FANTASY ISLANDS; Once polluted, unusable space is now Tuvalu’s future.

IN the South China Sea, the Chinese Government has now built up a string of artificial islands that are robust enough to hold aircraft bases and give their regional neighbours a serious case of the jitters. Millions of tonnes of rock and sand have been dredged up from the sea floor and pumped into reefs to suddenly create 800 hectares of pristine Chinese territory.

Thousands of miles away in the tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu, the New Zealand Government has also been quietly engaging its own form of island reconstruction. Much to the delight of the Tuvaluan people New Zealand recently spent around $NZ10 million to fill in the “borrow pits” that were created when the United States effectively turned the capital atoll of Funafuti into a giant aircraft carrier during the later stages of WWII.

These open borrow pits which have blighted the atoll of Funafuti for decades were created when the United States started building a new runway as a launch pad for the bloody battle to reclaim Tarawa Atoll from the Japanese in November 1943. This runway now accounts for approximately 14 per cent of the total land area of 14300 hectares on Fongafale, the main islet of Funafuti. At only 26 square kilometres Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world and 6000 of its 10,000 inhabitants live on Funafuti.

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