As Rising Seas Swallow Kiribati, World Bank Throws a $20 Million Life Preserver

Kiribati is literally drowning under rising seas.

But sustainability and environmental responsibility remain at the core of the emergency programs that the World Bank is funding with $20 million–programs that could find broader applications worldwide in the face of climate change. The money will help Kiribati, the tiny country of 100,000, conserve clean drinking water through better rainwater collection, new source cultivation, and coastal management, and help save vital roads and infrastructure from saltwater doom. (The Asian Development Bank and Kiribati’s Ministry of Public Works and Utilities are administering the programs).

“This is a very real existential threat,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director, the Pacific. Like the nearby Carteret Islanders–who were the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary, Sun Come Up–Kiribati faces the threat of massive migration of its people to neighboring islands. “Despite its small population–the challenges loom large for Kiribati. The country and its people are at the coal-face of climate change and other natural disasters.”

This isn’t the first time the nation has dealt creatively and responsibly with environmental threats. Activists have focused on preserving Kiribati’s abundant marine life by disincentivising fishing, for example. Instead of receiving money for permitting fishing access to outside parties, the country has found other partners that actually give them money to keep fishing crews away from the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), which is now the second largest marine protected area in the world.

With every threat Kiribati faces, Belhaj said, it’s important to incorporate “institutional measures to ensure sustainability in the face of severe environmental impacts.”

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[Top image via NASA; bottom image via Flickr user luigig]JN