine Minninger.

"They did that by renting their forests to the government. With that they covered two thirds of the costs, the other third was taken over by the government."
Sabine Minninger, Climate Officer at Bread for the World

Minninger demands that the industrialized countries pay for such costs. After all, it is due to global warming that the sea level is rising: warmer water expands faster, and the glaciers are melting.

The new Vunidogoloa

A few kilometers further inland is the new Vunidogoloa. The mint green painted houses are spread over a hill. The residents have long refused to move, because in Fiji land has a spiritual meaning and is part of identity. Sivo Vulimai is 24 and lived in the old village.

Sivo knows that climate change is causing their old village to flood. And she considers climate change to be a punishment from God.

"When rain comes, it's flooding and it makes erosion, that's climate change. I think it's God's plan. Because people are being bad."

The PICAN network tries to educate the people in the villages about climate change and its causes, and thereby encourage them to act. Krishneil Narayan is the coordinator for the network, which is fighting against climate change both nationally and globally.

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Our reporter Tini from Poser meets the 30-year-old in a hotel bar in Suva: like many Fijians, he has Indian roots. Krishneil is combative, but without ever losing the composure that is usual in Fiji. He has been part of the negotiations every year since the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

"We will address climate change, we will fight climate change, we are not losing hope."
Krishneil Narayan, coordinator of the PICAN network

Many other villages on the coasts of the Fiji Islands would also have to relocate in the next few years. According to experts, low atoll states such as Tuvalu and Kiribati will soon become uninhabitable. A new chapter in the history of climate change has long since begun: the chapter on resettlement.