Elders in Kiribati have noticed more seaweed and debris piling up on the shoreline compared to a few decades ago, says PIANGO programme officer Laisa Vereti.
“There are more seaweed and shells on the beach, never used to be there before, strong currents and waves are piling them up on the beach.”
Ms Vereti said elders she interviewed have confirmed that things happening currently were not what they used to experience 30 or 40 years ago growing up
“They can walk on the sand and play bare foot (then), but now it’s just too hot to walk on the beach bare foot and the glare from the beautiful white golden sandy beach is just unbearable,” Ms Vereti said
Ms Vereti who is conducting a research on community resilience on the island will return to Suva to prepare a full report but has been surprised with the initial response she has been getting.
“With a traditional healer, she noticed, that with children, they tend to have more rashes and boils now which was not the case 20 years ago,” she said
“They also noticed that their land is being eaten away daily as the tide comes in,” she said
“Now at some parts of Tarawa (capital) where houses sit on the sand, children just need to swim and play just under the house during high tide (houses have long post, makes it easy for children to swim under the house).
“It’s cute to see children swimming around their own compound at high tide.”
Another observation Ms Vereti made was that some of the iKiribati traditional knowledge have been preserved and still used today.
“Food preservation in terms of food security, traditional navigational skills, still helps them to date, to travel to outer island and fishing, forecasting weather to help them plan for their days ahead,” she said.
But new pests which destroy some of their sources of staple diet were getting common in the environment which were not there about 20 years ago.
“New pests have ruined breadfruits, what was not seen 20 years ago,” she said.
“Tiny insects like or worm suck at the fruit leaving it dry and not usable at all.”
Ms Vereti also reported that water security has been threatened at a pentecostal settlement.
“The Bikenikora community is in dire need of water tanks (at least two more, when she spoke with the church director),” she said.
“They do not have a well because the land is inundated, breadfruit cannot grow anymore and coconut trees are dying out.
“The community has about 500 people, there are only four water tanks at the Assemblies of God headquarters which everybody uses in droughts and when water is rationed,” she said.
Another new phenomenon for the islanders has been the long distances travelled for fishermen because of the disturbance of the closer ecosystem through the noise and pollution of outboard motors.
“Transportation has been made easier for seafarers but it has made fishing difficult for communities who observed and used traditional skills and knowledge,” Ms Vereti said.
“Fishing comes with respect to the environment, so outboard motor is noisy and loud; it scares the fish and disturbs the water.”
Ms Vereti concludes her research work in Kiribati this week.