Sunday, 22nd October 2017

Too many Tuvaluans? 2/2

Posted on 20. Jul, 2011 by Florent Baarsch in Adaptation to climate change, Sustainability

Are there too many Tuvaluans in Tuvalu?

Over population, the mother of all vulnerabilities:

As a developing country, and even as one of the least developed countries (The UN recognizes Tuvalu as an LDC even if its GDP per capita is above the official threshold), Tuvalu faces different issues of development that is increasing vulnerabilities. In order to keep this article short, I will only look at two of them: food un-security and disaster preparedness.
Most of the population living on Funafuti nowadays came through a process that we also experienced many years ago in Europe: the rural exodus. Attracted by the new jobs in the administration or in the few new private businesses (to serve the people in the administration), or by the easy-life, many outer islanders have left their home islands for the capital city. In other words, they left their house and their piece of land for the already crowded Funafuti.

In order to accommodate all these new migrants, many houses had to be built on the expense of fields and trees. Because of this uncontrolled urbanisation, Funafuti has lost all its pulaka pits and consequently its capacity to be self-sufficient. Today, the people of Funafuti import 80% of what they eat. The overpopulation has had such a significant impact on the food security that it is actually become totally compromised on the main island.

This overpopulation also has an even more dramatic consequence in case of a disaster warning. On Funafuti, in case of tsunami, cyclones or any other kind of hazards, the population has to gather in one of the TWO (only two) emergency centres: the Government House and the Hospital. Even if the two buildings are large and high, I sincerely and honestly doubt that they could host the 5 000 people living on the island. This, one more time, shows the lack of disaster preparedness of Funafuti and more globally of Tuvalu. As climate change is expected to significantly (more than 100%) increase the intensity of the climate related natural disasters (read cyclones for the Pacific), a real and safe disaster preparenedness strategy should be a growing concern of the Tuvaluan Government.

Despite this alarming reality, ways forward exist.

First of all, and this one will be culturally difficult to accept, but population has to be much more controlled. For example by giving incentives to the one-child families (as it has been the case in China for many years), the Government could encourage families to limit the number of births and then the population. However, in a country in which the children are seen as an asset for the old people, this will be probably an un-popular measure; and especially because it confronts the message of the powerful Church of Tuvalu.
Second, neighbour States such as Australia or New Zealand could increase the number of Tuvaluans authorised to migrate to their territories. However, this is probably not a satisfactory solution considering that the problem will not be solved for these who will have to stay in Tuvalu, and who are really likely to be the poorest or the least educated.

If no strong solutions are rapidly taken to reduce this exponentially growing population, the future of the Tuvaluans on their islands looks compromised, especially in the case of an important natural hazard, which could dangerously become a disaster.

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