Islands News

Lihir’s Rising Sea Level Worries Locals


by Edwin Fidelis – EM TV News, Kavieng

Climate change is fast becoming reality for the people of Putput village on Lihir Island, New Ireland province. 

It has left many older people on the island looking for solutions to save their customary land from going under.

It’s a battle against nature that they know they will eventually lose, but they haven’t given up hope yet.

Putput village sits along the eastern coastline of Lihir Island, one of the larger Islands in the New Ireland archipelago.

Census estimates put the total population of the island at around 18,000.

In the last 10 years, the growth in mining activities on the island has forced the people to be relocated to unoccupied areas along the coast, that once were their hunting and fishing grounds.

But it’s here you can see the severity of the problem. 

A combination of the mine waste disposal at sea and rising sea levels have made sea swell a daily challenge for the people here, as their new home is now at the mercy of nature. 

It’s a worry for the older generations who are looking for answers to save the land for their grandchildren.

Newcrest Mining Limited, the operators of the Lihir Gold Mine, see the need to conserve this traditional land.

The company assisted the Putput community to build a sea wall, one of many on the island.

Here you get a sense of the absence of the much talked about government’s plans and strategies to address climate change impacts in coastal villages in the country. 

The ongoing talk about reducing carbon emissions and relocating climate change refugees, appears to be far from reality on the ground.

In recent years, many coastal communities all over the country are facing land shortages, as much of the land has been taken up by sea.

Over the next 10 years, or perhaps less than that, people in many coastal villages will be relocated. Many of these relocations are not certain. 

Relocating people would mean negotiating with other landowners who for the most part, may not be willing to give up their land.

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