Climate Change Could Inundate Parts Of Torres Islands

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Within a few decades areas could be uninhabitable

By Nance Haxton

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 5, 2015) – Rising seas around the Torres Strait Islands could leave part of the region uninhabitable within a few decades, a report warns.

The Torres Strait Regional Authority created a climate change strategy to prepare for the possibility that some of the region's islands would be inundated by projected sea level rises of between 50 and 100 centimetres over the next century.

Chairman Joseph Elu said fresh water supply and housing were also under threat.

"Some of our islands are fairly low lying and communities are built on the foreshores," he said.

"With the predictions that are being made now, they will all be under water in 100 years.

"But obviously the high tides that are happening this time of year, some of them are being inundated now."

Mr Elu said a joint federal and state government project rebuilding sea walls around six of the region's inhabited islands was helping, but a more comprehensive plan for the region's future was needed.

"On a couple of our islands the tides rise over the sea walls onto the beachfront and it flows under the houses and out the other end," he said.

"The strategy at the moment is to try and save the infrastructure that is there now, which means trying to raise sea wall levels.

"But in the long run there has to be a long-term plan that we'll hopefully develop in the next few months."

Mr Elu said some of the islands were already being impacted - such as Sabai and Boigu.

But others that are low lying, such as Masig, will almost certainly go under water unless comprehensive plans are made for their long-term future.

He said the greatest danger was that residents' drinking water would be contaminated by incoming seawater.

"Water supplies, that's the main thing we're trying to look after. The last option I suppose is relocation but most of the island people don't want to do that," he said.

"We're looking at different styles of housing that will cater for that, that can be moved or lifted up if necessary.

"There are islands that won't be affected in the sense that there's hills there, but the communities themselves are on the foreshore, so we've got to move some of those people up onto the hills, as the foreshore might go under too.

"But some of the islands' [residents] have nowhere to go," he said.

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