Another earthquake rocks the Solomon Islands
A 6.9 magnitude earthquake knocked the Solomon Islands, merely a day after people from the coast escaped into the hills following a 7.8 magnitude tremor. The current quake originally triggered a new tsunami alert for the Solomon Islands but was later lifted. Nearly foot-high waves above the tide level were anticipated for "Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu."
The Solomon Islands are a volcanic archipelagic chain of islands located 1,000 miles North East of Australia. The islands are volcanic in origin and have mountainous and forested terrain. With a total area of 27,550 sqkm (almost half of Himachal Pradesh), they have a population of 5,66,000, 90% of who are ethnic Melanesians. The islands were under British control and became independent in 1976.
The sea level has been rising at an average rate of 10 mm per annum over the last 2 decades in the Solomon Islands.
Research published in a scientific journal shows that rising sea levels have claimed 5 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The climate change-driven sea-level rise has submerged 5 of the Solomon Islands ranging between 1 to 5 hectares in size. Scientists used satellite images and cartographic data of 33 islands ranging back to 1947 to assess the impact of the sea level rise.
According to research published in the Environment Research Letter, an online journal, apart from 5 islands that disappeared, large chunks of land have also been inundated in 6 islands. In 2 of them, entire villages were destroyed and villagers were forced to relocate. Nuatambu island, which is home to 25 families, lost 11 houses and half of its inhabitable area since 2011.
"The sea has started to come inland, it forced us to move up to the hilltop and rebuild our village there away from the sea."- Sirilo Sutaroti, 94, a resident of Nararo, Solomon Islands.
The grave picture presented by the research also raises questions about government's role in relocation planning. It calls for urgent help and assistance from the international community including developmental agencies and financial mechanisms such as Green Climate Fund. Solomon Islands was one of the 175 countries that had signed the Global Climate deal in Paris in 2015 to help countries deal with climate change.