Ogea Islanders are thankful for Fiji’s 30×30 Marine Protected Area initiative as they face the full brunt of rising sea levels

For Ogea Islanders in Fiji, nothing can be further from the truth than the advice given by the late former Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara in the early 1980s during a Lau Provincial Council meeting held in Tubou, Lakeba, when he told the people of Lau to be prepared as the sea level, will keep rising.

And now close to 40 years later, Ogea has faced the full brunt of rising sea levels. What used to be the village cricket pitch and the village green is now a pool of seawater with most of the village houses subjected to sea inundation at high tide.

For 71-year-old Tevita Tikotani, the beautiful setting of his village is now just memories. Tikotani left his village in 1985 for Suva and returned this year, only to be confronted with the situation of his village.

When a team of Government officials visited Ogea for consultation and awareness on the 30×30 marine protected area initiative the villagers were thankful.

Led by the Provincial Administrator (PA) Lau Iakobo Waqanidrola and Roko Tui Lau, the team was told that such an initiative is long overdue.

“We all know that the rising sea level is due to the heat generated by the sea which is the result of over-exploitation and global warming and for Fiji to contribute 30 percent of its ocean to mitigate against it is indeed a noble cause,” said Tikotani.

“For us, in Ogea we look forward to a fruitful outcome with the PA Lau and the Roko Tui Lau and we know that with the new administration, change is coming which will benefit our future generation, especially for us in the maritime provinces.”

Ogea, with a population of 110 and 48 households is one of the remotest islands in the Lau Seascape. It is also one of the rockiest islands with the only habitable spot occupied by the village.

PA Lau Waqanidrola said while relocation is a preference other options will need to be explored to ensure the survival and habitability of Ogea village.

“Of course, we will have to discuss this further with our senior management and find ways where we can work with our partners to alleviate the seawater inundation currently faced by Ogea villagers,” said Waqanidrola.

Waqanidrola, however, adds that Ogea is not alone and the islands of Lau with their geographical location will need a ‘whole of government’ approach with the support of partners and the Lau Provincial Office to address the issues they face especially the challenges brought about by climate change.

On the other hand, Turaga ni Koro(village headman), Ogea Kelepi Reki said the village youths are doing what they can to counter the current problems the village faces.

“We thank our relatives in Suva and overseas for providing tools such as wheelbarrows, gum boots, digging tools, and such which we are using to reclaim areas that have been inundated,” said Reki.

“However, we know that the task is not easy hence we are happy that PA Lau and Roko Tui Lau are here to witness firsthand what we are facing here in Ogea and our voices will be heard now that we have a new government.”

The Government team is currently in Lau for the second phase of the awareness and consultation process of the 30×30 Marine Protected Area for the Lau Seascape with the support of civil society partners including the Conservation International Fiji and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This story was originally published by Fiji Government on 28 February 2023, reposted via PACNEWS.

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