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Seaweed, human bones amidst headstones

By Francis Gabriel

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Sept. 29, 2008) - Porebada has recently become one of the many coastal villages in Papua New Guinea facing the brunt of rising sea levels.

Porebada, a Motuan village just outside Port Moresby, is quietly seeing one of its cemeteries being washed away.

"Despite the present shoreline being washed away along with the cemetery, nothing has been done to save it," Karua Walo, a concerned villager, said.

The cemetery was used during the 1960s and 1970s until it was closed in the early 1990s due to the impact of the rising sea level.

"Back in the early 1970s, this cemetery was more than 20 meters from the shoreline. But now, as you can see, the shoreline has gone past the cemetery," Mr. Walo told The National at the site.

A visit by The National to Porebada on Saturday showed nothing of a cemetery but a shoreline and dried up seabed scattered with headstones and cement monuments surrounded by washed-up seaweed and algae which once marked the resting place of the dead.

The National team with Walo also came across a human bone lying in the open where the waves had left it before the tide receded.

Despite the frightening impact and the rate at which the beachfront is being washed away, Walo said one of the contributing factors was the cutting down of mangroves along the village’s seafront for building purposes and firewood, and the collection of sand to put under houses and backyards.

"Now with the rise in population, that means more houses are built and more sand and mangroves are collected and harvested," Walo said.

He said although the rising sea level was noted about 10 years ago, the process was now faster than ever.

"By looking at this, you can predict what is likely to happen to our village in less than 10 years’ time," he said.

According to Walo, houses along the beach and the village’s primary school, located about 50 meters away from the beachfront, were also under threat.

The National reported a similar case in Awar Village in Bogia and Siar districts in Madang province recently.

"Previously, it was just news but now it’s happening right here on our shores," Walo said, adding the community and relevant authorities should address the issue immediately.

Walo appealed to the Porebada local level government leaders and leaders at the top tier to look into the matter and come up with urgent preventive measures.

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