According to the Associated Press via CBSnews.com, Kiribati President Anote Tong said in an interview that his Cabinet has endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.
Kiribati, with a population of just over 100,000, is a chain of 32 islands located on the equator northeast of Australia.
“We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but it became absolutely necessary, yes we could do it,” Tong said.
Tong commented in The Fiji Times that the relocation efforts are in response to many of the islands becoming increasingly affected by the rising sea level.
The land in Fiji, being sold by a church group for about $9.6 million, would be more for the younger generations, said Tong. “It’s basically going to be a matter of survival.”
“We’re trying to secure the future of our people,” he said. “The international community needs to be addressing this problem more.” Tong went on to say that some villages have already moved because of increasing instances of sea water contaminating the island’s fresh water.
A report by BBC states that the land is wanted for farming crops to export back to Kiribati as well as extracting earth to help defend the nation from the rising sea.
The chairman of Fiji’s Real Estate Agents Licensing Board, Colin Sibary told BBC that “after the purchase they will formalize a development plan which will include various farms to produce vegetables, fruit and meat to export to Kiribati….There is no thought of moving them all.”
Tong is currently awaiting full parliamentary approval to purchase the land, expected to come in April, before he officials begins discussing the plan with Fijian officials.
Sharon Smith-Johns, a spokeswoman for the Fijian government said the government will release a formal statement on the matter next week.
View Larger Map Please Zoom in Map to see Kiribati island groups
Kiribati was named in French by captains Krusenstern and Louis Isidore Duperrey "îles Gilbert",Gilbert Islands, after the British Captain Thomas Gilbert, who sighted the islands in 1788. The current name, Kiribati, is an adaptation of "Gilberts", from the former European name the "Gilbert Islands". Although the indigenous Gilbertese language name for the Gilbert Islands proper is Tungaru, the new state chose the name "Kiribati", the Gilbertese rendition of "Gilberts", as an equivalent of the former colony to acknowledge the inclusion of islands which were never considered part of the Gilberts chain. :wikipedia