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Environment Development

Beauty and Dehydration

Beautiful - yes. Drinkable - no. Photo courtesy mrlins/flickr

While it is by no means on the same scale as the crisis affecting the Horn of Africa, drought is also leading to disaster on the tiny South Pacific atolls of Tokelau. Home to around 1,500 people, the New Zealand-administered territory is entirely reliant on rainwater; with less than a week’s supply of potable water left on the atolls, 136,000 more liters are being shipped in via the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the US Coastguard.

At the end of September, neighboring Tuvalu went as far as declaring a state of emergency due to drought. Imposing a strict system of rationing, families are receiving two to four buckets of water a day on the main island of Funafuti, according to Olioliga Iosua, Permanent Secretary in Tuvalu’s Ministry of Public Utilities. Desalination units are being airlifted in from Australia and New Zealand, but disease is already spreading among the population.

Is this a message that the end is near for the residents of Tuvalu and Tokelau – that they will soon have to depart for other Pacific islands? Perhaps. Could it be taken as a sign that these atolls were not suitable for inhabitation in the first place? Maybe.