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75 Million Environmental Refugees to Plague Asia-Pacific

© Neena Bhandari, Inter Press Service

ImageSYDNEY, Aug 4 (IPS) - Pacific Islanders, aiming to secure their very survival, are calling for immediate commitments from the developed world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45 percent by 2020.

"For us, climate change is a reality. We have been experiencing high tidal waves, which has not been the case earlier," Pelenise Alofa Pilitati, Chairperson of the Church Education Director's Association in Kiribati, told IPS. "High tides and sea level rise will submerge our homeland. We don’t want to become environmental refugees."

Climate change could produce eight million refugees in the Pacific Islands, along with 75 million refugees in the Asia Pacific region in the next 40 years, warns a new report by aid agency, Oxfam Australia.

The report points out that "For countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau, the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia, climate change is not something that could happen in the future but something they are experiencing now." The Oxfam report documents how people are coping with more frequent flooding and storm surges, losing land and being forced from their homes, facing increased food and water shortages, and dealing with rising incidence of malaria and dengue.

"First, we were refugees of the World War then phosphate mining pushed us out. We can’t be displaced a third time because of climate change," says Pilitati, whose family is from Banaba Island in Kiribati. "This time if we lose our home, we will lose our identity, our culture. It is unacceptable." 

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India, Australia must build thorium based N-reactors: Dr Kalam

© Neena Bhandari

ImageIndia and Australia should work together in building Thorium-based nuclear reactors to meet the growing energy needs, said former Indian President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, during his recently concluded four-day (May 17-20) visit to Sydney.

He said, “Thorium-fuelled reactors are supposed to be much safer than uranium-powered ones, use far less material (1 metric ton of thorium gets as much energy as 200 metric tons of uranium, or 3.5 million metric tons of coal), produce waste that is toxic for a shorter period of time (300 years as against uranium's tens of thousands of years), and is hard to weaponize. In fact, thorium can even feed off of toxic plutonium waste to produce energy. And because the biggest cost in nuclear power is safety, and thorium reactors can't melt down, they will eventually be much cheaper, too”.

On his first visit to Australia, hosted by the University of Sydney, Dr Kalam met leading academicians, students and members of the growing Indian community and discussed various aspects of the Indo-Australian relationship. He called upon Australians and Indians to become a part of his unique mission - “The What Can I Give movement” which will help generate great citizens with ethics and great families with value system.

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Indigenous Tiwi women strive to improve their lot.

© Neena Bhandari, Women's Feature Service

ImageTiwi Islands (Australia): Lynette De Santis, 45, was surprised when in October last year, she became the first elected Mayor of the Tiwi Islands Shire Council comprising Bathurst and Melville Islands with a largely indigenous Aboriginal population of 1,495 and 434. She had conquered what had thus far been a male bastion.

It had become the norm that men would be chairperson, mayor or president so I was amazed when I was elected the first female Mayor. I have always stood up for the interests of my people and I suppose this resulted in my victory”, says De Santis, who was born and bred in Northern Territory’s capital Darwin and returned home to the islands in 1985.

Tiwi Islands, with an area of 8,320 sq km, lie 80km north of Darwin where the Arafura Sea meets the Timor Sea. The islands have been home to Indigenous Aboriginals for thousands of years and the Tiwis are culturally and linguistically distinct from Aboriginals of Arnhem Land on the mainland across the waters.

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