Refuge from the sinking islands

  • Tuvalu is a small island nation in the South Pacific and home to about 10,000 people. It is likely to be under water in less than 70 years. Due to the rising sea level caused by global warming, other low-lying island nations such as Kiribati, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Micronesia and Nauru are destined to suffer the same fate.
  • The 52 low-lying vulnerable island nations sustain 62 million people and emit less than 1% of global greenhouse gases (GHGs), yet are among the first victims of climate disruption. High sea levels have already resulted in displacement of people in several small island nations. These island nations require immediate remedies, including migration, compensation and reduction in GHG emissions.

Cause of Concern:

  • Any amount of decrease in GHG emissions cannot save the islands from sinking, but a significant decrease in emissions could delay the island nations from becoming uninhabitable, thereby postponing the burden of accommodating mass migration.
  • There is a need for a wide range of varied remedies, mostly adaptive, such as coastal protection, population consolidation, rainwater harvesting and storage, alternative methods of growing fruits and vegetables, human resource development and research and observation. However, in any remedial adaptive mechanism employed, high costs are unavoidable.


  • The only practical way to attain these remedies seems to be to reinvigorate political pressure and negotiate globally to arrive at a forum that could deal with the issue.
  • The primary focus of the forum so created must be to ensure adequate and appropriate remedies as discussed above.
  • The forum must enable negotiations regarding the legal status of migrants and develop adaptive strategies in the destination country to guarantee and to protect dignity and cultural identity of the displaced in the destination country.
  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) obligates countries to provide finance to resist global warming. By extending such existing obligations through political pressure and diplomacy, the forum could ensure compensation to the island nations in the form of contributions from party countries by managing a fund created in this regard.
  • Lastly, the forum would require a tribunal to assess the case presented by each island nation and to decide whether help from the international community is required.
  • The tribunal could then invoke appropriate measures such as multilateral negotiations or directions that enable migration, compensation and other remedies that could save the people of the sinking small island nations.

Source: The Hindu

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