THE mean sea level recorded at Fiji’s tidal gauge shows an average rise of 4.6mm per year since 1993. That means sea levels would have risen an average 110 centimetres – about knee height of an adult – by 2017. At Vunidogoloa Village in Fiji’s Northern Division, Sailosi Ramatu points to the waters of Natewa Bay.

“That’s where the beach was when I was a kid,” he said, pointing the stump of a coconut tree, barely visible above the rising tide.“It’s about 100 metres away from where the shore is so in 40 years we’ve lost about 100 metres of beach front or 2.5 metres a year.” According to current estimates, a possible 45 villages in Fiji face a similar fate from the waves, coastal erosion and salt water intrusion.

Churches, which continue to wield influence over indigenous Fijian communities, have a powerful role to play in convincing villagers on the need to move to higher ground. Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, recognises the powerful role the church must play not only in Fiji but across the region. 

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