​ Look at Kumejima

Papua New Guineans living on atolls and other islands off the mainland continue to face hardships many of us can never really understand.

Tasman, Cartarets and Mortlock islands in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville are still doing it tough as climate change, caused by global warming, continues to threaten their existence.

Tasman Islanders continue to get rations of water, rice and canned meat from the Government.

Their survival rests with landowners from Bougainville who have agreed in principle to allocate land for a resettlement program.

High tide inundates these atolls. Native food crops including coconuts no longer yield, fresh water sources are no longer fit for consumption and burial grounds have been destroyed by wild weather.

Sand bags, tree stumps, bricks and oyster shells line the shores as a barricade in a futile effort to stop further shoreline erosion.

Manus Island on the northern tip of Papua New Guinea is the largest of the Admiralty Islands and the fifth largest in the country.

Smaller islands including Rambutso report alarming changes caused by wild weather and rising sea levels.

Sea water has reached houses built near the beach, threatening farming and livelihoods. Creeks and rivers are drying up and the only source today is the rain.

Across the mainland, coastal provinces are seeing the disappearance of their shoreline, fish stocks have reduced drastically and traditional food crops are not yielding as well as they used to.

Local NGOs have played a large part in implementing adaptive measures while the National Government is yet to give this situation the attention it deserves.

These include planting mangroves in drums and introducing the African yam.

Medical emergencies can only be treated on mainland Manus or Bougainville; weather, money and banana boats permitting.

Given the scenario, anyone from the Pacific Islands who is given the opportunity to witness the model of Japan’s Kume Island (Kumejima) can expect a flood of mixed emotions.

Joy, because there are some solutions available out there; sadness, that the hardships faced by islanders have gone on too long, anger, that existing relations with countries like Japan are not explored fully.

Kumejima is a 25 minute journey from Hana in Okinawa.

Its physical features are very similar to Papua New Guinea and the rest of the South Pacific.

Senior Pacific journalists touring Japan saw first-hand the host country’s efforts in making this island of 8,300 people, sustainable.

Cornfields and greenhouses indicated food security is being addressed.

Hotels, spas, beaches and the peace and tranquility told us, tourism is well and alive.

The establishment of a world class research station with the primary focus on producing clean energy was further testament to Japan’s determination to sustain the lives of its island people.

Coral reef reconstruction, aquaculture and animal husbandry also make the list.

Mayor Haruo Oota has helped plan and execute a sustainable model for Kume Island that could be applied in Pacific countries.

Titi Gabi